Dismal Swamp Canal Trail (VA)


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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
Trail activities: Bike, Inline Skating, Wheelchair Accessible, Horseback Riding, Walking

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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

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.

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.

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.


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.

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

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!

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.

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.

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

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.

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!

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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