Hiking through Northern Virginia’s 10,000-plus acres of parkland offers more than a workout. Here are some of our favorite hikes that let you take in cascades and water-views, bring the kids or a stroller and go to birdwatch or learn about the natural environment.
Buzzard Hill in Bluemont is a 3-4.5-mile, out-and-back hike on the Appalachian Trail that’s the sister hike to Raven Rocks, and starts at Bears Den. Be prepared for creek-crossings and cascades on an unpaved path that takes you up Buzzard Hill for an elevation gain of 728 feet. When you get to the top, you’ll have west-facing views of the surrounding mountains. 1948 Morgans Mill Rd., Belmont
Birch Bluff Trail in Triangle is a 2.2-mile loop hike through Prince William Forest Park by way of the Laurel Loop Trail. Starting behind the bathrooms in the Pine Grove Picnic Area, enter the Laurel Loop Trail. Walk for about one-third of a mile on Laurel Loop and when the yellow blazes on the trees turn to red, you’ve found Birch Bluff Trail. This trail follows Quantico Creek on sandy trails leading you to a cascade before it returns to the picnic area. 18170 Park Entrance Rd., Triangle
Bayview Trail in Lorton is a one-mile loop hike through Mason Neck State Park. You’ll trek through the forest and along coastlines, along the wetlands and across a freshwater marsh. The hike includes bridge crossing before the trail comes to a picnic area and playground. There’s also a sandy beach by Belmont Bay. 7301 High Point Rd., Lorton
Lake Thoreau Loop Trail in Reston is a two-mile paved path walk that’s good for strollers and has some hills in the mix to keep things interesting for more grown-up kids. Mixed sun and shade will help you and your entourage stay cool. Lake Thoreau Loop Trail, Reston
Wildlife & Nature
Lake Accotink Trail in Fairfax is a 4.5-mile walk or bike path where you can spot Eastern Painted Turtles sunning on the rocks. The variated path runs around the lake, and through the forest and marsh where you can spot a wide variety of waterfowl and other birds. 7500 Accotink Park Rd., Springfield
Dora Kelley Nature Park in Alexandria is a one-mile hike on a nature trail through the forest and woodlands. Along the trail, you’ll notice markers that explain the different types of birds typical to the area and explain how to identify specific types of trees growing among the variety in the forest. Expect to see frogs, turtles and salamanders as you walk. 5750 Sanger Ave., Alexandria
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