Are you looking for a new hiking route in Northern Virginia? Maybe you are new to hiking and want to know where the best places in Northern VA are to go? Or are you an experienced hiker looking to expand your routes? Whatever your question might be, we are here with the answers for you.
Finding a new hiking route in Northern VA can be tricky. You head online to find a new route but are met with a sea of opinions.
These all contradict one another, leaving you unsure who to trust or where to turn. With the hiking season quickly drawing to a close, you don’t want to miss out on your opportunity for a good hike. But you still haven’t found a new route, what are you to do?
Well, you can stick with us! Today, we are here with the 10 best Northern VA hikes! No matter your experience level, we have a hike suitable for you. Whether it’s waterfalls, scenic views, beaches, or rock scrambles, we have a hike for you!
So let’s dive in and start our list of the 10 best Northern VA hikes now!
1. Bull Run-Occoquan Trail
Kicking off our list is this wonderful and pet-friendly trail! The park spreads across miles of natural surface trails that provide you with plenty of workout opportunities for you and your furry friends! Whether you are walking your dog, horse riding, running, or biking, you are sure to love the trail!
It has over 5,000 acres of trails of beautiful woodland including Hemlock Park, Bull Run Marina, and Fountainhead Regional Park.
The trail is ideal for all levels as you can walk as far as you want before turning back and heading home.
Although there is some rocky, uneven terrain, it does flatten out once you reach the hemlock trees.
This moderate trail is the ideal trail for those that don’t like crowds. It’s usually one of the quietest trails in Northern VA, making it perfect for those that want to find some peace in nature.
There are also places for your children and dogs to run on the park’s lawn and there are plenty of water play opportunities too. Don’t forget to take a towel to dry any wet paws!
There is also the Clifton Cafe where you can stop for a coffee and a bite to eat.
There is also Paradise Springs Winery which is the first winery in Fairfax County. You can stop in to celebrate your hike and have a refreshing glass of wine.
You can find the hike at 10875 Hampton Road, Fairfax Station, VA22039
2. Prince William National Forest
Prince William National Forest is a peaceful hike, with plenty of paths to choose from! There are so many opportunities here for you, including camping, hiking, biking, and fishing! It’s one of the best kept secrets in Northern VA, it’s worth a visit!
We recommend the Laurel Loop Trail, it is 1.4 miles and is suitable for all the family. It’s an easy trail that takes you through peaceful woods and the South Fork of Quantico Creek.
There is also the Potomac Heritage Trail you can do. This takes you over a lovely bridge on Quantico Creek.
If you have the time, it is worth doing! The path has a four or five mile option that combines Laurel portions, South Valley Trails, Pyrite Mine, and North Orendia Roads. You can get a snippet of each trail this way!
There are plenty of rangers on hand that can help you plan a route for you and your family too! Although you need to pay an entry fee, we think it’s worth it! It’s fun for all the family, with plenty of views and wonderful woods to enjoy!
Find the Prince William National Forest at 18100 Park Headquarters Road, Triangle, VA 22172.
3. Hazel Falls And Cave
Next, we have Hazel falls and a cave. The intermediate hike is wonderful if you love waterfalls and caves! It is harder to reach than other falls on today’s list, so you will want to pace yourself while you complete the trail. The last thing you want is to overextend yourself!
Make sure you take advantage of the plenty of spots to sit and rest along the trail. There are wonderful areas where you can relax and enjoy your lunch.
To access the trail, park at Meadow Spring and trek the Hazel mountain trail through the White Rocks trail.
This will lead you to Cave Falls. Be careful, though, as the last few miles of this trail have a steep and rocky descent. Watch your feet here and go slow so you can still enjoy the hike!
If the weather is on your side, we recommend taking a dip in the swimming hole. This will provide you with some refreshment and renewed energy that will help you tackle the 1,000 foot elevation you must climb to reach your car.
In case it wasn’t obvious, this is a tough trail! You need to be physically fit to complete the hike.
There also aren’t any signs or markings in the park, so you will need a map to find your way. Make sure you have this ready and your route planned before you head off.
Located at the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, there is no entrance fee for this trail, but you will need lots of energy and snacks to complete the Hazel Falls and Cave hike!
4. Crabtree Falls
Crabtree Falls is not only a popular tourist destination, but a wonderful hike! The trailhead runs for 185 miles starting in Washington DC. of course, we don’t recommend you tackle it all in one go, but there is plenty to explore! You can return time and time again and eee something new.
The hikes here are beautiful, with wonderful views over Tye River Gorge. Thanks to the beautiful waterfall views, the trail is popular all year round! Crabtree Falls features a series of five major waterfalls with a combined height of 1200 feet.
