James River Foot Bridge to Locher Tract

Basics: Length — About 10.1 miles; Difficulty — Strenuous; Carpool — 40 miles, so $4.00 per rider; What to Bring — Standard day hiking gear (10 essentials), lunch, money (or car) for the carpool, swimming gear / towel if you would like to dip in the river; Highlights — Views along the river, views from high on the ridge of the river.

Detailed Description: This hike starts with the longest pedestrian-only bridge on the Appalachian Trail, the Foot Foot-Bridge over the James. We continue southbound along the AT paralleling the river for a little over a mile with nice water views and rock formations. We then turn to follow Matts Creek to the creek’s namesake shelter, then climb steadily and steeply at times for about the next three miles to the Balcony Falls Trail. Along the climb, there are a couple of striking views of the James River Gorge.

We then follow the Balcony Falls Trail down the ridge with occasional views, first toward Gunter Ridge and then looking toward Glasgow. The trail descends, at times using switchbacks, then meanders through a pleasant forest before reaching the meadows of Locher Tract and the shores of the James. There are no plans to do any off-trail hiking, so shorts should be OK for this trip (though there may be minor growth along the Balcony Falls Trail, especially toward the end).