James River Heritage Trail (Blackwater Creek Natural Area)


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James River Heritage Trail (Blackwater Creek Natural Area) Facts

States: Virginia
Counties: Amherst, Lynchburg
Length: 9.5 miles
Trail end points: Old Langhorne Road and 0.5 mile east of Fertilizer Road
Trail surfaces: Asphalt, Dirt, Woodchips
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6031297
Trail activities: Bike, Inline Skating, Fishing, Wheelchair Accessible, Mountain Biking, Walking, Cross Country Skiing

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James River Heritage Trail (Blackwater Creek Natural Area) Description

The James River Heritage Trail in the Blackwater Creek Natural Area is one of the premier urban trails in the state, passing through lush forest as well as the heart of historic, industrial downtown Lynchburg. It offers multiple easy connections to other trails along the way and is well marked with trail and mileage signs.

The 9.5-mile trail is actually an interconnected system of shorter trails that each go by a different name: the Blackwater Creek Bikeway, the Point of Honor Trail, the Kemper Station Trail, the Riverwalk and the Percival's Island Trail.

The Blackwater Creek Bikeway begins at the Ed Page trailhead (nice facilities) on Old Langhorne Road. Take a minute to stroll through the pleasant Awareness Garden, dedicated to persons with cancer. From here, the trail follows an old railroad grade for 3 miles to Jefferson Street downtown, near where the creek flows into the James River. The trail traverses the Blackwater Creek Natural Area, and there are a few unpaved trails into the woods leading down a steep bank to the creek. Mountain bikes are permitted but should give way to foot traffic. The trails are clearly marked.

Shortly after you go under the railroad bridge, high above near mile 2, the trail branches off to the left (north) and becomes the Point of Honor Trail (1.75 miles long). To the right (south) you'll find the Kemper Station Trail, 1 mile long to the Kemper Street Station. To return to the main trail, you'll have to backtrack.

If you carry on the main Blackwater Creek Bikeway, you will go through the funky Hollins Tunnel, nearly 0.5 mile long. The tunnel bends but is well lit, and water seeps from the ceiling. If you take the Point of Honor Trail, you'll cross a spillway; use caution when water is flowing over top. If it's too high and fast, you can cross above at the road.

At mile 3 (3.75 if you take the Point of Honor Trail) the Blackwater Creek Bikeway meets up with the Riverwalk, a 1-mile segment along Jefferson Street's sidewalks to Washington Street. At Washington turn left (north), cross the tracks and continue on the trail, where it becomes the Percival's Island Trail. You will cross a spectacular refurbished railroad bridge onto the island. Stop at the overlook for views back up river toward downtown. The trail traverses the 1-mile-long island before crossing a second former rail bridge to the eastern shore of the James River. Back on the mainland the trail is surrounded by private property and signs warn you to keep to the trail to avoid trespassing.

The James River Heritage Trail continues for another 1.25 miles along the river's edge until its end less than a mile past the last trail access point located off of Fertilizer Road. When you reach the endpoint, the railroad corridor clearly continues but the trail becomes a dirt track that eventually crosses the river again after going under US 29, emerging onto Route 726/Mt. Athos Road.

Parking and Trail Access

To reach the Blackwater Creek Bikeway trailhead from the Lynchburg Expressway, go north on US 501 Business, which becomes Langhorne Road. Be on the lookout for a quick right turn onto Old Langhorne Road; the trailhead is on the left. To reach the Fertilizer Road trailhead from the Lynchburg Expressway, take State Route 210 east to Fertilizer Road and turn right to follow it all the way the trailhead for parking.

You can hop on the James River Heritage Trail from many other places along its route. Drop by the Lynchburg Visitors Center (216 12th Street; 800-732-5821) for detailed maps of the trail system.

James River Heritage Trail (Blackwater Creek Natural Area) Reviews

Had a great ride on Sunday, a little more populated on the main trail but with side trails had a good 90 minutes of riding. Started at Fertilizer Rd entrance and if we did not have a truck the road to the entrance of the trail would have been hard to manage . The road has been washed out quite a bit from rains etc.

