Beaches and Dikes, Virginia Beach is a 6.5 mile loop trail located near Virginia Beach, VA and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for walking and is accessible year-round.
Part of the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, this area has 2 gravel trails generally available - other trails are typically closed for wildlife management reasons. Several accesses to the beach are gained via boardwalks. To gain access to False Cape State Park, you must traverse Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge for 4 miles. During the summer, this can be especially hot, so it's important to pack PLENTY of fluids. Hydration is key. From the Visitor's Center to the entrance to False Cape State Park, it's a round trip of 8 miles.
It's also important to be aware of the diversity of wildlife that lives here and that can be seen:
- Water moccasins (poisonous snakes) be especially watchful around dusk - they have been spotted in the canals and even on the trail
- White-tailed deer plentiful, but they are expert at hiding
- Nutria a native to South America and introduced to North america by fur ranchers - known as a river rat, they are about 2 feet long, but are relatively docile. Their calls almost sound like cows calling.
- Feral pigs left over from domesticated pigs about 100 years ago, they can be seen from time to time burrowing, but they don't seem to like human presence so they don't have a tendency to stick around. But always be careful around any kind of wild hogs.
- Osprey large "fish eagles" that can be seen on the beach as well as inland. Up to 2 feet long, they can be seen nesting on top of pole nests often provided by refuge staff. Though not as large, they have been known to chase bald eagles out of their territory so they're not shy. But are fun to watch, especially if you can catch them diving in the ocean for fish.
- Brown pelicans all along the ocean shoreline, you can encounter large numbers of pelicans.
These are just a few of the species you are likely to encounter while hiking through and around Back Bay. You might even spot a dolphin or two. Oh, and there are often loggerhead turtle nests that have been identified and roped off.
I have enjoyed many a hike through this biologically rich ecosystem - from dawn until dusk. There may not be much of an elevation change, but it will present a challenge to anyone wanting to walk through to the North Carolina border and back - about 21 miles.