Editor’s note: This story was updated on November 16, 2021.
Nestled within Sterling, Algonkian offers expansive outdoor activity space, including plenty of well-worn, flat paths for hiking. An 18-hole golf course, horseback riding trail, boat launch, and fishing spots round out the more than 800-acre park. And for an extended break from the ordinary, take advantage of the park’s riverfront cottages. 47001 Fairway Dr., Sterling; 703-450-4655
FALL FUN: Celebrate the season with a Fall Colors Kayak tour. The guided tour takes kayakers out for a spectacular view of the brilliant red, orange and yellow leaves along the Potomac River.
Several hiking trails run through Rust Sanctuary, offering outdoor enthusiasts the chance to spot wild animals and flowers. The property also hosts a Fresh Air Kids Nature Program and is home to the Rust Manor House for special events. 802 Children’s Center Rd., Leesburg; 703-669-0755
It may be on the bucket list of many serious hikers, but the Appalachian Trail offers options for those who don’t want to tackle the entire 14-state route. Virginia claims 554 miles of the world-famous foot path (more than any other state) and there are several places in NoVA to try out the trail. Enter Shenandoah National Park at the Thornton Gap entrance (off of U.S. Route 211) to hike to Mary’s Rock for 360-degree overlook views. The 7.2-mile roundtrip hike is considered one of the most gorgeous along Virginia’s portion of the Appalachian Trail. 3655 U.S. Highway 211 East, Luray; 304-535-6331
For an energetic outdoor experience, look no further than this forested education center near Clifton. Power walk on the nearly 20-mile Bull Run-Occoquan Hiking Trail, steeped in Revolutionary War and Civil War history. The moderately strenuous hike tackles some hilly territory, but the opportunity to explore battle sites is worth the sweat. 13220 Yates Ford Rd., Clifton; 800-877-0954
Though one could simply drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway, which runs from North Carolina to Virginia, there are also plenty of opportunities to hike, bike ride, and camp. Sights within Virginia include Rocky Knob Recreation Area (Milepost 169) and Apple Orchard Mountain (Milepost 76.5). 1670 Blue Ridge Pkwy., Floyd; 877-444-6777
Relish in the quiet of Fauquier County on a walk down the Vint Hills Farm Park nature trail, and consider toting a fishing rod or some horseshoes for some favorite pastimes. Vint Hill Rd. & Kennedy Rd., Warrenton; 540-422-8890
Leesburg is the setting for this park, celebrated for its views of the Potomac River. Set out on one of their 67-acres of trails and catch an awe-inspiring look at the river from the overlook. 43098 Edwards Ferry Rd., Leesburg; 703-779-9372
Come to McLean for some of the nicest series of waterfalls in the area, housed in an 800-acre park known for its hiking and whitewater kayaking opportunities. Many hiking trails are considered easy to moderate, meaning getting a glimpse of the gorgeous falls is an option for many—though hiking to the popular Mather Gorge is recommended for more experienced hikers. Fishing enthusiasts are also welcome, provided they have the proper license. 9200 Old Dominion Dr., McLean; 703-757-3101
As its name suggests, this 45-mile trail once served as a railroad that began service in the mid-19th century and ran from Alexandria to Loudoun County. Today, the trail welcomes commuting cyclists, horseback riders, joggers, and folks just needing a relaxing stroll after a long day. 21293 Smiths Switch Rd., Ashburn; 703-729-0596
Enjoy views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah’s sprawling national park that runs through Virginia and covers roughly 200,000 acres. Though there is ample opportunity to hike (with some 500 miles of trails), there are also dozens of streams and waterfalls along the way with fishing potential. 3655 U.S. Highway 211 East, Luray; 540-999-3500
FALL FUN: Check out the Ranger Programs page. The National Park Service’s experts offer a range of guided tours and talks all yearlong to fully immerse yourself in the Shenandoah.
This Fredericksburg park boasts 860 acres of outdoor space and has a large reservoir for water activities that doubles as a photo-worthy backdrop for hiking. A nature center and moderate-to-strenuous orienteering trails are also popular. 6600 River Rd., Fredericksburg; 540-786-8989