1 miles
374 ft
-486 ft
Avg time

Buttermilk Heights Details

  • Riding Area
    James River Park System
    Richmond, Virginia
  • Difficulty Rating
  • Trail Type
  • Bike Type
  • Trail Usage
  • Direction
    Both Directions
  • Climb Difficulty
    Black Diamond
  • Physical Rating
  • Season
    Year Round
  • eBike Allowed
  • TTFs on Trail
    Jump, Rock Face, Rock Garden
  • Global Ranking
    #23585 in Mountain Biking
  • Local Popularity
    85 in Mountain Biking [+]
    • 5 in Trail Running
    • 5 in Hiking
  • Land Manager

Even though Buttermilk is in the same park as North Bank and Belle Isle, it definitely has a much different feel. The most difficult of the three different sections of the James River Park System, Buttermilk combines tight, twisty, fast descents and steep climbs with lots of rocks and roots. Several creek crossing and some bridges and rock gardens add character to one of the most beloved trail systems in the Richmond area. The entire trail, which parallels the river and runs from 22nd Street to the Boulevard Bridge, is a real challenge for experienced mountain bikers. (This trail segment shown is "Buttermilk Heights", running from 43rd Street to the Boulevard Bridge.) Buttermilk trail was aptly named because when milk was still delivered to people’s homes, the milkman would store the buttermilk in a cool well that is still located on the side of the trail.

The Buttermilk Trail consists of two trails. The Buttermilk Trail, built first, runs for 22nd Street to 43rd Street. Later the trail was extended to the Boulevard Bridge, this section being named Buttermilk Heights (shown here). In general Buttermilk Heights has more climbing and more rocks than Buttermilk.

source: rvaMORE.org
Access Info

The trail is accessed from a kiosk on the south side of the James River on the sidewalk of the Boulevard Bridge (commonly refereed to as the "nickel bridge," an artifact of the toll having cost $0.05). From this kiosk, the trail starts and immediately comes to a fork. Take the right fork around the right hairpin.

Cross under the bridge and make the granite climb that is "cobbled" with a mixture of foster-oven/microwave sized flat granite stones. After the climb there an access trail comes in from the right.

Continue down a downhill with two wooden bridges. The next section of trail has three creek crossings that are rideable but tricky. They are all visible and don't sneak up on you.

At the top of the climb after the third creek crossing, another access trail comes in from the right. Continue straight and around a sweeping right turn on a slight descent. In the middle of the descent another access trail comes in on the right in the middle of a left turn. Continue down the descent, and under an access bridge of sorts that you pass at the bottom of the descent.

A straight section follows with a fork at the end of it. You are at the entrance to a loop here. Going left avoids the loop. The convention by most regulars is to ride this loop. The small loop ends with a sharp right turn with a bank on the left wall.

A wooden ramp climb presents itself here with a 16" wide bit of bricks laid into it to promote traction. At the top of the climb you are presented with another fork, go left. After 30 more yards another access trail comes in, this one is access to 42nd street.

After this last access trail there is a quarter mile of some of the fastest flowy sections of trail in the entire park system. Speeds of 30mph have been clocked here, but if you do go that fast keep an eye peeled for foot traffic as the trails are multi-use.

The trail ends at a kiosk at the Reedy Creek parking area.

Local Trail Association
More Stats for Buttermilk Heights bike trail
  • Altitude change
    -112 ft
  • Altitude min
    89 ft
  • Altitude max
    218 ft
  • Altitude start
    202 ft
  • Altitude end
    89 ft
  • Grade
  • Grade max
  • Grade min
  • Distance climb
    4,080 ft
  • Distance down
    3,346 ft
  • Distance flat
    447 ft
  • Avg time
  • Avg reverse time
  • view trail stats
on Nov 18, 2018
Avg: 3.8 (5 votes)

view (415)
Trail Conditions
  • Unknown
  • Snow Packed
  • Snow Covered
  • Freeze/thaw Cycle
  • Icy
  • Prevalent Mud
  • Wet
  • Variable
  • Dry
  • Very Dry
Trail Difficulties
  • Access Road/Trail
  • White
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Black
  • Double Black Diamond

Trail Report Status
  • Clear / Green
  • Minor Issue / Yellow
  • Significant Issue / Amber
  • Closed or Major Issue / Red

  • Land Owner Overlay
  • Wilderness (typically no bikes in USA)
  • BLM (public)
  • USFS (Wildlife sanctuaries darker than usfs)
  • State land
  • Indigenous
  • Military
Trail Conditions
  • Unknown
  • Snow Packed
  • Snow Covered
  • Freeze/thaw Cycle
  • Icy
  • Prevalent Mud
  • Wet
  • Variable
  • Dry
  • Very Dry
  • Map Markers
  • trail Trail Head
  • photo Photo
  • place Directory Listing
  • region Riding Area
  • Parking Parking
  • Viewpoint Viewpoint
  • Information Information
  • Warning Warning
  • Directions Directions
  • Water Fountain/Source Water Fountain/Source
  • Sight Sight
  • Restrooms Restrooms
  • Gate Gate
  • Camping Camping
  • Trail Sign Trail Sign
  • Table or Bench Table or Bench
  • Other Other
Directions to buttermilk-heights trailhead (37.529340, -77.485430)
update trails status or condition

Buttermilk Heights Trail Reports


more »
83 |
Sep 11, 2016 @ 4:40pm
Sep 11, 2016
Buttermilk Heights, Richmond
75 |
Sep 11, 2016 @ 4:40pm
Sep 11, 2016
Buttermilk Heights, Richmond
74 |
Sep 11, 2016 @ 4:40pm
Sep 11, 2016
Buttermilk Heights, Richmond
78 |
Sep 11, 2016 @ 4:40pm
Sep 11, 2016
Buttermilk Heights, Richmond

Routes with this trail

Crazy Fun
6 miles

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more »
butter on new wheels
0:07 | 192 | Jun 12, 2016 , Richmond
Buttermilk trail
0:09 | 107 | Nov 24, 2015 , Richmond
0:12 | 93 | Nov 24, 2015 , Richmond
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