Dismal Swamp Canal Trail (VA)


22 Reviews

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Dismal Swamp Canal Trail (VA) Facts

States: Virginia
Counties: Chesapeake
Length: 8.5 miles
Trail end points: Old Route 17 and George Washington Hwy. (Chesapeake) and US 17 (near the North Carolina state line)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt
Trail category: Greenway/Non-RT
ID: 6594291

Dismal Swamp Canal Trail (VA) Description

As it was built on a former state highway, the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail provides a wide, paved and flat pathway along its namesake waterway and the Great Dismal Swamp Refuge. Not only does this wetlands area provide scenic views and opportunities to glimpse many types of birds and other wildlife, it is also of historical significance: Parts were surveyed by George Washington's company, and it also served as a stop on the Underground Railroad.

From the trail's northern trailhead, a newer trail parallels George Washington Highway north to Deep Creek Park, which features four lighted baseball fields. South of the North Carolina state line, a trail of the same name likewise offers a scenic trek along the Dismal Swamp Canal.

Parking and Trail Access

To access ample parking at the northern trailhead, follow US 17 Business/George Washington Highway south from Chesapeake. An entrance to the parking area will be on the right, just before the road curves toward US 17's main alignment.

For parking near the southern endpoint, take US 17 south from the north trailhead and turn right onto Ballahack Road. Limited parking is available along the trail; a short stretch here is still open to vehicular traffic.

Dismal Swamp Canal Trail (VA) Reviews

Smooth Surface.

Easy, enjoyable ride.

Nice out and back

Easy 22 miler from the local park to the end and back. The trail is well paved and flat as a pancake with 33 deer if climbing over the 22 miles. Plenty of farms working and good views of the canal and water lily flowers. There were some historical signs providing information on the area and canal. This is a good trail to roll along and get some exercise. It ends abruptly with a little turnaround. Sure wish it was connected to the NC trail fir more miles.


My wife and I rode this trail on March 9-10-11. It was Straight as an arrow and Flat as a pancake! My wife and I always explore new rail-trails as we travel... Normally we do 6 miles out and back. But this time, my wife said she was willing to go to the end of the trail! We parked @ the main parking lot right off of Hwy 17. Each day we did a round-trip of a bit over 17miles! Two beautiful bathrooms about 3.5miles apart. Two awesome JD 6600 Combines and some other old farm vehicles hidden in the woods! This is a beautiful and serene riding location at any time of the day! We stayed @ the HIExpress-Chesapeake; about 8 miles away. The only bear we saw was Ches A. Peake, the wooden mascot @ the trail entrance!

relaxing and perfect for all ages

Very nice atmosphere with plenty of rest areas. Be sure to be the sun down to avoid wildlife


Be careful

I visited this trail early June, 2019 for the first time while on vacation. It is in a remote, rural area. Spacious parking lot and nice restroom at trailhead, was quiet (Thursday), few cyclists around. Locked my rental car, took off on bike and was gone approximately 2-1/2 hrs. Came back to car to find it had been broken into and my credit cards were stolen. The trail itself is fine, just be sure to bring water bottle and bug spray. But please don't go alone and never leave anything you value in your vehicle.

super gentle ride far from cars

Our favorite local paved trail. No cars at all - walkers and cyclists own the road (used to be the main north/south highway!) Deep woods and fields bordering the inland waterway. Always amazing to look over your shoulder to see a sailboat coming along beside you! Straight down and back, 16 miles or so round trip. City has added nice restroom facilities at entrance and midpoint. Much appreciated as there is nothing nearby.

beautiful scenery, fresh air, endless pavement

This is the perfect trail for cyclists. Most of it is shaded except the last 2 miles. If you stop in the middle of the trail to rest, you’ll notice its ridiculously quiet. No noise pollution whatsoever. This trail is so beautiful, wide and peaceful I have never experienced anything like it before. I rode down and back twice and racked up 34 miles on my bike! Also saw some black bears crossing the road. Will definitely be going again.

You Will See At Least One Bear

He's made of wood and stands at the northern trailhead - don't worry, he doesn't bite. But I know people that have seen them, and I ran across a half dozen turkeys once. What a great way to repurpose an old section of roadway. The trail is two lanes wide, and in relatively good shape. There are a few areas where it's open to vehicles, but they are few and far between. My only wish is that it was easier to see when the trail is being closed off for events - unless I'm looking in the wrong place. The City's Parks, Rec and Tourism calendar can be found at: http://www.cityofchesapeake.net/government/City-Departments/Departments/parks-recreation-tourism/calendar.htm. I even did an advanced search using keyword "dismal" - no dice. You have to click on each posted event to find out where it is being held.

not dismal at all

very nice trail - started in chesapeake - nice restrooms - good parking - great ride - a small section that shares the road with cars (people that live on the trail from when it was a road) - saw a big sailboat going down the canal which was neat -- everyone friendly -- a great ride on a nice day

great trail!

