5 Great Hikes

enjoy an outdoor adventure with these 5 Great Hikes in our region

It's that magical time of the year again when the landscape changes color signaling the arrival of spring.  Although it's difficult to complain about the winter we just experienced (except for you snow lovers!), the warmth and beauty of spring really invites us to get outdoors and enjoy all that the season has to offer.  What better way to clear your mind while getting the benefits of some great exercise?

We are so fortunate to live in a region here in Virginia that offers so many great hiking opportunities.  You don't have to travel far to locate trails that offer something for everyone ranging from easy to moderately difficult.  So get outdoors, take in some of that fresh spring air, and enjoy a hike.  If you're  like me, you'll realize that it's not only good for the body, but also for the soul.  

P.S. - If you've got any recommendations for a great hike, please let us know in the comments section below.  

-Have a safe and wonderful weekend!

1. manassas national battlefield park and winery at bull run

Manassas National Battlefield Park preserves the site of two major battles of the Civil War. Located in Prince William County, the parkland looks much like it did during the time of the battles. Several buildings, armaments and extensive historical markers tell the story of both of the battles fought here. Even the two major roadways which transect the park—routes 29 and 234—played a part in the battle.

The 5.5 mile First Manassas Trail covers much of the ground that Union and Confederate troops traveled during their first encounter. Some of the hike is wooded, but most of it is in open fields, so this hike is best for cooler weather or a cloudy day. There are some steep and rocky sections, but most of the terrain is moderate or easy.

After some meadow hiking, you’ll pass Pittsylvania, a mansion owned by the Carter family. Used as a hospital during the war (like many buildings), there is a description by one eyewitness of the wounded lying on four-poster beds in the dilapidated mansion.

Cannons and signs on Marshall Hill mark the site of the Union advance. From the hilltop you’ll see the Stone House, which was constantly under fire and also used as a hospital, sometimes by Confederate and sometimes by Union armies, during the battles. The Stone House is open on weekends until Columbus Day.

The trail crosses busy route 29 at The Stone House, and since there is no crossing light, you must use caution. After crossing the road, you’ll head back uphill in open fields toward Henry House and the Visitor Center. This area was the site of some of the heaviest fighting during the battle.

If you’re looking for a shorter hike that’s good for younger kids, the Stone Bridge Loop Trail focuses on the area’s natural resources and includes a long stretch of boardwalk. Two Cell Phone tours are available for the Stone Bridge Loop—one for adults and one for kids.

2. Bull Run Occoquan Trail and Paradise Springs Winery

A hike on the Bull Run – Occoquan Trail, followed by a visit to Paradise Springs Winery,  is an ideal way to spend an active but peaceful day outdoors.

The Bull Run – Occoquan Trail follows the Bull Run Stream Valley and Occoquan Reservoir along the western edge of Fairfax County. The trail is 17 miles long, beginning at Bull Run Regional Park in the north, and ending at Fountainhead Regional Park in the south. The trail, which is managed by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA), offers  a chance to see heron, hawks, vultures, and other birds as it meanders along the water’s edge.

While some segments of the trail are steep and challenging, there is mostly level hiking along the water, and the access point is fairly easy. Best of all, this segment begins near the lovely Paradise Springs Winery, offering a relaxing stop at the end of your hike.

There are a lot of great seating options—out on the front patio or lawn, at picnic tables next to the vineyard, in the tasting room, or on the enclosed back porch.

The winery sometimes includes food pairings from local restaurants, and if you hike late on a Friday, you can stay for the music. You can also enjoy music at Paradise Springs most Saturdays and Sundays.

3. Burke Lake

A trip around Burke Lake Park demonstrates that this Northern Virginia gem supports many active and relaxing pursuits, and is a fun year-round destination. You'll love the peace of boating on Burke Lake, but there are a lot of other options if you don’t want to get out on the water.

Visitors will find something fun for every age group and activity level—hike, run, ride the train or the carousel, play mini-golf or disc golf, fish, or just relax with a picnic. There are accessible fishing platforms and trails, so it’s a great destination for people with limited mobility or families with strollers.

If you’re up for an active visit, we recommend a walk or run around Burke Lake on the 5 mile fitness trail that circles the lake. Portions of the trail are used for high school cross country meets. The wide dirt and crushed stone pathway is also a great option for families with bikes. Take it slow and you might spy turtles, ducks, and deer ambling across the path.

The trail hugs the shoreline and is shaded except when you pass over the dam. There are plenty of picnic tables and benches along the way to stop and enjoy views of the lake. There are also marked fitness stations, an orienteering section, and a nature trail.

If you have little ones along for a summer visit, you should definitely make time for a train ride—1.75 miles on the miniature Central Pacific Huntington steam engine is only $2.50 (free for 2 and under). A small carousel, seasonal ice cream parlor, and mini-golf provide other kid-friendly fun. Older kids and teens could try their skill on the disc golf course.

4. mason neck state park

Mason Neck offers several nice trails with bay, woods, and marsh views. The easy, quarter mile Marsh View Trail is ideal for young children or folks with limited mobility. The moderate 2-mile hike to Kane’s Creek provides a little more challenge, ending in a bird blind overlooking the marsh where you're likely to spot bald eagles and herons (bring your binoculars!). The popular Bay View Trail combines views of Belmont Bay with marsh and wooded sections in a 1-mile loop. If time allows, you can also walk the paved, 3/4-mile Great Marsh Trail, accessible from Gunston Road. Mason Neck hike details.

Kane’s Creek and Eagle Spur trails, which end at a bird blind overlooking Kane’s Creek, is where you can watch bald eagles, red-winged blackbirds and dragonflies. The hike to Kane’s Creek is 2 miles each way, shady the entire time, and moderately hilly, so it’s good for active adults and kids.

For a shorter and easier view, enjoy the quarter mile Marsh View Trail, which ends at a large platform overlooking the marsh at the upper end of Kane’s Creek. The platform is shady, peaceful and another fantastic spot to watch the birds.

If you don’t want to hike, Mason Neck State Park also offers biking, boating, fishing, playground and picnic areas, and ranger-led activities. You can rent bikes and boats at the Visitor Center.

5. prince william forest park

Get to know a part of Northern Virginia that has all but disappeared. Hike 9 miles along the South Fork Quantico Creek, bicycle down an old fire road to the remains of the Cabin Branch Pyrite Mine, spend the night in a historic cabin, fish in one of the lakes, and arise the next morning to some of the best bird watching in the area - all within Prince William Forest Park's 15,000 acre woodland.

With 37 miles of hiking trails, Prince William Forest Park has the most extensive hiking trail network in Northern Virginia. Where else can you hike an 18 mile loop and get back to Washington, DC for dinner? Visit their online Hiking Guide to click your way through each of the trails, or you can call or stop by the visitor center to have a Park Ranger guide your way. Whether its a short 1/2 mile loop or a 2 day excursion, Prince William Forest Park has something for everyone.

The 12 mile Scenic Drive is ready for you to enoy! With relatively little traffic, and a 25 mph speed limit in most places, the Scenic Drive is a popular biking spot for many people in Northern Virginia. If testing your speed and stamina isn't your thing, you can start out on our bike line which is located at Parking Lot 'D.' The bike lane continues for 3 miles to Oak Ridge Campground Road and is a great place for beginning bikers and experts a like. If off-road biking is more your speed, you can enjoy biking on the park fire roads. Visit the online Biking Guide for more information.

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