Hiking in Northern Virginia
Hiking in northern Virginia is a wonderful way to see the beauty of the area. There are several different parks that you can visit in the region. Some of them include Crabtree Falls, Mason Neck State Park, and Leesylvania State Park. All of these areas offer trails that are suitable for a wide variety of ages and abilities.
Crabtree Falls is a series of cascades and falls along Crabtree Creek, which flows from Crabtree Meadows. It is the tallest waterfall in Virginia, and one of the tallest in the Eastern United States. The waterfall’s total height is over 1,000 feet. This makes it the highest vertical-drop cascading waterfall in the east.
There are several ways to reach Crabtree Falls, but the best route is by the Appalachian Trail. This route takes you past the impressive Spy Rock, which is a rock dome on the east side of Maintop Mountain.
Hiking Crabtree Falls also allows you to see the Tye River Gorge, which is an impressive canyon. This valley is home to a number of caves and shady sandstone outcroppings. In addition, you’ll have a good view of the surrounding mountains.
The shortest route from the trailhead to the base of Crabtree Falls is a 1/4 mile paved trail. Alternatively, you can continue up the Big Crabtree Creek trail, which is a bit longer, but more scenic.
On the other hand, the longest route from the trailhead is a little more than a mile. If you’re looking for a more challenging hike, consider the loop trail. This ridge-top trail climbs to the top of the ridge and then descends, offering panoramic views of the falls and the Tye River.
Crabtree Falls is open to the public daily from dusk until dawn. There’s also a pay station with an information board and parking lot. You can expect to pay $3 for the day.
Bear’s Den Park Trail
Bear’s Den is a great place to start your Appalachian Trail journey. Located just an hour away from Washington D.C., it’s the perfect jumping off point for your multi-day hikes south along the Appalachian Trail.
The Bear’s Den Trail Center offers several short hiking trails and a community kitchen. It also has a 36-bed hostel and a nature trail with an interpretive nature display. In addition, it has an expansive lawn and deck with panoramic views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.
During the spring and summer, bears are sometimes seen in the park. A number of rock outcroppings provide excellent spots for picnicking or taking a quick break.
Bears Den is a fun place to explore for families and children. There are primitive camping sites, secluded cottages, and laundry facilities. You can find some quaint general stores in the town of Snickersville, which is on the route. Those looking for more entertainment may want to check out Dirt Farm Brewing Company, which has an open patio. Bold Rock cider is available on draft.
If you have time to spare, you can extend your hike by visiting the nearby Raven Rocks overlook. This hike is a great way to get a bird’s eye view of the Shenandoah Valley. At over 1,450 feet above the valley, it’s a rewarding trip, but you’ll have to work a little to get there.
Sky Meadows State Park
Sky Meadows State Park is a 1,862-acre park located in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Paris, Virginia. The park offers numerous hiking and camping opportunities. It is about one hour away from Washington, D.C., and features rolling pastures, woodlands, and a historic farm.
Located off Interstate 66, Sky Meadows is a wonderful place to take a hike. Hikers can enjoy a wide variety of trails that provide stunning views of the Piedmont. There are over two dozen interconnecting trails to choose from.
One of the park’s best vistas is the Piedmont Overlook. Visitors are also invited to participate in “Dark Sky Programs” on selected nights. These events feature presentations by NASA JPL Ambassadors.
The park features three miles of the Appalachian Trail. Sky Meadows is also connected to Thompson Wildlife Management Area. This gives visitors the opportunity to view animals that live in the natural setting of the park.
In addition to hiking, the park offers a variety of family-friendly activities. Events include stargazing, interpretive programs, and ranger-led hikes. Moreover, the park offers a range of picnic areas, and a children’s discovery area.
The park offers primitive camping, as well as restrooms and wheelchair-accessible picnic areas. The park’s visitor center is situated in a historic farm.
The park also has a Children’s Discovery Area, and a 76-acre Outdoor Laboratory. The CDA contains a variety of trails that run through meadows, woodlands, and streams.
Leesylvania State Park
Leesylvania State Park is a historic site that is a great destination for outdoor recreation. It is located along the Potomac River in Prince William County, Virginia. You can enjoy a day of hiking, boating, fishing, or picnicking.
The park offers five hiking trails for visitors to explore. You can choose between easy to moderate trails. This scenic site is a popular location for families to visit. There is also a boat launch and a marina. Visitors can canoe or kayak on the river.
The park has a visitor center and a gift shop. Visitors can take advantage of educational programs and nature exhibits. In addition, there are scenic overlooks and a Confederate gun battery.
Hikers can also enjoy the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail that runs through the park. There are two trails that can be easily accessed by wheelchairs. One is called Bushey Point Trail. Another trail is the Lee’s Woods Trail.
You can also visit the Occoquan River Wildlife Refuge. This refuge is home to many types of wildlife and is an ecological treasure. If you enjoy fishing, you can catch a variety of fish, including trout and bass.
You can also enjoy boating on the Potomac River. A full service marina and boat storage facility is available. However, you will need a Virginia fishing permit to go on the water overnight.
If you want to learn more about the history of the park, you can visit the Visitor Center. This center has an environmental education classroom and a gift shop.
Mason Neck State Park
Mason Neck State Park is a wonderful destination to hike, bike, or just enjoy nature. It is located in southern Fairfax County, Virginia and is just 20 miles from Washington, D.C. This hidden gem of a park offers a variety of wildlife, waterways, and trails.
Mason Neck State Park is a great place for birding and nature viewing. There are several species of wildlife that can be seen in this area, including great blue herons, ospreys, and bald eagles.
The visitor center features displays about the wildlife, Native Americans, and more. There is also a gift shop and meeting room for visitors. If you plan on hiking, the Visitor Center has a trail guide.
The park is open year-round. There are many trails that range in length from less than a mile to nearly three miles. These trails are accessible to all skill levels. They are easy to traverse and offer scenic views of the Chesapeake bay.
Visitors can rent bicycles or canoes to explore the park’s paths and waterways. Bicycle rentals cost $5 for an hour and are available seasonally. Canoes and kayaks are also available for rent at the park.
A car-top canoe launch is also available. The area is home to a number of fish species, including blue crabs, red crabs, and muskrats. Fishing is permitted with a valid Virginia or Maryland fishing license.
Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park
The Washington and Old Dominion Trail is a rail-trail in the Virginia suburbs of Arlington and Fairfax County. It stretches from Shirlington to Purcellville, a distance of 45 miles. Aside from its recreational value, the W&OD also serves as a spine in the 800-mile Capital Trails Coalition network.
In addition to the paved trail, the Washington and Old Dominion Regional Park also features a 30.5-mile gravel bridle path. The former rail bed of the W&OD Railroad is followed on the trail.
The Washington and Old Dominion Trail runs through rural areas to densely populated urban areas. At times, it seems like the scenery changes from one county to the next.
One interesting feature is a railroad bridge over Tuscarora Creek. The railroad was built in the late 1800s. This is the second longest railroad bridge within the park’s boundaries.
When the W&OD Railroad was first built, it was intended to shuttle coal from the Appalachian Mountains to Alexandria. However, the Civil War interrupted construction.
After the war, the railroad was reconstructed. Today, it is a popular passenger line. During the civil war, the railroad played a significant role.
After the war, the railroad was purchased by Virginia Power and later changed its name to Dominion Power. The Washington and Old Dominion Regional Park is named for the railroad.
The Washington and Old Dominion Regional Park also contains a number of attractions. There are fitness stations, picnic areas, and a skate park.