Chincoteague to Cape Charles: 5 Can’t-Miss Hikes on Virginia’s Eastern Shore

Last Updated on August 4, 2021

Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to explore Virginia’s Eastern Shore, driving the length of U.S. Route 13 in search of beautiful coastal trails that you will love.

I started in Chincoteague with a two-wheeled exploration of Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge followed by two hikes, including one to the Assateague Lighthouse.

As I hooked up with U.S. Route 13 in Temperanceville, I made the delightful drive south to Onancock (only for breakfast), then on to Nassawadox and Cape Charles.

There’s so much beauty on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. If you get a chance to drive the length of U.S. Route 13, here are the five hikes you’ll want to check off on the way.

#1: Woodland & Bivalve Trails (Chincoteague)

The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is a short bike ride from town, so plan to pedal along the Wildlife Loop before setting out on a refuge hike.

The must-do hike is the 2.3-mile loop hike on the Woodland Trail and Bivalve Trail. The hike promises wetlands, coastal pines, maybe a wild pony or two.

Relaxing views across Tom’s Cove are another win on this hike. You can take them all in from the end of the Bivalve Trail. Get ready to be wowed.

#2: Lighthouse Trail (Chincoteague)

There’s much to love about the short and sweet .4-mile wooded loop hike on the Lighthouse Trail to see the red-and-white striped Assateague Lighthouse.

A viewfinder at the base of the lighthouse allows for scenic views across the wetlands. You may even be able to see the Assateague Bridge and the inland waterway.

Pre-COVID, the top of the lighthouse was open to the public. Hopefully, it will re-open again soon – weekends from April through November from 9 am to 3 pm.

#3: Brownsville Preserve (Nassawadox)

Brownsville Preserve is the headquarters for The Nature Conservancy’s Virginia Coast Reserve. You’ll find 1,000+ acres of habitats, including wooded uplands and tidal marshes.

A 3.0-mile hike on the William B. Cummings Birding and Wildlife Trail exposes visitors to salt marshes, hardwood forest, tidal creeks, even retired agricultural fields.

A printed trail guide allows you to read up on what you will see on the trail, as well as learn all about the nature preserve as you hike across the landscape.

#4: Beach Trail (Cape Charles)

For a delightful coastal hike through a migratory songbird habitat, look to the Beach Trail at Savage Neck Dunes Natural Area Preserve in Cape Charles.

This 1.3-mile out-and-back hike on Virginia’s Eastern Shore highlights three restoration zones: coastal grassland, coastal shrub and maritime forest.

The turn-around point is at a relaxing white sand beach on the Chesapeake Bay that is littered with weathered driftwood. Take time to enjoy calmly lapping waves.

#5: Butterfly Trail (Cape Charles)

Those eager for a quick leg-stretcher hike after crossing the 17.6-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel to Virginia’s Eastern Shore will want to look to the Butterfly Trail.

This easy coastal trail is located at the 1,123-acre Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge, which sits between the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay.

Situated at the tip of the Delmarva Peninsula, the refuge is an important stopover for migratory birds. The area also has a military history that dates back to World War II.