by ELI KEITH
When spring arrives in Fredericksburg and spending time outside becomes more appealing, I am sometimes astounded to remember how many nearby areas present enjoyable opportunities. One such area that I found is the roughly six-mile trail that runs along the Rappahannock River and connects the popular Canal Path to the quiet and vast Motts Reservoir.
“I’m always shocked that I don’t see more people when I hike on that trail,” said junior Katy Rose Price, a psychology and women and gender studies double major who is also in the College of Education. “I’d say it’s a busy day on the trail if I pass five other people.” On our hike, my three friends and I were pleasantly surprised to find a mostly empty trail.
I first hiked the entirety of this trail out of curiosity as to how far it went. I knew the first mile or two was flat, well maintained and beautifully scenic, but I had never been to the end. I was happy to find that those things continue to be true for several more miles, even as the people become fewer and fewer.
Though there are small roots and rocks to navigate in certain sections of the trail, it is generally suitable for first-time hikers as well as bikers looking for a more adventurous alternative to the road.
These six miles consist of two joined trails. The Quarry Trail, which offers several loops for runners, hikers and mountain bikers, connects to the Embrey Dam Trail, which in turn connects to the paved Canal Path at the edge of downtown Fredericksburg, right next to the Virginia Outdoor Center.
The Quarry Trail can be found after going only about a mile down the Embrey Trail, and it goes for about another two and a half miles before it officially ends, but then comes the surprise! The first time I went the entire six-mile length of the trail, I was pleased to find that while the Quarry Trail loops back towards the quarry and downtown, a separate yet well-beaten trail extends further along the river.
Depending on the height of the river, there are rocks leading out into the river that offer swimming and fishing opportunities in warmer weather.
This extension that leads trail-goers further along the river provides the best views of the entire hike. The trees thin and allow a clear view of the river before all of the summer foliage has grown in, while on the other side I found tall rock faces with graffiti and fun rock-scrambling spots.
Massive rock faces like this one present unique picture-posing opportunities.
“It was neat to see the signs of people who’d been through since we hardly saw anybody the whole time we were on the trail,” said junior history and women and gender studies double major Jamie Van Doren. “There was a really old stone tower next to the river at one point, plus a rope swing tied to one of the tree boughs that goes over the river!”
After several miles through woods with no sign of town, I found myself at River Road. Though it can be moderately busy, a quick crossing of the road was all I needed to discover that the trail continues! This is where the few hills of the journey presented themselves; some steep ups and downs that resembled a rollercoaster took me near a quiet neighborhood before plunging back into the woods.
Finally, I reached Motts Run Reservoir, about a mile or so after crossing River Road. The trail opens up into a wide-open space of grass and water—a refreshing, expansive space after meandering through the wooded trail for so long. The gentle ascension towards the grassy entry to the quarry is amusingly preceded by an old abandoned house off the side of the trail—a quaint reminder of the architecture and life from many decades ago.
“I’m not really a big hiker, but with nice weather and an appetite for adventure I was actually digging it,” said junior music major Pablo McCrimmon.
Motts Run Reservoir has its own recreation area, which offers a separate little trail that circles the reservoir and reaches down into the woods I had come from, feeding back towards the Quarry Trail via three or so miles of unmarked and under appreciated trail. It was a tiring yet revelatory journey—one so rewarding that I know it is only a matter of time before I make it again.