4,647 ft
174 ft
-172 ft
Avg time

Buttermilk Proper Details

  • Activities
    • Mountain Bike
    • Hike
    • Trail Running
  • Riding Area
    James River Park System
    Richmond, Virginia
  • Difficulty Rating
  • Trail Type
  • Bike Type
  • Direction
    Both Directions
  • Climb Difficulty
    Black Diamond
  • Physical Rating
  • Season
    Year Round
  • Dogs Allowed
  • eBike Allowed
  • TTFs on Trail
    Bridge, Jump, Rock Face, Rock Garden
  • Global Ranking
    #10234 in Mountain Biking [+]
    • #3950 in Trail Running
    • #26405 in Hiking
  • Local Popularity
    90 in Mountain Biking [+]
    • 85 in Trail Running
    • 90 in Hiking
  • Land Owner

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 Proper", running from 22nd Street to 43rd Street.) 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 (shown here). Later the trail was extended to the Boulevard Bridge, this section being named Buttermilk Heights. In general Buttermilk Heights has more climbing and more rocks than Buttermilk.

source: rvaMORE.org
Access Info

Heading east, leave the Reedy Creek parking lot on the trail just before the car exit to the parking lot on the left. Ride across cement on the downstream side of the culverts that constitute the Riverside Drive bridge over Reedy Creek. Across the cement there is a 5 foot abrupt climb made of stone and cement, ride or walk up this to get to the trail.

Just after the exit to the Reedy Creek area (the 5 foot abrupt stone climb), there is a connector on the right for access to the Forrest Hill Park section of the trail. Buttermilk continues straight as opposed to taking this right.

After this intersection the trail continues east for a mile going over a low ladder bridge over a swampy section as well as making a slight climb and descent. There are a considerable number of rocky sections that make maintaining speed difficult.

Eventually a fork comes up in the trail. Taking either the left fork or right fork keep you on the trail, the left is just slightly easier. After the forks reconvene continue east until you cross a parking lot and climb a hill.

At the top of this hill you'll come up on some stone steps, a kiosk, and a bridge that crosses the railroad tracks on your left. This is the intersection where Buttermilk Proper ends and you can either continue on straight to begin Buttermilk East or turn left to head towards Belle Isle and the Bike Skills Course.

To begin Buttermilk East, continue straight down the steep root section (or carry your bike down) and follow the trail into the trees. To continue left on to Belle Isle, walk across this bridge and down the steps on the other side (some people have been known to ride down the stairs, but I don't as to not tear up my tires). At the bottom of the steps you can take two ways to get to Belle Isle: 1. the easier of the two directionally, along the fence that borders the railroad tracks, or 2. go down left and pick your way along a path that has been made on top of a cement pipe amongst slickrock and trees (note that you'll have to make a right to make it up to the bridge over to Belle Isle to continue on the ride). Both routes will result with you ending up on the car access bridge to Belle Isle on its south side.

Local Trail Association
Traditionally Indigenous Territory
More Stats for Buttermilk Proper mountain bike trail trail
  • Altitude change
    1 ft
  • Altitude min
    78 ft
  • Altitude max
    148 ft
  • Altitude start
    89 ft
  • Altitude end
    90 ft
  • Grade
  • Grade max
  • Grade min
  • Distance climb
    1,457 ft
  • Distance down
    2,588 ft
  • Distance flat
    602 ft
  • Avg time
  • Avg reverse time
  • view trail stats
on Nov 18, 2023
Avg: 4.35 (6 votes)
Your vote: 0

view (4,587)
Trail Conditions
  • Unknown
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  • Snow Packed
  • Snow Covered
  • Snow Cover Inadequate
  • Freeze/thaw Cycle
  • Icy
  • Prevalent Mud
  • Wet
  • Variable
  • Ideal
  • Dry
  • Very Dry
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      Directions to buttermilk-proper trailhead (37.523350, -77.470860)
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      Buttermilk Proper Trail Reports

      Recent Ridelog Activity on Trail

      Past Week
      • 6 rides
      • 14 miles avg distance
      6 Months
      • 431 rides
      • 14 miles avg distance
      • 3,823 rides
      • Last: Aug 29, 2023


      more »
      39 |
      Aug 21, 2022 @ 4:14pm
      Aug 21, 2022
      31 |
      Aug 21, 2022 @ 4:13pm
      Aug 21, 2022
      129 |
      May 22, 2017 @ 8:36am
      May 22, 2017
      1,045 |
      Oct 15, 2015 @ 6:35pm
      Oct 15, 2015

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      1 Review & Comments

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      more »
      Buttermilk Trail Mountain Biking [Richmond, VA]
      7:02 | 582 | Sep 27, 2020 , Richmond
      Technical Support Session, Dec 2015 LB
      4:02 | 118 | Feb 9, 2017 , Richmond
      0:57 | 375 | Sep 9, 2014 , Richmond
      Buttermilk Trail
      3:37 | 4510 | Oct 15, 2015 , Richmond
      • By larsthemaj & contributors
      • #38053 - 4,218 views