By Micaela Williamson
Editor’s note: This article was updated on November 16, 2021.
After one of the warmest summers on record, residents are thrilled that the fall has brought a breath of fresh air. The wonderful parks and trails of Northern Virginia offer many options for families of babies wanting to explore nature this fall. Check out some of our favorite suggestions:
Best Stroller Friendly Hikes
Prince William Forest Park
Prince William Forest Park, located in Dumfries, offers beautiful, well-maintained hiking, including a path right next to a playground that is paved for those who would like to take to the woods with their stroller. Kristina Kotlus of www.pwcmoms.com notes, “Hiking is one of our favorite fall activities since we can go on leaf hunts for different species of leaves. The paths at Prince William Forest Park are great for a variety of ages.”
Built on the roadbed of the former Washington & Old Dominion Railroad, the W&OD Trail offers 45 miles of paved trail from Shirlington in Arlington to the countryside of Purcellville in Loudoun County. It’s easy and fun to hop on the trail with a stroller or bike.
Mount Vernon Trail
The Mount Vernon Trail travels along the Potomac River from Theodore Roosevelt Island to the beautiful Mount Vernon Estate. Stroller fans will love that the ground is flat and mostly paved the whole way. There are many places to pick up the trail, as well as parks and picnic grounds along the way.
Put the baby in a carrier
Just because a trail isn’t paved or flat, doesn’t mean that baby needs to be left at home. With so many great carriers on the market, it’s easy to bring baby along on the fun. Experts at Baby Blossom, with store locations in Reston and Fairfax, suggest:
“For babies to younger toddlers, Ergobaby (various models) and Beco Gemini offer great options for babywearing. These carriers can give you the flexibility to carry your little one on the front or the back (age and weight permitting). For older toddlers (usually up to age three), a backpack-style carrier — such as the Phil & Teds Escape – can have numerous benefits including a higher seating position for the child, additional storage space, and a sun/rain canopy. When choosing a backpack carrier, be sure to look for foot stirrups for your child – this helps with comfort and circulation.”
Carry your little one at some of these great local spots
* Banshee Reefs Nature Preserve: Operated by the Loudoun County Parks department, this preserve in Leesburg is only open on the weekends. Make a special trip out here to experience untouched lands and view plant and animal specials. View the trail map at https://www.bansheereeks.org/
* Huntley Meadows Park: Located in Alexandria, this park offers a two mile interpretive trail loop and over 200 species of birds live here. There is also a visitors’ center and boardwalk trail through the marshland.
Regardless of the carrier you choose, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for a child’s weight and height and how you may use the carrier. Importantly, if your child cannot yet sit up unaided (typically before six months old) be sure to first check with your pediatrician to see if he or she can safely handle the rigors of being carried on a hike. Happy trails to you!
Micaela Williamson is the creator of www.supernovamommy.com, a popular, local blog that focuses on Northern Virginia families and events. Her website was recently voted “Best Blog 2012” in Northern Virginia Magazine. Micaela enjoys supporting area businesses and scouting out family-friendly venues with her two young sons.