Starting at the lowest parking lot, the trail rises steadily and it isn’t too difficult to scale.
The first 1.8 miles are fairly easy, but it does get a little tougher, the higher you go. Thankfully, the path meanders rather than there being a steep incline.
It will open up too, revealing wonderful views that you can take in as you walk. There are also sections of stairs and dirt that you need to walk through.
Although the path is described as moderate, we think most people will manage these tough parts. Just be sure to have some good shoes on!
As it is a popular tourist destination, we recommend that you visit on weekdays. It can get very crowded on the weekend, which can impact your views.
You do need to pay an entrance fee, but we think the views and waterfalls are worth it! Find Crabtree Falls at 11581 Crabtree Falls Highway, Montebello, VA 24464.
5. Winkler Botanical Preserve
If waterfalls that make you feel like you are in Rivendell are your thing, then you need to visit Winkler Botanical Preserve! This is one of the best hikes in Northern Virginia, especially if you are hiking with your family.
The preserve is full of wonderful paths and trails that deliver a touch of magic! You won’t get this experience anywhere else.
This small gem is tucked away in Shirlington, surrounded by high-rises! You would never know this wonderful slice of nature is hiding amongst the concrete, but trust us, it’s there, and waiting for you to visit!
Take the path right off I-395, where you will drive through an apartment complex before you reach the preserve.
From here you can choose the trail that suits you! There is a one mile loop that is easy and perfect for families.
It takes you around the two acre pond, delivering a breathtaking view of the waterfall. There is also a high road that will lead you to Hobbit |House, which we recommend doing!
There is also a lower road you can choose if you want to walk to the river. There is a bridge you can cross, where you will see loads of lilies and lotus flowers.
There aren’t any trail maps, so you might get lost on the trail, but don’t panic! It all adds to the fun and allows you to explore more of what nature has to offer.
The botanical preserve was created in 1981 by the Winkler family, who planted hundreds of native tree species and saved the existing ones.
Now, students take classes here, but you can also explore the preserve yourself. There is also no entrance fee, making it the perfect free day out!
The end of the trail features Copperwood Tavern, a family-friendly restaurant in Shirlington where you can refuel after your long day!
Be sure to check out this preserve, located at 5400 Roanoke Avenue, Alexandria, VA.
6. Old Rag (Best For Night Hikes)
If you want to take a night hike, you need to heat up Old Rag! The popular trail is located in Shenandoah National Park and is well used by local hiking enthusiasts! You will usually meet one along the way that is happy to guide you around the trail.
These enthusiasts tend to have completed the trail many times, and are an asset you should utilize if you have never climbed Old Rag!
If you want a quieter and more magical hike, we recommend you set off during the night. This also helps to reduce the chances of queueing in long lines to cross the narrow passages.
During the winter, set off at 3 am and in the summer, you can start at 1am. You will want a head lamp, a good breakfast, and plenty of water with you.
Make sure everyone else hiking with you has these too, you don’t want anyone getting lost or hungry!
From the entrance of the Old Gate, it takes three hours to reach the top.
There is an elevation gain of 3,284 feet. If you set off at the times we have suggested, you should reach the top as the sun is rising. It is a stunning view that you won’t want to miss.
Although, this hike might not be for everyone. The hike is extremely strenuous with parts being dangerous.
There is a rock scramble close to the top where you will need to tap into your upper body strength, or have a little push from below. It’s not a hike we recommend doing alone, just in case this bit is your undoing.
The 9.2 mile hike is best left to those who are physically fit. There are plenty of other hikes suited for beginners or intermediate hikers, leave this one until you have become more experienced.
It is worth the hard work though! Once you reach the summit, there is a 360 degree view that you can soak up. Make sure you pause at the top to enjoy the sunrise, the views, and your breakfast!
After descending, we recommend heading to the Black Bear Bistro & Brick Oven. Here there are pizzas, salads, sandwiches, and beer on the menu to refuel you after your tough hike!
You can find this free hike at 600 State Route, Etlan, VA 22719.
7. Raven Rocks
If you are after an intermediate hike, Raven Rocks is a fantastic option! The hike is free too, so it is certainly worth a visit! The hike takes you through the best nature has, with the entire trail running from Maine to Georgia(see also: Ultimate Guide To Flea Markets In Atlanta, Georgia)! The Appalachian trail has a total distance of 2,189 miles, giving you plenty to explore!
Of course, there is no way you can complete the entire trail in one go! It would take over a month to do, but there are plenty of opportunities for you to return and explore the trail.
You can even access it when you aren’t in Virginia, making it a wonderful spot while you are on vacation.
The section of the trail that lands in Virginia is 5.8 miles long, with an elevation gain of 15550 feet. It’s a trail that can be completed in a day, making it a wonderful day out for you!
