With more than 550 acres of shoreline and islands, an extensive mountain bike trail system and class IV and V rapids, downtown Richmond's riverfront offers year-round outdoor recreational opportunities for all experience levels. You can hike Belle Isle, swim in the James River or launch your kayak from Ancarrow's Landing, the James River Park System offers every type of outdoor adventure for the whole family. Opt outside and discover Richmond's favorite outdoor attractions like the Manchester Climbing Wall, Floodwall, Pipeline Walk and more.
At this Jackson Ward neighborhood favorite, you'll find a playground for the kids, a RVA Bike Share station and plenty of green space to enjoy the day.
Designed by local firm Walter Parks Architects, this is the first custom-designed public parklet built in the City of Richmond. Located outside of ART 180, the parklet provides a safe space for participants in the nonprofit’s youth programming to gather before and after class, and is open to the general public as well.
Located along the James River in downtown Richmond, Belle Isle is a great place for people with a love for the outdoors, granting them the opportunity to view wildlife in its natural habitat. From wooded areas to mountain biking trails, interpreted historical sites, a granite wall for rock climbing and wheelchair-accessible fishing at the quarry pond, guests have a variety of options to choose from.
Brown's Island is managed and maintained by Venture Richmond and offers six acres of riverfront with access to the James River, surrounding James River parks, outdoor conerts and more for visitors, residents and employees of Downtown Richmond.
Below the fall line, just east of downtown Richmond, you’ll find some of the lesser known and quieter parts of the James River Park System, like Great Shiplock Park. The lock found at Great Shiplock Park connected the James River with the Richmond Dock, completing the James River and Kanawha Canal system that bypassed seven miles of falls and continued 197 miles through Virginia’s western mountain ranges. The canal served as a transport hub for the tobacco warehouses along downtown Richmond’s Dock Street. Great Shiplock Park marks the lowest lock in a system of locks that once connected the James River with the Richmond Docks. In late March through early June, the fishery in this area is influenced by anadromous fish, which are migrating from salt water to fresh water on their annual spawning runs. Great Shiplock Park also serves as a gateway to the Virginia Capital Trail and Low Line.
This three-acre plaza is comprised of a sunken pool, open lawn and bosques of trees. The park accommodates large public events and has shady spaces for small groups and acts as a connector for downtown Richmond’s central business district and the James River.
Located behind the Main Branch of the Richmond Public Library at 101 E. Franklin Street is a pocket park offering a quiet and relaxing green space to enjoy your day out in downtown.
Richmond’s Canal Walk features art, restaurants and four centuries of our state capital’s history depicted through fascinating medallions, statues and exhibits. Enjoy a walk, bike ride or a Riverfront Canal Cruise thru the historic canal walk in downtown RVA and discover Richmond's history along the way. Don't forget to check out the Canal Walk murals along the way!
The Pipeline Rapids walkway may be downtown Richmond’s best kept secret. And it’s a wonderful place to watch nature and escape the city for even just a few minutes. From the parking lot at the end of S. 12th Street, you walk to a metal ladder then descend to the metal catwalk atop the pipeline, which offers views of the Pipeline Rapids.
The Buttermilk Trail is one of the oldest sections of the James River Park System trail and runs about four miles along the contours of the hill below Riverside Drive from just west of the 22nd Street Tower at Belle Isle to the Boulevard Bridge on the south banks of the James River. The trail parallels the southside of the river and is a real challenge and considered the most difficult of the different sections of the James River Park System. Buttermilk combines tight, twisty, fast descents and steep climbs with lots of rocks and roots. Several creek crossings and some bridges and rock gardens add character to one of the most beloved trail systems in the Richmond area.
Unique views of the James River, the city skyline and historic sites can be seen from atop the Floodwall on the southern side. Completed in 1995 to protect areas of downtown and Manchester from devastating flooding, the southbank section comprises Floodwall Park, a popular spot for hikers, runners, fishermen, bird watchers and kayakers.
Even if you are a beginner on a bike or just looking to take a stroll, the Virginia Capital Trail offers something for everyone. Beginning downtown in Shockoe Bottom at the floodwall doors at S. 17th Street, the trail parallells the historic James River and Kanawha Canal in a flat, urban landscape, then continues eastward to more rural vistas. The 52-mile mixed-use path connects Richmond’s downtown to Jamestown, for those who decide to enjoy the trail in its entirety.
This area, under the Manchester Bridge, is a unique outdoor climbing venue under a series of abandoned train trestles that have been equipped with bolts and shutts. Here climbers can hone their skills of leading, both trad and sport, rappelling, and self-rescue. Climbers and non-climbers alike will enjoy a visit to this uncommon section of the JRPS.
The Belle Isle bicycle skills area is the best place in the James River Park System to polish your technique to master the more than 20 miles of local mountain bike trails. The skills area consists of beginner to intermediate obstacles, such as logs, rock gardens and drop-offs. It also includes a beginner and full-size pump track for improving your rhythm and stamina.
Downtown Richmond’s riverfront is rich with art and exhibits that allow visitors and residents to experience the James River and the Canal Walk’s treasured history and beauty. Find public art and exhibits along downtown Richmond's riverfront like the Emancipation and Freedom Monument, Riverfront Rings, Tidewater Connection Locks Exhibit, Box Brown Plaza and more.
Excursions and Adventures
The Riverfront Canal Cruise in downtown Richmond features a 40-minute, historically-narrated boat tour of the James River and Kanawha Canal, designed by George Washington. Hear about centuries of Richmond’s history, from Powhatan’s Chiefdom to the first commercially successful electric streetcar in the world, while traveling in authentic, flat-bottomed boats.
Want to enjoy a riverfront adventure, but don't own a kayak or board? Waterfront RVA has got you covered with their $20-$25/hr rentals available on Brown's Island every day 12-6PM, May thru October.
For the past 16 years, Riverside Outfitters has offered first-class outdoor adventures perfectly matched for your desired level of thrill and relaxation. Their excursions range from paddleboarding, SUP and kayaking tours to rafting trips along the Falls of the James, upper river and lower river and focus on team-building, connecting to nature and creating memorable moments together.
Based along the James River, RVA Paddlesports offers whitewater kayak and rafting instruction for all levels of paddlers. Whether it's your first time in a boat, or you want to paddle a multi-day trip overseas, RVA Paddlesports offers excursions and adventure programs for every step of the way.