Virginia Capital Trail || How to use Amtrak to Ride the Trail

Editor's note: This article was initially published in September 2019 and was updated in July 2023 for accuracy and comprehensiveness (Amtrak Screen Shots are current). 

Like most ideas, it's not important where they came from. But that you follow through with them. I might have been influenced by explorer Alastair Humphrey or Laura and Russ over at The Path Less Pedaled but who knows?

Sometimes the logistics of conducting our outdoor pursuits can be downright hard. Sometimes you need two cars or a shuttle service or, sometimes you need help getting there from here. Logistics can be even more complex if you are solo. But what if you could get to the trailhead or your starting point by train?

Traveling by Amtrak and Bicycle
Waiting for our bikes to be offloaded from the baggage car.

That's right by train! While Amtrak offered a box service for bicycles, it was limited to certain routes and stations. A  new train side service is offered by Amtrak on some of their routes that give the cyclist a different option to explore.

Traveling by Amtrak and Bicycle
The above Amtrak routes offer train-side checked bicycles.

The Virginia Capital Trail is a 51.2-mile trail that links Jamestown, the first capital of the Colony of Virginia founded in 1607, and Richmond, the modern capital of Virginia. The Virginia Capital Trail is also part of the TransAmerica bicycle route (76) and the Historic Coastal Route of the East Coast Greenway. 

As you can see above the Northeast Regional route trains 65, 66, and 67 make it possible to ride the one-way distance (51.2 miles) of the Virginia Capital Trail. By either taking the train from Richmond to Williamsburg or from Williamsburg to Richmond. 

I am going to explain the mystery of using the train to make this type of ride happen.

I am going to break this trip into three different legs. 
  1.  Train station to train station. 
  2.  Route from the train station to the trailhead.
  3.  The Virginia Capital Trail itself. 

There are two Amtrak stations in Richmond. You want to use Main Street Station (RVM) to make this trip. The station in Williamsburg is called the Williamsburg Transportation Center (WBG).

Train 66 departs Williamsburg at 5:41p.m. and arrives in Richmond at 6:30 p.m. daily.
Train 65 departs Richmond at 9:34 a.m. and arrives in Williamsburg at 10:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Train 67 departs Richmond at 10:10 a.m. and arrives in Williamsburg at 11:14 a.m. Sunday-Thursday.

Traveling by Amtrak and Bicycle
Amtrak 67 Northeast Regional Train reservation screen.

In the screenshot, above I have selected the 67 Northeast Regional train from RVM to WBG. Next, you have the option to select coach or business class seats. Personally, I selected the coach class. There is plenty of room and the seat is comfortable for an hour's train ride. 

Traveling by Amtrak and Bicycle
Select your seat.

Select the SAVER ticket price ($10). CLICK ADD TO CART. The next screen will be additional items and this is where you add the bicycle.

Traveling by Amtrak and Bicycle
An additional Item is where you reserve space for your bicycle.

The reservation for a bicycle costs $20 making the total cost of the train fare $30. Once you have made the payment, you will receive an email with your ticket attached. Make sure you see that the ticket list is both the ticket for yourself and the bicycle.

From my research, the bicycle service runs from May to October. Parking at RVM is $5 daily. Parking at WBG is free.

Mile marker 0 of the Virginia Capital Trail starts in Jamestown. Depending on what route you take from Williamsburg it's a 7.5 to 10-mile ride. The end of the trail is Great Shiplock Park which is 0.9 miles from Main Street Station.

The security staff was surprised to see us come to the station with bicycles. At first, they said you can't get on the train with bicycles and once I informed them, "I sure can because I have a ticket for the bicycle." They pointed us on the way to get upstairs.

Traveling by Amtrak and Bicycle
The waiting area of Main Street Station, Richmond Virginia

Richard and I were greeted with the grand splendor of this ornate station which was built in 1901. During the wars, 1000 troops a day would pass through the station. It is hard to imagine that because today we were two of the only four people catching the train from Richmond.

Traveling by Amtrak and Bicycle
The ornate details of the station

Traveling by Amtrak and Bicycle
The old rails that trains came into the station on. Now part of a 100,00 venue called The Shed.

Traveling by Amtrak and Bicycle
The bicycles waiting for the train.

In the above picture, you can see a long steel plate. The train car that the bicycles go on will pull up in front of that plate. One of the Conductors will check your ticket first to make sure you have the bicycle on your ticket before they load it.

Bicycles being loaded train side and train cars are just for bicycles.

Traveling by Amtrak and Bicycle
Heading out of Richmond we pass Great Shiplock Park. This is the endpoint of the trail from Jamestown.

Our ride on the train was just under an hour. The train offers free WiFi and a cafe car to get snacks. Unlike a plane, there is room between the seats to stretch your legs out. The Conductor will come and get you when the train is nearing the station and you are near the front of the train. This saves some time for the unloading of the bicycles.

Traveling by Amtrak and Bicycle
Waiting to unload the bicycles at Williamsburg Transportation Center

Once we unloaded our bicycles and changed to our riding gear we needed to ride to the trailhead. The station is four blocks from Colonial Williamsburg and the College of William & Mary. We had decided to take Jamestown Road which has a bike lane for most of the 7.7 miles to the trailhead.

On this trip, we were just focused on using the train and riding the Virginia Capital Trail. But realized that we could have made this a multi-day and multi-venue adventure by adding touring Williamsburg, and cycling the Colonial Parkway to Yorktown. Mountain biking at Newquarter and Waller Mill Parks.

Mile Marker 0 on the Capital to Capital Trail
Mile Marker 0 is just across the street from Jamestown.

Billsbury Brewery and Tap house
Right Around the corner is Billsbury Brewery and Taphouse.

One of the things that we learned on this trip is that heading back to Richmond you will most likely be riding into a headwind the entire route.

Traveling the Capital to Capital Trail
The bike selfie.

Cul's Court House Grill Charles City Courthouse
At the midpoint of our ride, we catch a light lunch and beer at Cul's Courthouse Grille.

Much much-needed lunch break was taken at Cul's Courthouse Grille located at Charles City Courthouse. Good selection of craft beer from both Richmond and Williamsburg. Very cyclist-friendly place. If you have road shoes make sure to have covers for your cleats. The grille has the original wood floor in the 1872 building. 

The day we took this trip is the 18th anniversary of 9-11. Richard sported his RWB team kit and ran into a group of RWB members doing a 9-11 anniversary ruck to the Virginia War Memorial.

Team RWB 9-11 Ruck.

End of the Capital to Capital Trail Great Ship Lock Park
Richard at the Great Shiplock Park mile 51.2

This was a great trip, and the train just opened up different options for travel and exploring. I hope this post inspires you to use the train to make your cycling adventure.

Use this post as a guide but you need to check train schedules, routes to and from the stations, trailheads, trail conditions, and weather. Also of note, the train can be late or take longer to get from point to point. Amtrak has an agreement to use the same rails as the freight trains so there may be some delays. If you are planning your trip from Williamsburg understand that the train arrives in Richmond in the afternoon. This would put you getting back very late to Williamsburg. Plan for an overnight stay somewhere or a set of bike lights. I used Google Street View to figure out which was the safest route to take from the train station to the trailhead. There are two routes that I felt met this requirement. The Jamestown Rd route that we took and there is the Colonial Parkway route.

Resource links:
Main Street Station 

Virginia Capital Trail

Williamsburg Transportation Center


Now It's Your Turn-

If you have any questions or comments please comment or use the Contact Us form and I will do my best to answer your question. After reading the article, did you take the train? Was this helpful?


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