The trail crosses Route 7, on the western side of Round Hill. From here, it is located at Snickers Gap, a few miles out of Arlington.
We recommend you head off from the trailhead parking and head north along the path. This gives you an out-and-back trek that we think you will love. Plus you get the best views this way!
There is also a commuter route on the southern side you can take if you prefer. This allows you to head north on the white blazed path to complete your climb.
You will enjoy the trail whichever side you begin on, so select the one that is the easiest for you to travel to.
The path of the hike begins with a gentle climb, but it does get rocky and steep. It can feel like a rollercoaster as you climb! Make sure you take breaks and have plenty of snacks to power you through the steepest sections.
Just before the three mile mark, you will see a sign pointing to the Virginia and West Virginia border. Make sure you stop here to take in the views.
You will see panoramic views of Blue Ridge and Shenandoah Mountains, it is something you won’t want to miss!
You can find the trail at 1162 Pine Grove Road, Bluemont, VA 20135.
8. Burke Lake
If you are looking for a hike for the whole family, head to Burke Lake! It’s the largest lake in Fairfax County, boasting 888 acres. Plus, there is so much to do here that you can keep visiting for years to come.
There is so much to do here! You can enjoy disc-golf, mini-golf, fishing, boating, cross-country running, and even a miniature train ride! There really is something for everyone! And if you want to extend your stay, there are campgrounds available for you to take advantage of.
The hike itself is a 4.7 mile loop trail circling the lake.
The trail is great all year round too, so no matter when you have free time, you can head to Burke Lake and enjoy a hike. There are also plenty of places to stop and take in the view of the lake.
There’s a few trails here. All of them are level, with wide dirt paths that make it easy for anyone to walk and enjoy the view.
Plus, you can stop and watch turtles, birds, frogs, and other creatures. Who wouldn’t want to take in some of nature’s wonderful views along the way?
The easy hike is suitable for everyone, and the park even has a wheelchair and stroller accessible area you can take advantage of! If you are a Fairfax County resident too, you can enter for free!
Check out the hike at 7315 Ox Road, Fairfax Station, VA 22039.
9. Difficult Run (Great Falls Park)
Located in Great Falls Park, Difficult Run is a 5.1 mile hike that sees you trekking over boulders to reach the 300 foot elevation peak where you can access the park.
It is widely considered one of the best hikes in Northern VA thanks to the wonderful river views, beautiful waterfalls, and forests.
There is even some history you can enjoy as you climb and survey the beauty around you.
The hike is guided and supervised by the National Park Service as there are a lot of herons, muskrats, beavers, snakes, and foxes that call the park their home! Make sure you keep your distance from these animals to avoid startling them or incurring any injuries yourself.
The advanced trail involves you crossing Georgetown Pike (at the parking lot) to reach Difficult Run Stream.
From here, you will pass boulders and rapids to reach Potomac River’s confluence. Parts of the hike are rocky and steep, but you will see some of the most jaw dropping views in the area!
There is an entrance fee you will need to pay, and you can find the hike at 8801 Georgetown Pike, McLean, VA 22102.
10. Mason Neck State Park
Finally, we have Mason Neck State Park. This is a wonderful hike for anyone that loves birds, as this park has the highest number of bird species! The wild refuge is home to bald eagles and other birds too.
Bald eagles tend to be the most popular, with an Eagle festival held in the park every May! It’s worth timing your hike with the festival if you can.
You can start the trail at the nature center, where you can learn about how the park was developed in the late 1960s by conservationists.
Mason Neck State park was actually the first sanctuary created for bald eagles, it is worth a visit!
You are likely to see eagles hunting before returning to their nests for their partner to head out.
As bald eagles mate for life, you are sure to see pairs and even some babies flying around! The park has aided in the recovery of bald eagles, there is plenty there for you to see!
And there are lots of other birds here too. You can expect to see geese, ducks, migratory songbirds, herons, and egrets.
There are also butterfly gardens you can enjoy too! These are a lovely break from the hike and are simply too beautiful to miss!
There are several paths to enjoy at the park, a playground, a picnic area, and a special paved route, making it a wonderful location for the whole family!
There are also boardwalks that cross woody forests, wetlands, sandy beaches, and swamps, providing views of Belmont Bay. You get it all with this hike!
This is the perfect trail for a beginner. And with free entry, there is no reason not to take a visit! Find the hike at 7301 High Point Road, Lorton, VA 22079.
And there you have it, the 10 best Northern VA hikes for all levels! Whether you are looking for a steep climb, waterfalls, woodland walks, or a fun day out with the family, we are sure you will enjoy a hike in Northern Virginia!
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