Great Dismal Swamp to Lake Drummond

  • Highlights: Historic site, Lake Drummond, Great Dismal Swamp
  • Distance: 9.1 miles out and back
  • Elevation change: 42 feet
  • Difficulty level: Easy/Moderate
  • Trailhead Parking: Washington Ditch entrance – 3076 White Marsh Road, Suffolk, VA. Follow the gravel road past the entry gate for one mile to the parking area
  • Website: US Fish & Wildlife Service
  • Beer Pairings: Nansemond Brewing Station—Firefly Lamp IPA & Beenut Butter Nut Brown Ale

The Hike:

The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge comprises over 112,000 acres and is home to a a wide variety of plants, fish, and animals. This easy hike passes through a unique ecosystem. While there are no grand vistas or waterfalls, the Great Dismal is one of the largest habitats on the east coast for over 200 species of birds and dozens of different types of butterflies. The Great Dismal is also home to Lake Drummond, one of only two natural lakes in Virginia. 

This hike passes beside Washington Ditch, named after George, and travels through the swamp to Lake Drummond. The wide gravel path is suitable for hiking and cycling. From spring through fall, wildflowers, birds, and butterflies are at their peak but so are mosquitos. Hunting is permitted in the refuge from October to the end of December. We opted for a mid-January hike to avoid both hunters and bugs.

The parking area has pit toilets and a trail kiosk with maps of the trail network. A 3/4 mile boardwalk trail through the swamp is also located here. Pass through the gate to the Washington Ditch trail and continue straight for 4 1/2 miles to Lake Drummond. There is little elevation change and trail is virtually a straight line to the lake. The swamp is the main point of interest in this hike. Several interpretive signs along the trail highlight the history and wildlife of this area.

Wildlife abounds here—even in the winter months. We observed a variety of birds including blue herons as well as several deer. Bald cypress and cedar trees are found throughout the swamp. Mistletoe was easy to spot in the winter nestled high in oak and maple trees. A fishing pier is located on the lake along with more birdwatching opportunities. Take in the lake views and then retrace your steps back to the parking area and your vehicle.

Hike Photos:

Click on an image below for an enlarged view.

Beer Pairing: 

Nansemond Brewing Station is located just a few miles from the trailhead in downtown Suffolk. They have twelve taps with a nice variety of beers and hard seltzer. Indoor and outdoor seating options are available and dogs are welcome outside. A variety of food trucks and live music are on the schedule most weekends.

Firefly Lamp is a New England-style hazy IPA. It has a burst of upfront hops with notes of citrus. This is a good IPA for people who don’t think they like IPAs. Pete was intrigued by Beenut Butter Nut Brown Ale but wasn’t willing to commit without a sample taste. The honey and peanut butter take a back seat to the roasted malts and caramel notes of this brown ale. It is one of their most popular beers and we ended up taking a four-pack home with us.

Hike and drink responsibly. Never drink and drive. Stay safe, be responsible, and leave no trace.