Tag Archives: Belle Isle

Buttermilk Trail – Richmond VA

Last week, I was in Richmond so I took advantage of some of the city’s urban trails. Richmond has some pretty good trails … my personal favorite is Belle Isle. But I headed Southside of the James River and decided to do the Buttermilk Trail/Belle Isle/James River North Bank loop – about a 6+ mile loop categorized as moderate. I took Peg-Leg Pete with me – my trusted sock-monkey who loves adventure.

I’ve done Belle Island several times and have been on Buttermilk – but never done the whole loop. I started early, since I dropped my wife at the airport around 530a. I had a great breakfast at Moore Street Cafe and headed over to the Forest Hills area of Richmond. Very few urban trails in the Richmond area were open so early, so I was glad to find the James River Park having their parking lots available.

The trek started normal – it’s an urban trail, keep that in mind. I was on a well travelled path, it was not very secluded, I could always hear traffic, the railroad tracks ran along the trail and it has a well-graffitied set of rail cars parked on one of the parallel tracks. I pondered if these were there to block the view of the river as well as the city’s building across the river.

The trail was more a trial-bike trail with ups, down, some bridges over a various gully, and more. It has some historical markers to let you know about the area and how it got the name Buttermilk – which was from the Buttermilk Spring where farmers in the 1800’s cooled their milk before market.

I crossed the river portion between the Buttermilk and Belle by hop scotching across the rocks. There was a bridge a little further down – but I choose the rocks. To get there, the city has provided a short pedestrian bridge to cross over the railroad tracks without harm. I say pedestrian, for you had to walk up 3 flights of stairs to get above the rails.

Belle Island was great. You get more of the escapism there (no pun intended since it used to be a prison-of-war camp location during the civil war.)

If you want to know more about Bell Isle, check out Trip Advisor’s page here. Here are some of their pictures …

Now – here’s where my trek took a weird turn. I got to the Belle Isle parking lot. I had dropped some my water along the way (probably during rock jumping) and it was still early morning. BUT the heat index had already hit over 100F. I was drenched, tired and figured I ate too big of a breakfast. SO I checked AllTrails and it said I was less than 2 miles in and over 4 miles to go. Normally six is pretty easy, but I made excuses … food, heat, too long meandering on the rocks and the island itself, new Merrel Moab 3s (I pretended I hadn’t broke them in.) The remainder of the trial was new to me – trees? shade? asphalt? I did something I normally would never do. But since I was on an urban trail, and I could never do this in the Blue Ridge – I called a cab. Yep, was gonna hitch a ride back to my car. Oh the adventurer in me – I told myself I would try a new restaurant to make up for it.

I waited – 10 min … 15 min … 25 min. I surrendered to not having a cab. I decided to walk back over the shorter distance I had already traversed – so I called to cancel the cab. Hey, I had a 25 minute rest period.

I went back – took the bridge and made it back to my car. But it seemed a LOT longer than 2 miles. A LOT LONGER!

Here is why. When using AllTrails as the guide, I didn’t take into account that Buttermilk Trail has about 4 parking areas spread out along Riverside Rd. You can jump into the trail at various points. And I jumped in on the far north point (not the main starting point according to the app.) This walking some on the trail before even getting to the official start of the trail. Thus, on this hike, I HAD walked the majority of the trail – and therefore the shorter conclusion to the hike would’ve been to continue on the loop. But no, I had to go back as an in-and-back, thus making my hike even longer.What a noob move.

At least I didn’t pay for a cab – I did get to walk in shade – and I got to cross the bridge I had missed the first time through.

All in all – I was outside, I was in nature, I hiked. That is a good day.