This trail has enough to keep you interested. It is easy, and long enough for an afternoon. Was well worth the trip down from Charlottesville. Plan to return.

I confess. I liked it as city river trails go. It's varied. Look at its map and you'll see a reclining squid with arms going on both sides of the river and even down the middle of an island in the river. It helps to learn the various names of the legs so you'll have a clue as to where the heck you are. There are high legs, low legs, jungle legs, urban legs, tunnel legs, bowed legs and unshaven legs. Something for every leg man.


Rode this trail in September. The trail is paved and a comfortable ride. Has so many great things to see on the ride! Beautiful bridges (one is a locks bridge where people have put various locks to represent marriage, friendships etc) , waterfall, awesome lighted tunnel, and a cancer memorial park at one end. This is a "rails to trail" trail and very neat! Loved the ride and scenery. Not hilly so a GREAT ride for families!

Great trail. Mostly flat. Makes for a great evening stroll or for a good workout, go further. We did 4.5 miles on this one... We would have gone further, but ran out of daylight.

Definitely our favorite trail, so far. Paved trail and gorgeous scenery! Very well marked. Definitely take the side trails...Creekside and Kemper! Kemper is fun because it's up all the way and down all the way back and then you hit the cool tunnel. Perceval Island gives great views. Must do this trail again and again. Recommend you stay at The Craddock Terry hotel. The Trail is right behind it, the rooms and beds are fabulous!

I rode this earlier in the week. It's a really well maintained and signed trail complex. Some double track, some crushed stone. Something for everyone. I clocked 20 miles. Highly recommended

Nice mid-morning ride. Began at Depot Grill and rode to end in Amherst end. Returned trip thru the tunnel and then back to depot grill. Nice leisurely 2 hr. Total ride was about 10+ miles. Will do it again from Ed Page.

Very nice smoothly paved wide trail with beautiful scenery with a mix of woodlands, a long well lit tunnel, some city brick sidewalks and bridges across the James River. The grade along the 6.5 mile paved section is very easy for riders of all ages.

Good if you like asphalt and a TON of people. Very well kept

This trail is a real pleasure! Trail is beautiful & if you are brave you can pop up onto the city streets & cruise the town. Great natural setting!

We parked at the Percival Island parking lot, which is located across the railroad tracks on Washington Street. The directions provided from the Rails-to-Trails mapping were perfect.
This trail has several limbs and a loop. We were able to find our way without using the map very much. There are several signs along the trail that tell you where you're going and the distance. There are a few hills but nothing major.
The part that goes across the railroad tracks in front of the abandoned buildings is a little confusing because there was a detour at the time. But you can find the paved trail from whichever approach you take. I suggest taking time to check out these buildings. They're very interesting and make for some cool photos.
There is an Awareness Garden in honor of people with cancer. It's lovely and worth a walk through. You can also photograph numerous butterflies in this area. It is located near the Ed Page parking lot.
You can also cross the creek near the Hollins Mill Park lot. There's a neat waterfall there too.
We made a special trip from Chattanooga to Lynchburg on our way home to New York. The trip to Lynchburg and the Heritage Trail were well worth the extra miles.

Did the James River Heritage Trail this past Sunday with some friends and it was a real treat...simply put, it's hard to beat this trail.

We did get a little confused when we got to the downtown area due to the ongoing construction and initially missed the connection to the island. But once we figured out where we went wrong, all was good.

I suggest taking along a copy of the map found at: http://www.lynchburgva.gov/sites/default/files/COLFILES/Parks-Recreation/Documents/Parks_Trails/Maps/JR_Heritage_map.pdf

I look forward to riding this trail again in the fall!

This was my family's first time on the trail and we loved it. The tunnel was a bonus. We ride a lot of trails and this one is our favorite so far. I will surely go back to to ride again. It is very kid friendly and mostly flat. My six year old rode the whole trail. He was so proud of his self.

