More than 40 miles long, the Gerry Connolly Cross Country Trail runs through some of Fairfax County’s most scenic areas including the Occoquan River and Laurel Hill. Hike or walk and discover its rich diversity of plants, then grab a pint of Sessions in the Abyss Whole-Grain IPA or High Barbary Amber Lager at the dog-friendly Fair Winds Brewing Company, which is open for patio and inside seating with no reservation needed.
The 18-mile Bull Run-Occoquan Trail, NOVA Park’s longest natural surface trail, takes hikers through more than 5,000 acres of woodlands; it also played a vital role in American history from the Revolutionary to the Civil War, and you might come across battle points and even a grouping of earthen mounds that served as a make-shift fort. Adjacent to part of the trail is Paradise Springs Winery, known for its award-winning petit verdot; tours and tastings are suspended right now, but you can purchase a bottle or flight at the bar and enjoy it at your table.
Manassas National Battlefield Park encompasses around 5,100 acres of land and more than 40 miles of hiking trails, including a few loop trails that wind through key areas and interpretive markers describing the Civil War battles. But there are trails for any fitness level. Adjacent to the park is The Winery at Bull Run, which sits on a 225-acre property built to represent two types of historical Virginia barns and specializes in wine made with the native norton grape. They are currently open for outdoor seating only in their adult and family-friendly areas, with table reservations required Friday to Sunday; you can also enjoy a picnic at their Hillwood Park with no reservation needed.
Hop on the Appalachian Trail at Bear’s Den, the so-called gateway connecting hikers to the “rollercoaster” section of the trail. Once on the trail, it’s easy to access Bluemont Vineyard, currently offering several social distancing-friendly experiences including renting a row in their vineyards and patio service–either is great with a chilled bottle of their dry viognier. Walk-ins are welcome on weekdays but reservations are required on the weekend. If your penchant is for suds, head up to Dirt Farm Brewing, open daily for first-come, first-served outdoor seating; sweeping views of the mountains and valley are joined by beers like Shelter in Place Pale Ale and Coconut Milk Stout.
In the mood for a quick jaunt? Take a few laps around Lake Anne, the reservoir that’s part of the Difficult Run drainage area, where you just might spot a great blue heron. The village center surrounding the lake is home to a variety of retail and dining concepts including Lake Anne Brew House, a nano-brewery taphouse owned by the husband and wife team of Jason and Melissa Romano that’s open for limited indoor and outdoor seating; try their hefeweizen, named for that blue water fowl.
How about wine tasting combined with hiking? Stone Tower Winery (pictured above) recently introduced a self-guided vineyard tour, a 1.25-mile beginner-level hike through their vines, hills and terrain. Priced at $35 per person with advance reservations required, it includes a tote bag containing a map, two glasses and a four-bottle wine tasting kit. At various points during the 45-minute hike, you can scan a QR Code on the map to hear about the estate’s grape varietals and wine. Otherwise, non-members are welcome to visit their Harvest Barn Thursday through Monday or reserve a spot in the Tower View tasting room on Thursdays and Mondays; all visits are limited to 2 hours.
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