Love to hike, run, power-walk, or simply take leisurely strolls? You’ll have plenty of opportunities to stretch your legs at Sandbridge – from scenic trails and woodland walks to miles of pristine shoreline.
Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge
With over 9,250 acres, this beautiful nature preserve provides feeding and nesting habitat for thousands of migratory birds traveling along the Atlantic Flyway. Visit any day between dawn and dusk to hike along unspoiled coastline, through dense coastal forest, and across freshwater marshes.
Depending on when you visit, you may spot tundra swans, Canada geese, snow geese, piping plovers, brown pelicans, bald eagles, and other colorful wildfowl… along with rare loggerhead sea turtles and yes, the occasional snake.
All told, more than eight miles of trails crisscross the Back Bay Refuge. These well-maintained trails vary in length, but most are only moderately strenuous.
Reese F. Lukei, Jr., Raptor Trail
Have little ones in tow? Check out the Raptor Trail, starting right behind the Visitor Center. This popular trek takes you 0.4 miles (and back) along a wide gravel path amid wax myrtles, cypresses, and marsh grasses. Watch for frogs, dragonflies, and slithery snakes. (Be sure to keep to the path!) And, of course, be on the lookout for raptors – majestic birds of prey such as hawks, falcons, and eagles.
Dunes and Seaside Trail
Seeking a relatively short trail ideal for kids and families? Try the Dunes and Seaside Trail, a two-mile loop that winds through sand dunes and wetlands to a secluded beach (and back). Your kids will love searching for shells, splashing in shallow waves, and building elaborate sandcastles. You’ll love the peace and serenity… and the breathtaking natural beauty.
Beach grass and sea oats flourish along the shore. Gulls and terns wheel overhead, while pelicans and other seabirds skim the surface in search of dinner. If you’re lucky, you may spot a playful dolphin or two – perhaps even an entire pod. Be sure to have your camera handy to capture unforgettable memories.
East Dike Trail
Prefer a longer trek with spectacular views? Head to the East Dike Trail, covering 3.3 miles in all, with wide-open paths clearly marked for hassle-free hiking.
You’ll find the trailhead at the end of the smaller parking area near the Visitor Center. Hike about a quarter mile down, then veer left at the fork. Continue for another mile until you come to a white gate. If the gate is closed, that means the rest of the trail is off limits to the public. If the gate is open, feel free to proceed.
(Note: The gate is closed only when wildfowl are nesting, usually during winter and early spring. It’s open the rest of the year, including the height of visitor season.)
All along the trail, you’ll notice shimmering water pools. They’re part of the Refuge’s impoundment system, a network of manmade ponds designed to provide habitat for migratory birds. Keep an eye out for egrets, herons, swans, ducks, and ospreys… along with deer, snakes, turtles, and other coastal critters.
You’ll trek through grassy marshlands where cattails and rushes flourish… between white-sand dunes covered with sea oats and beach grasses… and along upland forest dotted with live oaks and wax myrtles.
At its farthest point, the East Dike joins the West Dike Trail, which loops back to the beginning. If you’re up for a 6.7-mile hike – and if West Dike is open – make the entire round trip. Otherwise, just go as far as you like, then double back.
False Cape State Park
Ready for a walk on the wild side? Try hiking at False Cape State Park. This virtually untouched wilderness is not even accessible by car. To get there, you have to:
- Hike or bike from the Back Bay Wildlife Refuge via Back Bay beach or the East or West Dike Trail
- Travel by boat or kayak
- Take the park’s beach transport, the Terra Gator ($8 per person), OR
- Ride the Blue Goose Tram from the Back Bay Visitor Center (also $8 per person)
No matter how you arrive, though, you’re sure to love what you find. False Cape State Park covers 4,321 undeveloped acres, with nearly six miles of spotless beachfront extending down to the North Carolina line.
Eager for a bit of challenge? Hike the False Cape Interior Trail (6.5 miles out and back) through gorgeous piney forest. For a shorter jaunt, try the 1.6-mile Maritime and Sundew Trail Loop or the 0.8-mile Maple Leaf Trail. All three trails are family-friendly – and dog-friendly, too, as long as Fido stays safely leashed.
Then There’s Sandbridge Beach Itself
What could be more pleasant than a stroll along the sand? Head out with the kids for a sunrise trek and a chance to spot frisking dolphins. Or take an evening ramble – just you and your honey – while the setting sun gilds the waves and silvery surf pounds the shore. This is what memories are made of!
So Much More to Do
You’ll never run out of fun ways to wander at Sandbridge Beach, VA. So grab your sunscreen, bottled water, and bug spray and hit the trails.