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10 Virginia day hikes to enjoy any time

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Virginia is a great destination for outdoor lovers. With so many mountains running through the state, there's great hiking for all. In Central Virginia, the Blue Ridge Parkway runs beside the Appalachian Trail for about 100 miles, offering many trails for hikers.

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Visit the Virginia Tourism Corporation website for lots of information about hiking in Virginia. Enjoy these popular day hikes in Central Virginia. These hikes vary in length and difficulty with trails suitable for individuals, groups and families.

Sharp Top Mountain is one of the most popular hikes in Central Virginia. Sharp Top is one of the three Peaks of Otter near MP 86 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Peaks of Otter also include Flat Top Mountain and Harkening Hill. Sharp Top Trail is a strenuous 1.5 mile trail from the Camp Store to the summit, but the reward is 360-degree views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the valley below.

Flat Top Mountain is the highest of the Peaks of Otter at 3,994 feet. The 5.4 mile Flat Top Trail is less busy and the views aren't as significant as Sharp Top, but the views from the Pinnacle on the way up to the summit of Flat Top are worth the hike.

The Roanoke River Trail is located at MP 114.9 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The 10-minute Loop Trail offers an easy hike with scenic views. The 20-minute Fisherman's Trail hike trail descends sharply to the river, where the Niagara Power Plant is located. The rock-lined river offers great photo opportunities.

Crabtree Falls is located in the George Washington National Forest in Nelson County. Crabtree Falls is one of the tallest sets of waterfalls east of the Mississippi River. There are five major cascades in the falls with plenty of great views. Follow the signs on Route 56 to find the parking areas for Crabtree Falls, near MP 30 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

High Bridge Trail State Park is located near Farmville and includes 31 miles of multi-purpose trails suitable for hiking, biking and horseback riding. The wide, level, mostly flat gravel trail was once a rail bed. The park’s centerpiece is the majestic High Bridge, which is more than 2,400 feet long and 125 feet above the Appomattox River. High Bridge is the longest recreational bridge in Virginia and among the longest in the United States.

Fallingwater Cascades National Scenic Trail is located at MP 83.4 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The trail is divided into two sections to hike separately or as one continuous loop. Fallingwater Cascades section is a 1.5 mile loop of moderate hiking. Flat Top section is more strenuous, 2.5 miles to summit and 4.4 mi. to Peaks Picnic Area on VA 43. Bring along your camera for photos at the bottom of the falls.

Apple Orchard Falls is accessible from the Sunset Fields parking area at MP 78.4 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The 7.5-mile loop trail is moderate in difficulty, leading to one of the state's most spectacular waterfalls. There are lots of stairs and the hike to the bottom of the falls in all downhill so be prepared for the hike back to your car.

Turtle Island Trail is a 1.4-mile lakeside trail located at Smith Mountain Lake State Park. One of 13 trails ranging from less than a mile to over three miles at the park, the Turtle Island Trail is one of the prettiest. The scenery on the island is beautiful and photo sites include a small bridge from which you can feed the fish.

James River Heritage Trail in Lynchburg is the perfect beginner's trail for families with young children. The James River Heritage Trail system contains multiple paved trails and wooded trails, all located near Blackwater Creek. Access points include the Ed Page Entrance to the Blackwater Creek Bikeway, Hollins Mill Park, Ivy Creek Greenway at Peaks View Park and the Ruskin Freer Loop Trail near the Blackwater Creek Natural Area off Monticello Avenue.

McAfee Knob is the most photographed site along the Appalachian Trail. Located near Roanoke off Route 311, the Knob has an almost 270-degree panorama of the Catawba Valley and North Mountain to the west, Tinker Cliffs to the north and the Roanoke Valley to the east.

These 10 hikes are some of the favorites of Central Virginia hikers, but there are many more great hikes in our area. Enjoy group hikes along the Appalachian Trail by joining the Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Club. Members of the club are responsible for maintaining 90 miles of the Appalachian Trail located in Nelson, Amherst, Rockbridge, Botetourt, and Bedford counties, from Tye River to Black Horse Gap. Whether you're hiking solo, with family or with a group of outdoor loving friends, Central Virginia is a great place to enjoy hiking.

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