I've rode the trail 4 times now over as many years. The first impression of the downtown section is awesome; the old freight and factory/warehouse buildings and the railroad as well as the river views from Percival Island. The tunnel is a cool treat on a hot day as it's draft refreshes. As others have stated; it goes from trees and railroad cuts from the Langhorne road lot to the historic downtown. My only complaint during my first ride years ago was the disconnect between the trail upon reaching downtown. It still exists, and even though it was once the same rail line it is hard to follow once reaching downtown to the island. It has a crushed stone "middle section" before reaching the island, so if your riding a slim tire bike use caution for possible flats. The first couple miles before the tunnel is fairly bumpy from tree roots in the asphalt and various patches. This section is in need of resurfacing.

Wife and I have done this trail with old freinds and young grandchildren they all enjoyed it especially our 5yr old grandson. Park at west end of trail and head back to riverwalk. Lunch at Stone Grill piazza was great. Scenery is beautiful along river. Trail ends and turns into small path turn around and head back take trail to the left just past oldtown and go through tunnel heading back to parking lot. Nice restrooms and garden area here. Only a 2hr trip from Chester.

We enjoyed bicycling this trail this past weekend. There was a wine festival downtown, which made linking up with the Percival Island trail a little difficult. Discovered the following day the Kemper Street Station entrance and trail is closed due to construction on Park Ave., and will be closed until August 2013. Trail is paved the whole way, and easy to ride, if that's what you're looking for. Nice views from the Percival Island bridges. Trail south of island is surrounded by private property. It would be really nice to have public access to the James River at some point. Facilities at Ed Page entrance were well kept and convenient. Parking lot there was full both days during the weekend.

My husband and I spent a weekend in Lynchburg and rode this trail. It is an easy ride and offers views of the James River. We stayed at the Craddock Terry Hotel so we were able to join the trail from our hotel and didn't need to find any parking. There are a few hiking trails off of this trail to enjoy as well. There is a 1 mile bike trail to Kemper Railroad Station off this trail. Just so you know, it is mostly uphill but the ride back down was fast....The trails are very well marked and we would love to ride this again in the fall when the leaves have changed color.

In April of 2010 we rode this trail. I chose the Kemper St. parking and trail head, thinking that it would be a good parking spot for an RV. But it wasn't. Thank goodness it was a Sunday, we parked in a gravel lot of some kind of business. There is parking at the Amtrak area, but not for an RV. The trail was very nice. It meets up with several other trails and there is a map at the junction of all the trails, which was very helpful. We chose to ride to what is called "River Walk" area which is being developed for retail and eatery. We rode back a different trail. All trails were tarmacked. Very beautiful area, a busy trail, but not congested. There is a plantation house near the trail that you could tour.

The fertilizer road parking is behind the Virginia Training center on Rt 334 which takes you in a circle and the fertilizer dirt road to the parking lot on the river is not at all good. I would suggest skipping driving to that spot and bike a circle from the downtown parking by the island. Very nice trail but the signs are not good when you get down by the river in town. Bob

I had been reading about how wonderful a bike trail the James River Trail is. My wife and I decided to take a work break and drive down from Maryland and do a middle of the week thingy. We left on Tuesday, biked on Wednesday and returned home on Thursday. The trail was all the good I had read about. I guess we did things kind of backwards. We stayed at a motel a few blocks from the downtown trailhead-not at the beginning Ed Page entrance. The motel was half the price of the outlying motels -and nice. Plus we were two blocks from the visitors center which we visited on Wednesday morning and got information on the trail. We also watched the 'ten minute movie about Lynchburg which someone wrote about. Only it was more like 25 or 30 minutes. Behind the visitor center was the Wednesday Farmers Market where we bought some fresh off the farm fruit for the trail. Two minutes and we were parking on the lot at the trail (Lynchburg Riverwalk). We first rode to Percival Island-stopping on one of the two bridges to take pictures. The island ride was quiet, serene, (I wish I knew more words to discribe the feeling). It was only a couple of miles but we stretched the time by sitting on a couple of benches enjoying the views and taking pictures. Then we deadheaded back to the car and picked up our fruit, which we forgot, and headed for the Ed Page entrance which was about 3 miles. It was all paved through the forest and a tunnel right to the neat Ed Page 'garden' trailhead. We did'nt ride any of the connecting trails. We're senior citizens and besides we have to save some scenery for next spring. On returnig to the downtown trailhead we sat and watched the long frieght trains pass on the tracks that parrallel the parking lot and ate more fruit. Great trail!!!

