Chippokes Plantation

  • Highlights: James River, wildlife, plantation
  • Distance: 5.6 miles out and back
  • Elevation change: 160 feet
  • Difficulty level: Easy/Moderate
  • Trailhead Parking: Chippokes State Park Visitor Center, 695 Chippokes Park Rd., Surry, VA
  • Website: Chippokes State Park
  • Beer Pairings: Billsburg Brewery Brewery—Irish Exit stout & Supafly double IPA

The Hike:

Chippokes is one of our favorite Virginia State Parks. Virginia has a great state park system, so this is high praise indeed. Located across the James River from Jamestown, Chippokes Plantation is one of the oldest continually farmed plantations in the US. The plantation was established in 1619 and was named for Indian chief Choupocke. The plantation with over 1,400 acres was donated to the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1967. Today Chippokes State Park  continues to operate as a working farm and is home to an antebellum mansion, outbuildings, formal gardens, fields and livestock, and the Chippokes Farm and Forestry Museum.

This hike begins at the Visitor Center where you can get a trail map and determine the James River’s tide schedule. The return part of this hike is on the shores of the James, and at high tide, parts of the trail may be impassible. Exit the Visitor Center and turn left on the blue-blazed College Run Trail which heads away from the river. In the springtime, Red Buds and cherry trees are in bloom and in late summer, Crape Myrtle color the trail. The River House, which dates from the 1830s, appears on the left. On the right is a road leading to the Farm and Forestry Museum. Further down the road, slave and sharecropper housing and farm buildings are on the left. At the end of College Run is the Jones-Stewart mansion and outbuildings which are open for tours as are the formal gardens.

The hike turns left in front of the mansion on the red-blazed James River Trail. Just past the mansion on the right is the yellow-blazed Lower Chippokes Creek Trail. This trail leads through .9 miles of farmland before arriving at a creekside dock with excellent views of Lower Chippokes Creek which is ideal for wildlife-watching. We saw several bald eagles on this hike. Canoe rentals are available if you want an up close and personal view of the creek and the James. 

Retrace your steps and turn right on the red-blazed James River Trail which travels through fields before entering a forest and descending to the shores of the James River. If the tide is high, retrace your steps back to the Visitor Center. If the tide is low, turn left and follow the sandy shores of the river. Cypress trees, eroding cliffs, and fossils border the James as you navigate your way back to College Run. If the water level is high, you may need to follow a trail back to College Run or get your feet wet and continue on the beach trail back to the Visitor center and your vehicle.

Hike Photos:

Click on an image below for an enlarged view.

Beer Pairing:

Our friends Dana and Rylie tell us they really like having a beer soon after completing a hike. We couldn’t agree more. Chippokes Plantation State park may seem like its in the middle of nowhere, but it’s just a short ferry ride to a great post-hike beer. The free Scotland-Jamestown VDOT ferry will get you to the other side of the river in about 30 minutes. On the  Jamestown side of the river is Billsburg Brewery with great beer, food trucks, and a patio with river views.  

We really liked Supafly, a double New England IPA with 9% ABV. We normally shy away from so much alcohol in beer (as our friend Mark says “if I want a lot of alcohol, I’ll drink bourbon”). However, Supafly was nicely hoppy without an over-the-top alcohol aftertaste. We also liked Irish Exit, an Irish Stout with only 4.8% ABV. We decided the two beers would average out to about 7% which was just right after a nice hike.

Hike and drink responsibly. Never drink and drive. Stay safe and be responsible.