Trails & Walks
Rockbridge County has many challenging trails, but sometimes a twenty-minute stroll through the forest is all the invigoration you need. The county’s marquee trail is the Chessie Trail, which links Lexington and Buena Vista while tracking the Maury River. Other trails explore college campuses, wild gardens, and secluded reserves.
Chessie Nature Trail
Looking downriver while strolling the Chessie Trail, it's easy to imagine a 19th-century mule team tugging a canal boat up the Maury River. Harnessed to the boats, the hard-working mules pulled their cargo through a complex series of man-made locks and canals linking the James River, Buena Vista, and Lexington. In the late 1800s, trains replaced the mules but carried goods along much of the same route.
Today, the 7-mile Chessie Trail shares the river's historic secrets in the loveliest of settings. The trail, which still connects Lexington and Buena Vista, unfurls between an ancient limestone rock formation and the unhurried river. Scenic highlights include creek crossings, wildflower blooms, and a sun-dappled tunnel of leafy trees flanked by wild meadows. Birdwatchers scan year-round for bald eagles, great blue herons, and pileated woodpeckers.
Managed by VMI, the Chessie Trail is popular with dog walkers, parents pushing baby strollers, and bands of jogging VMI Keydets. Biking is permitted but may be tricky in sections due to gates across the path.
Visitors spending the night in downtown Lexington can walk to the Chessie Trail by following the Woods Creek Trail from town to Jordan's Point and Veterans Bridge, which crosses the Maury River on Route 11. Tucked in a ravine behind the red-and-white colonnade of Washington & Lee and the castle-like facade of VMI, the Woods Creek Trail cuts though the leafy back campuses of both schools.
For a little more solitude, try the Brushy Hills Preserve, which is a five-minute drive from downtown Lexington. Here, 14 miles of old logging roads meander up and down a 560-acre forested tract. In warmer months, redbuds, spicebush, and trillium add splashes of color to this leafy green hardwood forest. For a pleasant stroll in Buena Vista, head to the 2 ½ mile Buena Vista River Walk, which ribbons along the Maury River. There are benches for sitting and wildlife watching.
Treasure hunters can tackle the Gems of Rockbridge Geocaching Trail. For this family friendly activity, geocachers use online clues and GPS coordinates to locate hidden trinkets scattered across Rockbridge County. To find one of the ten caches, download a local geocaching passport or pick one up at the Lexington or Buena Vista Visitor Center. Once you've found them all, return to the visitor center to claim a commemorative coin.