The Dismal Swamp Canal Trail is an out-and-back straight, paved, wide multi-use road that closely follows the canal from Chesapeake to just above the North Carolina state line. Its flatness and the great condition of the road makes it an attractive choice for folks who want to hike, run or bike without climbing rocks, slipping on dirt paths or tripping over roots. Its history includes its having been part of the Underground Railroad route. Today, the canal is part of the Inland Waterway, and you'll see boats, kayaks and canoes gliding by.
Your pups are welcome here on leash, and they will love the thousands of migratory birds you'll see in the spring and fall, plus the year-round waterfowl and other birds. The area has a high population of black bears, and you'll also spy snakes and amphibians on your hike. Parking can be found at the northern trailhead at the intersection of Dominion Boulevard and Old Route 127 in Chesapeake, and on Ballahack Road at the southern end.
Just north of the trailhead in Chesapeake is a 1-mile trail that leads to the Deep Creek Park, where you'll find restrooms, a shelter and even a dog park with an interactive water feature! It's a furtastic place to stop at the end of your hike for a rest, some water and a splash for Fido. There is a parking lot here, as well.
The trail is shaded by the deep woods bordering the canal, and the vista includes fields and wetlands, too. There is a pier that allows you to walk out over the canal and put a boat in if you wish, and benches and picnic tables dot the trail for rests and snacks. If you're interested in keeping track of your mileage, you'll find .25-mile markers throughout the length of the trail. More restrooms and water fountains can be found around Mile 3.
The trail is open year-round, and its beauty is undiminished even in that quiet, stark landscape. In the spring, feast your senses on the fragrance of honeysuckle and lilacs. Watch for small mammals. This trail is a gem that may become one of your favorites! Woofderful!
There are a large number of black bears living in the area and they cross the trail regularly. Keep a secure hold on Fido's leash, and don't approach them. Pay attention to the bear caution signs. The trail is buggy in the summer, so be sure to bring bug spray. Snakes live here too, so wear hiking boots or athletic shoes. This trail is frequented by hard-core bicyclists as well as casual riders, some of whom pass at high speed and very close to walkers. Stay to the right and hang on to the leash to prevent dog-lunging accidents.