Sometimes, holiday togetherness gets to be too much, and fortunately Northern Virginia offers access to some of the world’s best day hikes, all within a hour’s drive within the region.
The following are five great destinations for short-to-long and easy-to-hard outings for hikers of all ages . Fresh air and exercise are the perfect remedy for curing cabin fever. Most parks are open from dawn to dusk daily, so check the weather, dress appropriately, and monitor park websites for current advisories.
Ball’s Bluff Battlefield Regional Park, Ball’s Bluff Road, Leesburg
Home to the third smallest national cemetery in the U.S., the park is the site of one of Loudoun County’s largest Civil War engagements. Today visitors can enjoy self-guided tours of the park on trails from half-a-mile to more than 2 miles long, including several different routes to the bluff itself.
First and Second Manassas Battlefield Trails, Manassas Battlefield National Park
Comprising almost 5,100 acres of rolling fields and forests, this historic venue includes more than 40 miles of hiking trails. Two of the most popular are the 5- and 6-mile loops that trace the course of the first (1861) and second (1862) battles of Manassas, which include historic markers and interpretive signs to help visitors appreciate the significance and character of the fighting that occurred there. The trails intersect at the feature-rich visitor center, which includes parking and restrooms. Fees apply to all visitors of this federal facility. 6511 Sudley Road, Manassas
Bluebell Trail, Bull Run Regional Park
The Bluebell Trail is a highlight of this 1,500-acre slice of outdoor heaven. With free admission for residents of Loudoun, Fairfax and Arlington counties, and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax and Falls Church, Bull Run includes a water park (open seasonally), campgrounds, picnic areas and playgrounds, in addition to access to two great regional trails: The Bluebell Trail, a 1.5-mile flat loop that explores the forest around Bull Run, the historic creek; and
The Bull Run-Occoquan Trail, a 19.7-miles trail that connects Bull Run, Hemlock Overlook, Bull Run Marina and Fountainhead Regional Parks. 7700 Bull Run Drive, Centreville
Bears Den Overlook
The Bears Den overlook is accessible from on foot up a 0.5-mile uphill stretch of the region’s roller-coaster style Appalachian National Scenic Trail. From an elevation of approximately 1,350 feet, the westward view across the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains is hard to match for convenience and accessibility. While the hike up from the parking lot at the Snickers Gap AT trailhead (at the intersection of Route 7 and Blue Ridge Mountain Road [RT 601]) may be too much for the younger and older members of the family, its also possible to park at the top of the mountain and walk a quarter-mile to the spectacular vista. 18393 Blueridge Mountain Road, Bluemont. Free (parking at top is $3)
Washington Monument State Park
Home to the first monument dedicated to the first American president, Washington Monument State Park is bisected by the Appalachian National Scenic Trail on its path from the Mason-Dixon Line to the Potomac River in Harper’s Ferry. The rustic, piled-rock monument was initially built in 1827 by residents of nearby Boonsboro on top of South Mountain; at 1,550 feet, one of the most prominent hills visible on the horizon from Northern Virginia. The Appalachian Trail provides the only access to the monument, about 0.2 miles from the parking lot near the Fort Necessity shelter. 6620 Zittlestown Road, Middletown MD
Content and photo by Rob Dolittle
Edited by Jessica Monte