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Best Places to Go Hiking with Your Dog in Central Virginia


During the dog days of summer, the Fox Family is always out on the road on the weekends. We love to camp, bike, and hike. As the weather starts to heat up, we do more biking and less hiking with our 4-legged friend. Still, it’s nice to get outside and take him on the walks he so richly deserves. There are a couple of considerations that we have when going out with him in hotter weather.

Cat and Dog Best places to take your Dog In Virginia

First and foremost, always bring plenty of water. Also, we try to find places that have plenty of shade, so he is not out in the direct sun for more than a few minutes at a time. Finally, we try to find places that are not overgrown with heavy plants. This means finding a trail that is either paved or wide enough to keep him away from plant growth that holds his dreaded enemy the tick! Here are some of our favorite spots for hiking with your dog in southwestern and central Virginia.

1. Peaks of Otter

Peaks of Otter with your dog

This place is our number one because it meets all our criteria. It has a wooded portion around the lake. The path is paved to keep our little hiking buddy away from those horrible ticks. Another nice thing is that it is located in the mountains and it is always about 10 degrees cooler than down where our house is. In the summer, that is a life-saver. In the winter, it can keep us away, though.

Overall, it is our hiking spot of choice. There is also a nice wooded picnic area for the fall and times when we don’t have to worry about bugs that much. If your dog likes to chase wildlife, you should hold tight to his or her leash. There are plenty of deer, rabbits, and other wildlife. We even saw a bear.

2. Blackwater Creek Trail

Black Water Creek and Your Dog

This is another nice area that is located near downtown Lynchburg, Virginia. You will love it because it is paved and it is nice and wide. It can get pretty hot in the summer, but the dense foliage from the trees provides lots of protection from the sun. The nice thing about this one is it is long enough to give you a good walk or jog. This 3-mile path is built on an abandoned railway, and it is perfect for walking, biking, or jogging.

There is another entry point at East Randolph Place that usually doesn’t have too many people parking there. I can still provide you with a nice entry point and turn left, and you go toward downtown and right to go to the other end of the trail.

3. James River Foot Bridge

James River Foot Bridge and your dog

While the bridge is only .12 miles long, it connects two parts of the Appalachian Trail on either side of the river. The interesting thing about the name is that even though it is indeed a footbridge, it was named after Bill Foot. He was an Appalachian Trail and outdoor enthusiast who spearheaded the movement to get the old railway trestle turned into a footbridge for hikers so they wouldn’t have to use the highway to get across the James.

The parking area is nothing much, but there are some spectacular views in the little wooded area on the far side of the bridge. The trail wasn’t too overgrown so our little furry friend was safe from bugs. Be careful if you turn to the left and venture to the railway tracks. Keep your dog and yourself safe as they are still active.

4. Percival’s Island

Percival Island and your dog

Actually, this path is part of the Blackwater Creek Trail, but if we are just going with the dog, then this is a separate hike from the one we usually do from the entry point near the Awareness Garden. Percival’s island can get really hot from the parking lot to the bridge, but once you are there, you will be in the shade almost the entire way. That is nice because it does get hot. We usually just walk from one end of the island to the other, and that is plenty for both our dog and us. The island itself about 1.5 miles long, so out and back will make a little over 3 miles.

Put Yourself in Your Pooch’s place

Remember that although we sweat and can cool off that way, our furry friends only can get rid of excess heat from their paws and their tongues. Therefore, areas that have hot pavement are not very good for them either. Although we like to keep away from areas with lots of plant growth, we are mindful that a paved path can become too hot.

Here are some quick pointers:

  • Try to find shaded areas whenever possible.
  • Avoid hot pavement or even sand
  • Never leave your dog in a hot car in the summer.
  • Always bring plenty of water and try a collapsible water dish, so they have a bowl to drink from.
  • Use common sense. If you are feeling the heat, imagine wearing a fur coat and walking on your hands and feet barefoot.

I hope that helps and that you and your fur baby, carpet shark, doggo, pupper, or whatever else you might call them. Have a great walk and a safe trip home. From our dog to yours – WOOF!

Resting Dog after a nice hike

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