Hiking into the virgin snow of James River Park

Snowy boulders in the James River near Archer IslandThe James River Park is a four-season park for so many Richmonders. Of course, the warmer summer months are the peak traffic time to the park for most visitors, but each season provides its own unique features.

Snowy staircase to 42nd Street IslandI went for a hike in the Main Area of the park from the 43rd Street walkway down to Archer and 42nd Street islands and along a portion of the Buttermilk Trail to the quarry.

Snow-covered staircase and bike ramp on the Buttermilk TrailWhen it is snowy and cold, the James is often a place of solitude for those that want to experience nature to themselves. There is something special about seeing virgin snow covering a landscape, and there are many areas of the James River Park that can give an adventurous hiker the chance to explore unblemished territory.

The creaking of trees rubbing together and blowing in the wind. Birds chirping. The rushing of the river as it passes through the Mitchell’s Gut Class II whitewater. And, of course, the occasional drone of a passing train. These are the best sounds of the park in winter.

20-foot icicles dripping from boulders in the quarry below Riverside DriveWater seeping between the many large boulders and bedrock that form the hillsides just feet away from Riverside Drive created 20-foot icicles and drips along trails such as along the Buttermilk Trail on the south side of the James provided more dramatic scenery. Huge granite boulders covered in a blanket of white along the shoreline and frozen creeks, sheets of ice in shallow areas and ice sculptures clinging to driftwood are other highlights.

A word of caution when you visit the park under these conditions. Be prepared in case you get too cold. Take back up gloves and/or footwear. Take a cell phone. Know where you are. Snow and ice can cover hidden holes into water or you could slip on ice that might be tough to spot.

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