The treadmill is nice, but why pass up on experiencing the area's natural setting for convenience, when you can let the green space and trails on the Peninsula take you away for a few hours? Some trails capitalize on the area's natural setting while others simply provide a respite within the cityscape. Several trails wind through many of Hampton Roads' national, state, municipal and privately developed parks. Either way you can get in your recommended 10,000 paces daily with the area's history as the backdrop of some of these suggested walks.
1. Beaverdam Park
The hiking trail at Gloucester County's biggest park offers anything from a short stroll to a 21-mile epic. Get a trail guide at trailheads or at the ranger station near the parking lot for an enlightening walk with attractive views of the trail's reservoir from various vantage points. From Main Street at Gloucester Court House, take Roaring Springs Road (Route 616) for about three miles. It runs into the park's parking lot. 804-693-2107.
2. Grandview Nature Preserve
Get a glimpse of a couple of miles of Hampton's Chesapeake Bay beachfront while at Grandview Nature Preserve. The preserve doesn't offer any facilities or staff members. A pathway, about a third of a mile long, leads from State Park Road (off Beach Road in the city's Fox Hill area) to the beach.
3. Matteson Trail
The Matteson Trail offers a flat, asphalt path. In a few areas, tree roots have caused ripples in the asphalt, but it's suitable for buggies and wheelchairs. The shady, leafy path follows the contours of The Hamptons golf course through deciduous woods. There are ponds along the path, too. Want to pace yourself? Well, there are benches at the mile markers. Developed by a bird enthusiast, the trail has display boards depicting birds that may be seen along the way, including wrens, thrushes and bluebirds. The songs of the birds are a nice transition from the noise of the traffic on Magruder Boulevard (the trail begins and ends near the Hampton Teen Center on Butler Farm Road) that you'll experience at the beginning of the trail. 757-766-9148.
4. Newport News Park
Looking for variety? This park offers several trails. The centerpiece is the 2.8-mile White Oak Nature Trail. It starts near the park's Interpretive Center, traverses a footbridge across the park's reservoir, then turns right to make a wide loop around the lake. Another footbridge crosses a marsh at the reservoir's west end, an especially picturesque spot. The park entrance is on Jefferson Avenue in upper Newport News, between Fort Eustis Boulevard and Yorktown Road. 757-888-3333.
5. The Noland Trail
The five-mile Noland Trail, located in The Mariners' Museum Park in Newport News, wraps around and over the 167-acre Lake Maury through 550 acres of deciduous woods. The trail features several bridges and picnic areas overlooking the scenery. An ever-changing landscape maintains constant interest for the walker with views of the ironclad Monitor, the wide reaches of the lakes, and all the wildlife it supports. The path zigzags and turns, changing surfaces and levels constantly to create a good workout for both walkers and joggers. Enjoy the close-up views of aquatic wildlife and the scent of greenery while walking this trail. To get to the trail, follow J. Clyde Morris Boulevard until it becomes Avenue of Arts, then take a left on Museum Drive. Park on the right to start at the North Entrance. 757-591-7722.
Riverwalk Landing at Yorktown provides an interesting mix of town, nature and beach sceneries tied all in one. With this trail there are options. You can start at the free parking lot across from the stores at Riverwalk Landing and pick up a map of trolley stops there or start at the Victory Center (parking 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and make your way down the concrete path, picking up the brick walkway on Water Street at the bottom. Look to the left and you'll catch sight of the York River slapping against a sandy beach that lines the path for about a mile. 757-890-3500.
7. Sandy Bottom Nature Park
This Hampton city park offers six miles of flat, woodland foot trails for easy walking. The longest trail hugs the shores of two lakes. Two entrances, off Big Bethel Road and off Hampton Roads Center Parkway. 757-825-4657.
8. Waller Mill Park
A Williamsburg city park (actually in neighboring York County), Waller Mill Park offers trails with water views. The Lookout Tower Trail is 2.9 miles long. An asphalt trail known as the Bike Path will give you 4 miles of walking if you go all the way to the end and back. Or choose one of two shorter trails. Off Airport Road (Route 645). 757-259-3778.
9. York River State Park
Take advantage of the options that York River State Park's 16 trails offer. This full-service park in Williamsburg has a few bicycle-only or horse-only trails, seven multiuse and three walking-only trails — a total of 25 miles. Some trails are flat and broad, a few go up bluffs and down gullies. 757-566-3036.