Williamsburg, VA

Williamsburg, VA, prepares to hike, bike and run a seven-mile section of the Colonial Parkway for National Park Week

Peter Watson

For a long weekend, Colonial Parkway will be open to pedestrians and cyclists, but closed to vehicles, in order to celebrate National Park Week.

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A horse-drawn carriage in Williamsburg, Virginia (Image: Wangkun Jia/Shutterstock)

The National Park Service (NPS) at Colonial National Historical Park and non-profit partner BikeWalk Williamsburg invite the Virginia community to celebrate National Park Week by biking, walking or running on a seven-mile portion of the Colonial Parkway for three days from April 23 to April 25.

The Colonial Parkway is a 23-mile scenic roadway stretching from the York River at Yorktown to the James River at Jamestown. It connects the Historic Triangle of Colonial Virginia: Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown.

Park staff will close the Colonial Parkway to vehicle access between Highway 199/Kingspoint and Rt. 359 at Jamestown beginning at 7:00 am on Friday, April 23 and ending at 8:00 pm on Sunday, April 25.

Enjoy a Car Free Colonial Parkway

According to BikeWalk Williamsburg, the weekend is a great opportunity to spend time with your "pandemic pod for the rare chance to bike, walk or run the Colonial Parkway from Jamestown to Williamsburg completely car-free."

“Because we can’t have the usual party at Archer’s Hope this year we’re hoping that the three days will give everyone to enjoy the Parkway in a safe and fun way,” says Lauren Gurniewicz the Chief of Visitor Experience and Community Engagement at the park.

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The Colonial Parkway will be closed to cars (Image: Sean Xu/Shutterstock)

“Even though the party won’t be there, it will still be an amazing community event. It’s a wonderful chance to get riders who aren’t confident out on two wheels. And at this point I know most of our community’s walkers and runners are looking for a change of scenery too!”

“You don’t have to be there right away since the event lasts all weekend. So you can come when you can, ride as much, or as little, as you like, and have a lovely adventure enjoying one of our local treasures,” says Ryan Bedell a BikeWalk Williamsburg Board Member. “My whole family enjoys riding. We don’t go fast, but we have a ton of fun!”

Colonial Williamsburg and Historic Jamestown

Located on the Virginia Peninsula, is the city of Williamsburg – the state of Virginia's capital from 1699 to 1780 and is known for its stately homes and restored Historic Area.

At its heart is Colonial Williamsburg, a 300-acre living-history museum, one of the largest, most comprehensive museums of its kind in the world. The city is located just seven miles from the infamous Jamestown.

On May 14, 1607, a group of 104 Englishmen settled on this swampy island, bearing a charter from the Virginia Company of London to search for gold amongst other riches.

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The John Smith Statue at Historic Jamestown (Image: Jon Marc Lyttle/Shutterstock)

Instead, the group of men and boys found only starvation and disease. By January 1608, only around 40 of the colonists were still alive and after resorting to cannibalism to survive.

The colony survived thanks to the leadership of Captain James Smith along with aid from Powhatan, a local Native American leader.

By 1610, the survivors had abandoned the Jamestown settlement, although they returned after meeting a resupply convoy in the James River.

In 1619, the elected House of Burgesses convened, forming the first democratic government in the Americas.

Colonial National Historical Park

Colonial National Historical Park was established in 1930 to preserve important 17th and 18th-century sites that tell the story of English colonization and the struggle for American independence.

Jamestown’s legacy includes representative government, but also slavery, a brutal institution that spread throughout the colonies.

At Yorktown, Virginia colonists fought in the last major battle of the American Revolutionary War. The 23-mile Colonial Parkway links the sites and is recognized as an All-American Road.

The Parkway, completed in 1957, is a National Park Service success story. The roadway enables motorists to appreciate the surrounding landscape while reducing the impact on the resources and providing for traveler safety.

Several million travelers pass along the 23-mile route every year to enjoy the natural and cultural beauty of Virginia.

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The Governor's Palace in Williamsburg, Virgina (Image: Sean Xu/Shutterstock)

The Parkway's construction presented the National Park Service with a unique challenge: build a thoroughfare unifying culturally distinct sites crossing several pristine natural environments while still maintaining the National Park Service's prime directive "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same."

Adding to the complexity of the project was a construction period extending over twenty-six years through the Depression, World War II, and funding shortages.

Passing is only allowed in the marked passing zones and when oncoming traffic is clear. The maximum Parkway speed limit is 45 miles per hour.

Pedal the Parkway schedule

Pedal the Parkway takes place this during three of National Park Week’s theme days including:

Friday, April 23: Friendship Friday

Caring for our parks is a big job. Park partners, like BikeWalk Williamsburg, have played an important role since the NPS was founded in 1916, and this tradition of generous, committed support continues today with individuals, groups and communities helping preserve and enhance

the national park experience. In honor of Friendship Friday, bring your pals to bike or walk on the Parkway!

Saturday, April 24: Junior Ranger Day

The NPS Junior Ranger program provides fun and engaging ways for young people to connect with our country’s heritage and landscapes, both virtually and in-person.

Pedal the Parkway participants can pick up Jr. Ranger booklets from Park Rangers outside the Yorktown Battlefield and Jamestown Visitor Centers.

Sunday, April 25: BARK Ranger Day

National parks are fun to share with those we love – including those of the fluffy variety! BARK Ranger principles ensure a pet’s visit to a park is fun and safe.

Pets are welcome to join you during Pedal the Parkway, just remember to bring bags for pet waste.

Free parking is available at the Jamestown Settlement, 2110 Jamestown Rd. and at the NPS Visitor Center on Jamestown Island.

For more information about National Park Week visit the NPS Celebrates microsite and nationalparkweek.org.

Recreate responsibly

The National Park service encourages visitors and community members to recreate responsibly at all times, including during Pedal the Parkway.

When outdoors, face masks are required on NPS-managed lands, including the Colonial Parkway, when physical distance cannot be maintained.

Whether seeking wide-open spaces or exploring an historic area, visitors should follow CDC guidance to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

“While we can’t have the usual party at Archer’s Hope this year we’re hoping the three days will give everyone an opportunity to enjoy the Parkway in a safe and fun way,” said Acting Superintendent Steve Williams. “As always this event is non-competitive and suitable for all ages and abilities.”

Portable restrooms and a handwashing station will be available at Archer’s Hope, thanks to support from BikeWalk Williamsburg. Indoor restrooms are available at the Jamestown Visitor Center from 9:00 am-5:00 pm daily.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, BikeWalk Williamsburg organized and sponsored annual Pedal the Parkway events, which included a “rest stop” and other activities.

In order to ensure visitor safety and physical distancing during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we encourage visitors to enjoy a more low-key event without those “extra” activities this year.

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Peter Watson is a writer, photographer and adventurer. A keen trekker and climber he can usually be found on the trails of the Greater Ranges. He’s visited over 80 countries and is currently focused on climbing the seven summits – the highest mountain on every continent. Four down, three to go... He has also travelled extensively around the US developing a penchant for American backcountry, abandoned buildings and natural wonders en route.

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