Hiking Williamsburg’s Bassett Trace Nature Trail

Is there more to do in Williamsburg than the Colonial Cotillion? You bet. Warm weather on a weekend getaway to Virginia’s second Colonial capital found my partner, Bob, and I weaving endless leisurely circuits by bike throughout the historic area and across the campus of William & Mary. But I was itching for a substantial wooded walk or hike, so I set out solo to explore the grounds of the Williamsburg Inn, Williamsburg Lodge—where we were staying—and the Griffin Hotel

First a history lesson in brief: Bassett Trace is named after Burwell Bassett, Martha Washington’s nephew and a Virginia legislator and congressman. In 1800, he purchased a white farmhouse, now known as Bassett Hall, near the trailhead, which, in 1936, became the favorite home of John D. Rockefeller during the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg, largely funded through his largesse. Bassett Hall opened to the public in 1980, closed for restoration in 2000 and reopened at the end of 2002. 

Just east of the gracious and traditional Williamsburg Inn is the white, geometric-modern Griffin Hotel. And just east of there—but west of Bassett Hall where you might want to park—I stumbled upon the sign for Bassett Trace. A little squeamish about hiking alone, I nonetheless set out because it was only a 2.8-mile out-and-back trip and appeared to never veer too far from civilization.

I never saw another person, though I could very occasionally hear muffled voices from the adjacent golf course, which was reassuring and unobtrusive. Any nagging fear quickly melted away as I first relished straight passes through bottomland and then every turn in the trail, elevation changed as I crested the ridge and cherished the vistas afforded by both.

Surrounded by towering hardwood trees—and quite a few fallen ones that create forest floor interest like organic sculptural installations—with occasional bodies of water to traverse and branch-filtered views of the rolling expanses of golf course, this trail, which terminates at the casual and quiet Golden Horseshoe Golf Club, is a lovely way to get away from it all for 45 minutes or so.

Find Bassett Trace Nature Trail at 424 Francis St. East, Williamsburg.

Betsy DiJulio
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Betsy DiJulio is a full-time art teacher, artist and curator with side hustles as a freelance writer, including for Coastal Virginia Magazine, and a vegan recipe developer and food stylist and photographer for Tofutti Brands.

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