Nice, flat, well-paved road. So wide and plenty of shade. Only downside was finding several ticks on my dog afterward. We only walked 3 miles and he was leashed the whole time. Make sure to do a thorough tick check when you leave. Otherwise a top notch place to bike, walk or run!

Short but very sweet

This trail is faiirly perfect, as far as conditions. It used to be a main road, so it is a full two traffic lanes wide, all paved. It has substantial shade for much of the length. It follows the canal which is lovely. The canal was (is) an alternate route on the Intercoastal Waterway, so you sometimes pass some very impressive boats in the canal. There are comfort station with nice bathroomms along the way. There is plenty of nice parking at the trailhead. The trail connects at the parking lot to another trail that goes north next to Business 17 to Deep Creek Park. Just lovely.

Oasis for riders in South Hampton Roads, VA

This trail is the former US 17 Highway - and at about 22 feet wide - it's the widest paved trail I've ever ridden. No cars - but there are four connections to rural roads in the southern part of Chesapeake - allows you to venture off the trail if you're a serious roadie. In a part of the state that is woefully short of safe places to ride - it's a true oasis. Check it out.

Enjoy your run/ride

If in the area and need a nice safe to put in some miles, head here. paved, level, small grade.
mostly bikers, a good place to run

Great "Road" to Trail

My wife and I rode this trail on the way home from Virginia Beach to Georgia. Very different type of trail for us as the trail is an old two way road. It was a gorgeous day and the canal (swamp) along the trail was like a perfect reflection pool. I can see how locals would fall in love with the trail. If I am ever in the area again it will be a must ride for me.

Awesome place to ride your bike

Love this place! We have run, walk, and ridden our bikes here. Our family dog loves to come here as well!!! Thanks to all that made it happen!

run without worry

Lots of runners and bikers enjoy this trail. Excellent place to go run.

awesome trail

easy to ride and very scenic. love that you can ride as much as 16.5 miles!!

Outstanding nature trail

Perfect for hiking and biking. Lots of Munzees (see www.munzee.com) Note bear warnings. Also mosquito and buggy as one would expect during hot summer months. Bring sunscreen and deet.

Easy ride along a lovely waterway!

This is a lovely, easy FLAT ride on a wide paved path along the Inland Waterway. Perfect for beginning bike tourists or little riders. Fun to see boats cruising alongside . Lots of wildlife: early mornings we've seen turkey's, foxes, black bears and swas if brilliant butterflies. New for 2014: nice restrooms and boat launches.

new and improved

I have been riding this trail since it opened. I include it on rides from my home about 6 miles away. There are four crossing streets that allow you to ride on low traffic roads and create loops back to the trail.

There are two new restroom buildings with water fountains at 0 and 3.5 miles.

There is a connection with a new bike trail from the north parking lot that runs 2 miles down George Washington Highway. The trail crosses GWH into a city park (Deep Creek Park) were it becomes a crush/run path. There is a restroom and water fountains in the park. The park path connects
to a large neighborhood called Sawyer's Mill

The bike path runs along the canal and is somewhat shaded and scenic. There is a campground with a store across the GWH about a half mile north of Deep Creek Park.

Excellent Trail

I have been there twice to skateboard on my electric longboard. It is against the posted rules but i have not been bothered. I have seen rangers and trail workers while skating, they were very friendly and just said hi. I go on weekdays and see very few people. I would not skate it on a busy weekend. The trail itself is great, long, flat and wide. They are making bathrooms/welcome area at the head of trail near the parking lot. There is also new bathrooms, water and small dock/pier at about the 5 mile marker but as of 10/01/2013 neither were open. there are benches and pick nick areas along the trail plus a very nice pick nick area just .5 miles in. A great trail aside from road work on the road there in the Bainbridge area.

Nice, Flat, Enjoyable

My friend and I have ridden this trail a few times together. Nothing better than almost perfectly flat and asphalt when looking for an easy ride. Would get five stars if it was a circuit. Not that there's anything wrong with the old ride to the end and back. You can't beat two full car lanes of path, though, and really never that well traveled. I will definitely keep going back.

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