Summer is over once again, and the cooler weather is becoming dismal and dreary more often than not. All the autumn and winter rains can foul up your best plans to get outside and play with your four-legged buddy. After a good storm you may be hesitant to take poochie out somewhere that he can romp due to the mud and murky puddles, causing him and all your surroundings to need a bath. Ever wonder where to take your pup to get some much needed exercise after being cooped up inside during the foul weather?
Working for a local dog-walking company, I’ve had a great time exploring new trails around Richmond where I can take my four-legged clients for adventure hikes. Many of these I never knew existed until I was in need of a fairly mud-free trail that was also near my client’s home. Below I’ve compiled a short list of a few of my favorite hikes where you can take your furry pal and be assured of staying reasonably clean in the great outdoors.
Belle Isle Loop
300 Tredegar St.
Richmond VA, 23219
On the way to Belle Isle.
Parking in the lot near Tredegar, you can take the footbridge over the James River and onto Belle Isle. Once you step off the bridge you’ll see a doggy potty station just to your left. It usually has plastic bags stocked in the little box for your convenience. Don’t forget to pick up after Fido! While the path is not actually paved, it does have a substantial layer of gravel on the loop trail to fend off most puddles. As you hike the trail you get a great view of Richmond’s skyline downtown as well as the dignified headstones from Hollywood Cemetery that overlook the river. There are plenty of opportunities to head out onto the rocks with your buddy if you’re interested in rock hopping. Continuing along, the path has a gentle incline that leads to the western side of the island and you’ll end up on the downward slope as you return. The trail is 2.1 miles from start to finish.
The James River Park System rules state that all pets must be kept on a leash. Remember, even if your dog is friendly, not everyone (other dogs included) is OK with your dog running up to them off-leash.
Forest Hill Park
4021 Forest Hill Ave
Richmond VA, 23225
One of many stone walkways in Forest Hill Park.
This park is beautiful any time of the year. The main trails are all paved, so there is minimal chance of tracking mud into your life. From either parking lot you can walk down and around the scenic lake and make the loop back up to the gently rolling hills that are visible from Forest Hill Ave. The lake loop makes up a little less than a mile, but the distance of all the main walkways ends up totaling about 2 miles. There are some decent inclines and several sets of stairs in the park if you really want a good workout. You can help him burn off all those rawhides and bacon treats your pup loves so much. There are other paths through the woods that are very steep, slick, and muddy after a rain so be sure to stick to the blacktop. Several pet waste bag stations line the main trail, so you can grab them as needed.
10901 Robious Rd
North Chesterfield VA, 23235
I stumbled upon this great little park while I was searching a Google map one day. Huguenot Park’s entrance is on Robious Road, and it backs up to Johnston-Willis Hospital. If you live near Midlothian Turnpike and Courthouse Road, then this is a most convenient place to walk your dog. It boasts 2.32 miles of winding paved and gravel trails under pine and oak trees, and even features an azalea garden if you happen to go when they’re blooming. The terrain is very flat so if you have an older dog and want a gentle walk in the fresh air, this is the place to go.
3401 Courthouse Rd
Midlothian, Va. 23236
The paved path at Rockwood Park.
I’ve saved my favorite for last. I just recently discovered this park, although it happens to be the oldest in Chesterfield County. It’s a bit of a trek from the city center to this gorgeous 161-acre woodland habitat, but well worth it, in my opinion. There are numerous rolling hills throughout the heavily wooded park, and the large main trail is paved for your convenience. A map at the trailhead (and also located at intervals throughout) illustrates color-coded trails with corresponding blazes along the way, so you’ll have a hard time getting lost. On the eastern boundary lies Gregory’s Pond, which is private, but offers a nice view of lilly pads and turtles resting on logs. Your dog will go nuts sniffing the tracks of all the small woodland creatures that scurry along the forest trails in solitude. Finally, if you’re not feeling particularly energetic, you can take your mutt to the dog park located on the south end of the property. The Ruff House Dog Park is one of the best perks here. You can let your dog play off-leash with his new best friends in the large fenced enclosure but be aware that there may be some muddy areas here.