Noland Trail: A Relaxing Loop Hike Around The Mariners’ Lake in Newport News

For my new hiking guidebook on coastal trails, I motored south along I-95 and I-65 to Newport News for an easy loop hike on the Noland Trail. 

I set my GPS for Mariners’ Museum and Park for a loop around The Mariners’ Lake. Formerly Lake Maury, this 168-acre lake was re-named in June 2020.

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The lake got caught up in a bit of controversy as it had been named more than 80 years ago for a Confederate officer named Matthew Fontaine Maury.

The Noland Trail, a forested 5.6-mile loop, circumnavigates the lake with lots of benches, bridges and overlooks. You may even catch views of the James River.

Trail Stats 
Length5.6 miles
DifficultyEasy
Trail TypeLoop
Elevation Gain177 feet
Duration2-3 hours
TerrainMostly dirt & sand trails, some wooden bridges
Dog-FriendlyYes
FeeFree
Driving DirectionsClick Here

The Mariner’s Museum and Park 

Plan to park in the large lot in front of The Mariners’ Museum, a 60,000-square-foot museum that explores global maritime history.

The trailhead is across Museum Drive from the parking lot. You will see a bench, a water fountain and a colorful Noland Trail map to mark the start of the hike.

From here, the trail at this museum park quickly descends into the woods, then crosses the first of 14 bridges that casually guide visitors over The Mariners’ Lake.

Noland Trail 

The Noland Trail starts out as paved, but then turns to mostly dirt and sand after the first bridge over an inlet of The Mariners’ Lake (on a clockwise hike).

At the .2-mile mark, you’ll reach a small peninsula with a wooden overlook and a couple of benches. From here, you can see across the lake to the museum.

Continue on until you cross a bridge that parallels Warwick Boulevard at the .4-mile mark. Each bridge is marked with a number on each side of the bridge.

It can be noisy with cars motoring north and south, but then you return to the quiet of the woods. You’ll reach Pine Tree Overlook at the .7-mile mark.

There are plenty of benches scattered across this trail, too. Also, keep your eyes open for mile markers that turn up every .5-mile.

At the 1.8-mile mark, you’ll pass Williams Field Park on the left. There’s a ball field as well as a wide-open space to run and play. Also, a few dilapidated picnic tables.

Oak Tree Overlook 

The Noland Trail sidles up against a park road at the 2.0-mile mark, then proceeds to Oak Tree Overlook. This lake overlook is large and has several benches.

From the overlook, re-trace your steps to the Noland Trail, then turn right to continue on the hiking trail, which is also popular for trail running.

At the 2.5-mile mark, you’ll reach two picnic tables by the lake. What a great stop to enjoy an al fresco picnic lunch as a family before continuing along the trail.

You’ll then cross over bridge number seven. Keep walking until you reach the 3.3-mile mark. Here you can walk right out to the edge of The Mariners’ Lake.

Lions Bridge 

In a few more steps, you’ll cross over the famed Lions Bridge, which looks over the mighty James River. After you cross the bridge, the trail pops back into the forest.

But first, pass a restoration of Anna Hyatt Huntington’s statue called Conquering the Wild. The statue overlooks The Mariners’ Lake and the James River.

At the 3.6-mile mark, a short spur trail (that’s easy to miss) leads to a small grove of longleaf pines. The longleaf pine is one of nine native pine species in Virginia.

Re-trace your steps, then turn left onto the mostly flat trail. You’ll reach the Holly Tree Overlook for more refreshing lake views at the 4.3-mile mark. 

At the 5.3-mile mark, you’ll sidle up against Museum Drive, then pass the NOAA National Marine Sanctuary and the Mariners’ Museum, both on your right.

In a few more steps, you’ll arrive at the parking area and your hike is complete. I can assure you that a hike along the Noland Trail is a lovely way to spend the day.

Wrap-Up Notes

From the parking area, this hike took me nearly two hours, including time spent snapping photos at bridges and overlooks.

As you pass the Mariners’ Museum, note that there are restrooms and a small cafĂ© inside with quick meals, snacks and cold drinks.

Up for a second hike? It’s a short drive to Sandy Bottom Nature Park in Hampton for miles of scenic kid-friendly hiking trails.