It’s been a while since I’ve updated you on the progress of the Fall Line Trail! I’m happy to report that the first leg beginning in Ashland is complete! Once finished, the proposed trail will connect the town of Ashland to the city of Petersburg for a distance of 43 miles, spanning through multiple counties and the City of Richmond.
The first portion of the trail will follow the former Richmond-Ashland Electric trolley line that existed in the earlier part of the 1900’s that carried passengers from Ashland to and from Richmond. It closed in 1938. My husband’s grandparents remembered riding the trolley!
I’ve been closely watching the development of this first portion of the trail since I run this frequently. It’s been so exciting to see it come to completion! There is a boardwalk along Waldrop Lane that has taken a while to construct. Given that it is several feet over a ravine and with the delays from the pandemic, this is understandable. It officially opened earlier this week.
So today, I took the time to run it! Even though it was 83 degrees, there was intermittent cloud cover and a steady breeze, so conditions weren’t the worst. Sure, it could have been cooler, but the thought of running on the treadmill was even more awful than running in the relative heat.
The Fall Line Trail trailhead is officially Carter Park in Ashland. You follow the multi use path across Ashcake road along Maple Street, continuing along Waldrop Lane onto the boardwalk, and then connecting to the existing Trolley Line Trail.
The new portion, the boardwalk, is absolutely solid. I was expecting a bit of bounce that is common among boardwalk style bridges and walkways, but this was not the case. There is little protection from the sun, but this portion is only maybe three tenths of a mile, so not a big deal.
Once you get to the existing Trolley Line trail, you are on dirt/gravel again. You can see that this actually used to be a rail line of some kind, as it is raised and flat. On breezy days, you get an interesting mix of cool and warm air, as the trail is wooded on one side, but not the other. It’s as if the two air masses on either side are having a conversation, and you get to listen. I also thoroughly enjoy the wildflowers that bloom here. In the spring and summer months, there’s always a new surprise as the seasons evolve. The trail dumps you onto Gwathmey Church Rd, and if you look to the right across the street, you can see where the trolley line continued.
From Carter Park, you can easily make just this portion of the Fall Line Trail a 2 mile journey round trip. If you are looking for more trails to enjoy in the area, there is a one that connects Maple Street to Center Street that runs behind the Carter Pool and has a stream adjacent to it. On the other side of the railroad tracks at the intersection of Center Street and Ashcake is the Stoney Run Trail. There is a creek alongside this trail as well, and a beaver has been busy building a dam! Running all of these trails out and back can easily get you to 4 miles. Both of these trails are gravel.
If you are looking for biking access on any of these trails, they are all bikeable, but I wouldn’t recommend doing this with a true road bike with skinny tires. My cruiser works just fine, and I’ve ridden all 3 of these with ease, but a mountain bike or hybrid would probably be even better. There is even a bike repair station in Carter Park if you need it!
Another popular place to park to access these trails is the Patrick Henry YMCA. This is a great place to start if you are a member, since you can access bathrooms. Carter Park is right down Ashcake Road from the YMCA, and there is a sidewalk connecting the two.
While you’re in Ashland, check out some of the cute restaurants and shops while you’re there! My favorites are The Caboose, which is a restaurant and wine/cheese shop, Origin Beer Lab, which is a collaboration with COTU Brewery, and Refunkit, an eclectic little gallery that has great art and jewelry for sale. There’s also a new escape room that has opened, Red Vein Escape, and the Town of Ashland has Fourth Friday events going as well. If you venture out on Saturday, the Ashland Farmers Market is in the morning at Henry Clay Elementary School. There’s always something to do in Ashland, even if it’s just train watching!
If you’re in the Metro Richmond area, the trip to Ashland is worth it! Come check out our little trails! As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.