Residents on hiking trail mountain view

While that short sentence is often an expression of irritation, here at KaLex it is a warm invitation to go outside and revel in nature’s bounty.  With spring upon us, this is a great time to expand your horizons, and we are fortunate to have a wealth of walking and hiking opportunities close at hand and suitable for a wide range of physical abilities.

You can step out your door to access existing walking routes on campus, consisting of a robust network of paved sidewalks and roads for easy walking and great views.  There is also a network of mowed paths, generally along the property perimeter in the meadows to the north of Sunrise Ridge, and to the east by the emergency access road.  Be careful, as some of these trails are steep and lumpy.  This network is likely to be expanded in the near future in response to the 3North master plan.

Want to be more adventuresome but still close to home?  Try the trails on the Sunnyside Preserve owned by the Rockbridge Area Conservation Council (RACC).  Access the trails from any of the three footbridges on the south side of the campus.  From the bridge closest to Ross Road, a gentle mowed trail goes up the hill to a rise where we hope to have a bench someday.  After looking back at the views of the Blue Ridge, continue to the top of the hill, looking back frequently to see the changing views of the mountains.  At the top, you have three choices: go back the way you came, take a spur trail along the road to Boxerwood Gardens, or continue through the woods, on a steeper narrow trail with pink markings, to either of the other two footbridges returning to our campus.  Of course, you can also do this trail in reverse.  Be sure to stay on the trails to avoid such “features” as yellow jacket nests, ticks, groundhog holes, old barbed wire fencing, etc.

There are other walking opportunities you can reach without getting in your car.  Take a walk down the emergency access road to Ross Road, and then go left for one block to the two-mile, relatively flat Woods Creek Trail, with an opportunity to wander through the W&L and VMI campuses.  Staying on Ross Road will get you to interesting neighborhoods of big old houses, and to downtown Lexington.  Just a reminder: save enough energy for the steep ascent back up the emergency access road.

When you are ready, jump in the car to travel to more walking trails within less than ten miles of KaLex, including

  • Boxerwood Gardens,
  • The Chessie Trail,
  • Brushy Hills Preserve,
  • Washington & Lee “Back Campus Trails,”
  • the Uncas Trail,
  • the Buena Vista River Walk, and
  • Glen Maury Park Trails.

There are numerous other hiking trails in county, state, and national parks and forests.  Stop by Marketing to pick up detailed maps of Rockbridge County and Lexington.

Want to go even farther afield?  Here are two favorites along the I-64 corridor within 50 miles.  To the west, the thirteen-mile Jackson River Scenic Trail, north of Covington, is flat, with a well-groomed gravel surface, running through forests and meadows.  On the way home, visit the unique Humpback Bridge.  To the northeast, the recently restored 4,237-foot Blue Ridge (Crozet) train tunnel, built in the 1850s, is an engineering masterpiece as the longest tunnel at the time.  It is about a three-mile walk along a flat trail, through the tunnel and back to the parking lot.  Treat yourself to a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway on the way home.

Want to find out more?

  • A summary overview of these hiking opportunities, with website links, is available on CATIE (under the Wellness Committee), as hard copy in the Fitness Center, or I’ll email you a PDF.
  • The Visitor Center of Lexington (106 East Washington St.) has lots of brochures and maps, as well as friendly staff to answer your questions.
  • Most of the places listed above have robust websites, so check them out on Google.
  • And our library’s reference section has copies of two guidebooks:
    • Fine Trails of Rockbridge, revised and updated 2018,
    • Washington and Lee University Outing Club Trail Book, 2nd Edition circa 2018.

As I did last year, I plan to lead small group walks to explore the close-by existing and potential trails.  The highlights will be “Hickory Hill” with its spectacular views, and the new “groomed” trails on the Sunnyside Preserve. And once Covid is in our rearview mirror, Victoria and Kristen (Fitness and Wellness staff) hope to renew their program of local walks and bus trips to hiking trails.

– -by resident Bruce Dwyer for the Wellness Committee (Adapted from originally published article in the resident newsletter-Connections March 2022)