Prime leaf peeping season is here in Central Virginia and a bicycle is one of the best ways
to take it all in. Here are some of my favorite places to experience the beauty of autumn along the Virginia Capital Trail.
Richmond National Battlefield Park – Fort Harrison
A side trip off the Virginia Capital Trail is a quiet place for a fall ride. Your four-mile detour down Battlefield Park Road is filled with Civil War history. You can peep at the leaves and also explore the well-preserved Civil War earthworks, cannons, and interpretive signs in the Fort Harrison Battlefield Park. You will find Battlefield Park Road between mile markers 45 and 46 on the Virginia Capital Trail, close to Ronnie’s BBQ. Treat yourself to Ronnie’s famous smoked pork, chicken or brisket sandwiches and homemade French fries. Ronnie and his crew love cyclists!
Richmond National Battlefield Park – Malvern Hill
Malvern Hill Battlefield Park is especially scenic in the fall when the heads of the sorghum plants turn burnt orange. What is sorghum, you ask? Well, this funny looking corn is actually sugarcane, the South’s
original sweetener. You can also take time to explore the walking paths within the park. According to the National Park Service, “Malvern Hill is the best preserved Civil War battlefield in central or southern Virginia.” Ride to the Virginia Capital Trail mile marker 36 at the intersection of Route 5 and State Route 156/Willis Church Road. Cross Route 5 at The Fork on 5 Restaurant and continue on Route 156 for 1.2 miles to reach the Battlefield Park.
Deep Bottom Park and Boat Landing
You’ll have a panoramic view of the James River at Deep Bottom Park because of its oxbow shape. Enjoy the wide array of color along the river banks from the sycamore, oak and pine trees. This historic Civil War river crossing is a two mile ride from the Virginia Capital Trail. Ride east 1.3 miles from the Four Mile Creek Trailhead on the Virginia Capital Trail. Cross Route 5 at Kingsland Road between mile markers 38 and 39. Ride 0.7 miles and then turn left on Deep Bottom Road. The Park is 1.2 miles at the end of the road.
Cotton Fields along Shirley Plantation Road
I saw my first cotton field along Shirley Plantation Road in the fall of 2015 when the Virginia Capital Trail was first completed. Cotton is harvested in the fall and has the longest growing season of any annual crop – a whopping five to six months. These cotton bales are over five feet tall! Ride the Virginia Capital Trail to Shirley Plantation Road between mile markers 30 and 31. Continue riding on Shirley Plantation Road to reach the cotton fields. You can extend your ride by visiting Upper Shirley Vineyards and Shirley Plantation.
Sherwood Forest section of the Virginia Capital Trail
The Sherwood Forest section of the Virginia Capital Trail is beautiful any time of the year because of its dense forests of pine and hardwood trees. In the fall it is especially glorious when the leaves have turned shades of rust and yellow. You can also visit Sherwood Forest Plantation, the former home of President
John Tyler, located between mile markers 16 and 17 on the Virginia Capital Trail. This section of the trail is 12.5 miles long and is located between Charles City Courthouse at mile marker 20 and the Chickahominy River at mile marker 7.
Chickahominy Riverfront Park
Enjoy the fall foliage and the scenic Chickahominy River from the lofty Dresser Memorial Bridge along the Virginia Capital Trail. You may encounter long-distance bicycle tourers following Bicycle Route 76 on this part of the Virginia Capital Trail. You’ll find Chickahominy Riverfront Park between mile markers 6 and 7 on the Virginia Capital Trail.
Cycling Adventures Along the Virginia Capital Trail: For more adventures, check out my guide book here!