A Walk on the Wild Side
Two of Richmond’s hidden wilderness parks.
Lewis G. Larus Park
The wind whistling through the trees… the white rushing of a creek over tumbled stones… the scampering of squirrels through the leaves… the smooth stretch of a boulder amidst the trees—all these and more can be found at Lewis G. Larus Park, the 106-acre stretch of wilderness providing a haven from the chaotic bustle of the city. Lewis Griffin Larus purchased the land in 1915, and the city opened the park in 2006. Although the park is bordered by Huguenot Road and Chippenham Parkway, the winding forest trails stretching almost five miles seem worlds away from the zooming cars and noxious gasoline fumes. Wandering trails shoot off from the main path, providing hours of exploration for the adventurous. The coming of spring promises to make the park even more idyllic with the fresh greenery and arriving birdsong.
Because the park is wonderfully hidden, it can be a bit difficult to find. After the sign announcing the park on Huguenot Road, follow the road wedged between the gas station and Fire Station Twenty-Five. Park by the cell tower and enter the park via the unassuming dirt trail leading into the woods. Bikes and dogs are also welcome. Whether visiting the park for exercise or simply to enjoy nature, every hiker is in for a fantastical wilderness treat.
Mid-Lothian Mines Park
The clean smell of the forest welcomes the hiker into the Mid-Lothian Mines Park. Take your pick of the natural dirt trail or the paved main path that traverse this forty-four acre wilderness park. The many less-traveled side trails provide limitless exploration for the adventurous, leading through clusters of trees, along chuckling streams, across fallen logs, and even to a hidden lake. Although the many trails branch off in a myriad of directions, it is difficult to become lost, for most paths meet back up with the two main trails. The unpaved trail cuts straight through the forest; however, there is a large hole in the path where a stream meanders through. Hikers can easily descend on the right side of the trail, cross the stream, and resume their path. The paved main trail is completely uninterrupted until it ends in an idyllic neighborhood, a straight shot that passes by many benches for the weary hiker. This trail is perfect for runners searching for a peaceful stretch that remains cool beneath the trees even when the weather begins to heat up in the spring and summer months.
The Mid-Lothian Mines hold many attractions for the history buff as well. The park was one of the first large sites for commercial coal mining in the United States, and the evidence of the area’s rich mining history is scattered throughout the park. Plaques placed at intervals along the paved trail explain the site’s history, and the remains of the towering stone structures testify to the site’s former glory and significance. The abundance of black dirt rich in coal remains verifies the history displayed on the exhibit signs. Although the entirety of Midlothian’s mines were closed by 1923, the area’s coal was valued while the mines were still operable. For example, during the Civil War, Midlothian’s coal was used to fuel the fires that forged weaponry for the Confederate army. Although the coal mines no longer run, hikers can learn much about the history of Midlothian through the historical experience the park offers.
The Mid-Lothian Mines Park lies directly off Woolridge Road and boasts a sizeable parking lot, an easy destination for all Spiders. As the spring and summer months arrive, the park becomes even more beautiful with an abundance of wildflowers and honeysuckle. A visit to the Mid-Lothian Mines Park should make the bucket list of every Spider, outdoor enthusiast and academic alike.