Explore Article Categories

Student Life

A Prime Location for Fun

By Melissa Skinner, October 18, 2016

Going away to college is exciting — meeting new friends, learning from new teachers, and settling into a new home. While Liberty University students have a variety of activities available to them on campus, they also know they are living in one of the most scenic parts of the country. The Central Virginia region is full of interesting places to explore, and students regularly trek off campus to hike the Blue Ridge Mountains, tour historical sites, attend local festivals, and visit unique area businesses.

National Geographic named Lynchburg one of its Best Adventure Towns.

Jacen Hamilton, a graduate student studying business administration, said going to school in Lynchburg gives students the opportunity to “refresh” in a unique way.

“The Lynchburg area offers Liberty students a variety of phenomenal off-campus activities, including kayaking on the James River, visiting downtown, or a range of good hiking and camping opportunities within an hour or two of campus,” he said.

Every Saturday, vendors from around Central Virginia come together to sell their goods at the Lynchburg Community Market. While downtown, visitors can also see Monument Terrace, which honors Lynchburg citizens who fought and died in the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, and in present-day conflicts. Lynchburg even has a Minor League Baseball team, the Hillcats, a Class A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians.

Lynchburg’s riverside area boasts many options for fun, including 22 miles of trails. One of the most popular is the Blackwater Creek Trail. Built along an abandoned railway bed, the 3-mile paved trail crosses the James River and is great for running, biking, and walking.

Every September, many Liberty students, faculty, and staff take part in the annual Genworth Virginia 10 Miler. The race is one of the oldest 10-milers in the country and draws runners from all over the world. The event also includes a 4-mile run and walk. This year, Liberty again broke the corporate participation record with 606 registered participants.

“Lynchburg is fortunate to offer a wide array of activities that cater to an array of tastes and interests, thus making it one of the best places to live,” said Sergei Troubetzkoy, director of tourism for the City of Lynchburg. “You cannot go anywhere in the area without seeing Liberty students. They are a wonderful asset to our community, and we appreciate that they spend time around the city and surrounding areas.”

Troubetzkoy calls it a win-win: Students can explore and enjoy the area, then share their experiences with others, generating even more interest.

Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Liberty is just 35 miles away from the Blue Ridge Parkway, known as “America’s Favorite Drive.” The parkway boasts many hiking trails. Some of the most popular are located at the Peaks of Otter in Bedford, Va. The 1.7-mile trail to Sharp Top (one of three summits located at the peaks) leads to spectacular views from 3,875 feet above sea level. There are also picnic areas and a nature center nearby.

Ryan Saunders, a student in the biomedical sciences graduate program, said students can experience something new in Central Virginia every weekend.

“Virginia has so much to offer in regards to the outdoors. We have a great sample of that here on campus, but there is so much more to see outside the boundaries of Liberty,” he said. “Getting off campus is part of the college experience. There is nothing like going on an adventure with a group of friends.”

Less than an hour from campus, students can explore Natural Bridge State Park in Rockbridge County. The 215-foot limestone gorge was once owned by Thomas Jefferson. The site also includes a nature area with 6 miles of trails and a Monacan Indian Village with living history programs.

Additionally, Liberty’s Outdoor Recreation team plans dozens of affordable weekend trips throughout the year, including fly fishing, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, skiing, camping on the shores of Virginia Beach, and an overnight introduction to camping/backpacking on Liberty Mountain.

Central Virginia is not only beautiful, it’s also home to a very rich history. Thomas Jefferson’s vacation home, Poplar Forest, is located about 15 minutes from campus. And last fall, the university acquired Mead’s Tavern in New London, Va. Built in 1763, the 2-story building is believed to be the oldest structure in the Lynchburg region. It is said to have attracted some well-known historical figures, including Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and Daniel Boone.
In nearby Bedford, Va., students can visit the National D-Day Memorial. Bedford was chosen as the site of this memorial because it lost more servicemen per capita than any other American city on D-Day — 19 lives.

Students can also visit the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park (located about 30 minutes from campus), the site where Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee met with Gen. Ulysses S. Grant to surrender his army, beginning the process of ending America’s Civil War.

Hydaway Outdoor Recreation Center a favorite for students

Hydaway Outdoor Recreation Center

Hydaway Outdoor Recreation Center

Outdoor enthusiasts, or those simply in pursuit of a study break, can find what they’re looking for at the Hydaway Outdoor Recreation Center, operated by Liberty University. Just 5 miles from the main campus on Liberty Mountain, the rural property is a treasure, surrounded by 50 miles of wooded trails for running, hiking, and mountain biking.

Last year, thousands of students visited Hydaway, which boasts an 8-acre lake and a beach area.
Kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards are available at no cost to full-time students, faculty, and staff. For a small fee, watercraft can be taken off-site to the nearby James River, Ivy Lake, or Smith Mountain Lake. Hydaway Lake is stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, and crappie for catch-and-release by students with valid Virginia fishing licenses. Fishing equipment is also available.

Mountain bikes for all ages can be checked out for free and used on the university’s 50-mile trail system. ATVs (which require a safety course before using) can be ridden on a designated half-mile loop track.

University groups, from sports teams to campus bands, have participated in team-building activities on Hydaway’s Challenge Course, which features high- and low-rope elements, and on the center’s zip line.

Hydaway also offers a 12-site campground, with backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, hammocks, and other camping gear available for use on Friday or Saturday nights.

Get the e-magazine straight to your inbox!

It only takes a click to unsubscribe.