I thoroughly enjoy the trail especially beginning at the Ed Page Entrance where the Memorial Gardens are off of Langhorne road. They have nice restroom facitlities there too along with picnic tables. There are bridges over the James River, a cool tunnel, Hollins Mill Dam ect. It is fairly flat ride and very scenic. I believe that they are working on reconstructing a bridge there about 2 miles from the start so be prepared to stop and turn around Nov 2007-March 2008. I would recommend taking Percivals Island/River walk if you want to do more distance. Take Downtown Lynchburg Exit Lower Basin to Washington street. They have a couple nice size bridges overlooking the James and a nice lookout point on the first bridge that is breathtaking. Very nice trail some of which you are riding along side the river.

"We really enjoyed the FREE coffeee and video at the Lynchburg visitor center...just a couple of blocks UP from the bike parking.

BEAUTIFUL RIDE! We rode all of it and was just really impressed. The only other ride that came close was the trail south of Old York, PN. Thanks for making it so beautiful. It was spring so the flowers were beautiful! Enjoyed the train station, too."

"Sept 22, 2005 - We loved this trail. The spur to Percival's Island was wonderful, the main trail tunnel was outstanding, the surface was well maintained and signing was super. If someone mentions the stairs downtown between the main trail and the spur don't let it bother you - there are only about 6 steps, to take your bike up and down.
Be sure and look at the photos posted here - They tell it all!"

"This trail is great for running, walking, biking, and roller blading. I use the Black Water Creek Trail primarily for running, and it is my favorite trail to run. Conveniently located in the heart of Lynchburg, you can rarely tell you are in the middle of town. Runners will enjoy the width of the trail, 1/2 mile markers, gentle grades, and usually light traffic. Wildlife is easy to spot with Deer and Wild Turkey plentiful. Enjoy!"

"We ride a recumbant and a hand cycle. We rode this trail several times while staying in Roanoke so we drove 120 miles round trip to do it! It was worth it.

The Blackwater Creek section was about 3 miles that had a couple of trestles over the river and a neat tunnel! This end was hillier and wasn't recommended for wheelchair users, but it wasn't a problem for the handcycle. There was only one steep side trail that we didn't do down to the river for 1/4 mile that didn't look like any bike could make it, but we did see a couple of folks make it. We picked wild raspberries and ate our fill!

When you get to the end of the trail by the rail yard there is a flight of steps (tell me about the train that did that one!). So we turned around and went back and then rode it all over again. We saw deer and lots of birds. It surprised me that it seemed so rural and we were in downtown Lynchburg.

The trail bed is carved in the side of the mountains in places so the ride was very cool even though the parking lot back at the Greek Church trailhead said it was 101 degrees. There is a great restaurant near that end called Meriweather's Market Restaurant. Find it.

On the other end we parked at the railyard and rode the Riverwalk area. This part is virtually flat. It crossed the James River several times and provided more raspberries and a shady canopy of trees for most of the way. Very scenic. That is also about 3 miles so we rode it round trip twice, also. There is a great restaurant near the college there called Shakers, casual and great food. It was a really nice ride."

"This trail has it all! For families, it is a safe, easy ride with lots of interesting sites (creeks, bridges, tunnels, nice picnic area). With the new Amazement Museum in downtown Lynchburg right on the trail as a central highlight of the visit, we cannot wait to get back! For train lovers (which we are), there is lots of history and buildings to admire as well as active trains and a newly converted station restaurant!

I hope city and county officials read this, because this trail is a great example of revitalizing and bringing dollars to the area. We are coming back from NC to spend the whole weekend and some money too!! Highly recommended! "

"This is a marvelous trail. Beginning in the heart of Lynchburg, the James River Heritage Trail winds its way through the center of the city, with wildlife, three bridges and a tunnel before reaching its current end in rural Amherst County.

Consisting of both a paved trail and a dirt, mountain biking trail, there are several options for the rider. Finally, the trail passes Amazement Square and into the heart of the renovation process in downtown Lynchburg."

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