Rappahannock River

Rappahannock River Heritage Trail & Canal Path Loop

  • Highlights: River views, wetlands, history
  • Distance: 3.1 mile loop
  • Elevation change: 90 feet
  • Difficulty level: Easy
  • Trailhead Parking: Old Mill Park, 2201 Caroline Street, Fredericksburg VA
  • Website: City of Fredericksburg
  • Beer Pairings: Red Dragon Brewery—Yorkshire Brown Ale & Rose of Sharon Welsh Ale

The Hike:

We have had several requests for shorter hikes closer to central Virginia. The Rappahannock River Heritage Trail in Fredericksburg is an urban trail popular with runners, walkers, and cyclists. This multi-use paved trail is well marked and well maintained.

We began this walk at Old Mill Park on Caroline Street. The park has ample parking, restrooms, and a kiosk with trail information. From the parking area, follow the paved path over a foot bridge and up the stairs to Caroline Street. Turn right and follow the Heritage Trail along the river.

Numerous placards describe the history and ecology of the area. The trail passes below Route 1 and soon the traffic noise is replaced by sounds of nature. The Rappahannock River is a great location for water sports. In the warmer months, the Virginia Outdoor Center rents canoes and kayaks for a hands-on river experience. 

Just past the Virginia Outdoor Center, turn left at the junction and follow the path under the highway. The trail now becomes the Rappahannock Canal Path. The canal was constructed nearly 200 years ago to transport cargo around the waterfalls and rapids on the river. Today the canal path passes beside wetlands with several footbridges connecting neighborhoods with the walkway.

The trail passes beside Snowden Pond, a great birdwatching location. The trail once again passes beneath Route 1 and more ponds and wetland are on the right. In the distance, just beyond the ponds, is the University of Mary Washington campus. The university is named in honor of George’s mother. The trail soon crosses over Washington Avenue. You can take a short detour here to visit Kenmore Park, the burial site of Mary Washington.

The trail winds through the city, following the original route of the canal, past the ruins of a flour mill and rejoins Caroline Street. Follow the path across the street and return to the parking area and your vehicle.  

Hike Photos:

Click on an image below for an enlarged view.

Beer Pairing: 

Located just a few miles from the trailhead in downtown Fredericksburg is Red Dragon Brewery, a craft brewery specializing in beers from the United Kingdom. The have indoor and outdoor seating with live music and food trucks on weekends. With 20 different styles of beer on tap, there is something here for everyone.

Pete really liked Yorkshire Brown, a cask ale brewed in the traditional English style with notes of toffee and caramel. Kathy enjoyed Rose of Sharon, a Welsh-style ale with just enough bitterness to make it interesting. This is a fun brewery and we definitely plan to return.

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