Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In



Virginia Beach, VA: Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Sea turtles, white-tailed dear, and snow geese are just a few of the diverse wildlife species you might spot on this 7.6-mile coastal hike.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Covering 9,000 acres on and around a thin strip of coastline in the southeast corner of Virginia, the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge plays host both to diverse wildlife species and habitats. This 7.7-miler near Virginia Beach ambles through beach, sand dunes, woodlands, farm fields, and marshland. Numerous wildlife species can be spotted here, including water fowl (snow geese and blue herons), endangered/threatened species (loggerhead sea turtles and piping plovers), a diverse mix of reptiles and amphibians (frogs and snakes galore), and more standard mammals (white-tailed deer, foxes, and rabbits).

Starting from the Visitor Contact Station, this hike loops counter-clockwise on fairly level, coastal terrain (and offers a few opportunities to shorten the trip). Along the way, a handful of wildlife viewing areas and platforms offer an opportunity to enjoy the tranquility of the refuge and observe its inhabitants.
-Mapped by Ivan Levin


Trail Facts

  • Distance: 12.2



Location: 36.6724396, -75.9160461

Start your hike at the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Station and follow the signs towards the Dike Trails.


Location: 36.6697884, -75.9142303

Go left @ Y-junction.


Location: 36.6650276, -75.9114075

Go left @ Y-junction, following the hike and bike signs.


Location: 36.6618309, -75.9103622

Go right at the gate into the wildlife viewing area. Take a few minutes to observe all of the different types of water fowl in this area. Turn around and head back the way you came. Turn left at the gate, heading back towards the visitor station.


Location: 36.664444, -75.9116364

Just before Waypoint 3, turn left @ the U-turn toward the refuge maintenance building, heading the opposite direction of the hike/bike signs.


Location: 36.6637611, -75.9126434

Go right at the dumpster, continuing straight onto the West Dike Trail.


Location: 36.6491127, -75.912384

Take a break and check out the great bird watching between the dikes on the left.


Location: 36.6460075, -75.9124069

Go straight @ 4-way intersection. To the left is a second dike crossing; to the right is an access road into the forest.


Location: 36.6396294, -75.9106674

Go straight into the forest, following the arrow for hiking and biking. The third dike crossing shoots off to the left.


Location: 36.630703, -75.9042664

Going left @ Y-junction and walk along the border of False Cape State Park and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Continue following the gravel road.


Location: 36.6306992, -75.8996429

Go right at the second False Cape State Park sign and follow the road; you will enter the state park.


Location: 36.6297607, -75.8995285

Take advantage of the wildlife viewing platform on the left to take a break and enjoy the wildlife. When you’re rested, turn around and walk back up the gravel road and exit the state park, making a right at Waypoint 11.


Location: 36.6308136, -75.8992081

Go right @ Y-junction, heading back into Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge on the East Dike Trail (a gravel road).


Location: 36.6488609, -75.9054565

Follow the road as it curves to the right; this is another great spot to stop for a snack.


Location: 36.6617584, -75.9100113

Continue past the gate and see the wildlife viewing station that you already visited on the left.


Location: 36.6724815, -75.9160461

The hike ends at the National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Station. During the summer, grab your bathing suit and head for the beach.

Visitor Contact Station

Location: 36.672493, -75.9161682

Dike View

Location: 36.6492119, -75.9125137

Dike Crossing

Location: 36.6459427, -75.9124298


Location: 36.6306801, -75.9044113

Wildlife Viewing Platform

Location: 36.6299019, -75.8995895

Wildlife Area View

Location: 36.6298861, -75.8995253


Location: 36.6618271, -75.9099426

How to Pack for Backcountry Skiing

Get to know the winter safety gear you need in your pack.