James River Park Pipeline Walkway-Richmond

For several years now, I’ve been wanting to visit this location. I’ve never been brave enough to find it on my own. But, when we decided to head to Richmond for one of our spring break day trips, I knew this was my chance.

This isn’t the prettiest hike (lots of graffiti), but it is unique. You’ll be walking across a small catwalk on top of a pipeline that cuts across a portion of the James River. You’ll find railings on both sides of the pipe for a portion of the trail. Towards the end, the railing stops. Depending on the water level, you’ll be able to see the pipes to continue your walk to Brown’s Island.

Open: Sunrise to sunset every day

Free Parking: FREE | End of South 12th Street | 7 spaces
Paid Parking: PAID | 1200 E. Byrd St. | $2/hour with a maximum of 4 hours

Left Photo: Free parking spaces near the Pipeline Overlook. Limit of 3 hours.
Right Photo: Paid parking spaces. Trail starts on the other side of the flood wall.

Cost: FREE

Restrooms: We did not see any nearby but stopped at Casa Del Barco on the Canal Walk to use their restrooms.

Entrance: You’ll find the entrance to the pipeline just on the river side of the flood wall west of 14th street. You’ll follow a path along the flood wall to a set of stairs leading to a ladder. The ladder will lead you to the beginning of the catwalk.

Left Photo: If parking in the paid lot, you’ll walk through the flood wall and turn left to get to the trail.
Right Photo: After passing through the flood wall, you’ll follow this short path to the stairs and ladder.

Views: From this metal catwalk, you’ll be able to view Pipeline Rapids and Bailey’s Island and Devil’s Kitchen Island. You may even catch a kayaker or two as the pipeline parallels a section of Class III whitewater.

The catwalk is under working train tracks. While we were walking, there was work being done on the tracks.

The walkway is also a great spot to get close to nature. On our hike we were able to spot several ducks. “On a small island just across from the pipeline is a large Great Blue Heron rookery, where dozens of herons nest and raise their chicks. It’s rare to get such a close-up view of nesting herons and fascinating to watch them hunt fish in the river, which they do constantly during the shad and herring migrations each spring.”~Atlasobscura

Make sure to visit the Pipeline Overlook before or after your hike.

View from Pipeline Overlook

Length of Hike: It only took us 30 minutes to walk from one side of the pipeline to the other. I’m sure if it had been warmer, we would have stopped longer. If you have younger children, you’ll go much slower.

Nearby: Canal Walk Murals, Belle Isle Park, and Hollywood Cemetery

Safety: This seems to be in a sketchy part of town. I would not head here alone with my kids. We did see a handful of families heading to the same trail, so that was nice. We did not explore the island on the other side. It looked like there was a homeless camp. We just turned around and headed back the same way we came. If you are heading here with small children, I’d make sure to have one adult per child for safety reasons.

The water was low so we were able to see the exposed pipeline. We were able to safely walk to the other side.

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