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Here are 8 great Fall hikes in Northern Virginia, perfect when the weather turns cooler and dryer, and the foliage puts on a show. Several of these hikes can be combined with a stop at one of our beautiful Virginia wineries. While these trails are especially pretty with Autumn colors, they are all enjoyable year-round. We’ve linked to more round-ups of great hikes in Northern Virginia below.
This mostly level, dirt trail along the Potomac provides continuous river views. Stop at the Riverbend and Great Falls Visitor Centers to learn about the history and geology of your hike—you’ll pass a stretch of George Washington’s Potowmac Canal. Overlooks at Great Falls and Mather Gorge add dramatic views to the river’s beauty. This is a good hike for families; just turn back if the kids start to get tired. Avoid after a heavy rain or when the river level is high. Potomac hike details.
The only State Park in Fairfax County, Mason Neck offers several nice trails with bay, woods, and marsh views. The easy, quarter mile Marsh View Trail is ideal for young children or folks with limited mobility. The moderate 2-mile hike to Kane’s Creek provides a little more challenge, ending in a bird blind overlooking the marsh, where we watched bald eagles and herons (bring your binoculars). The popular Bay View Trail combines views of Belmont Bay with marsh and wooded sections in a 1-mile loop. If time allows, you can also walk the paved, 3/4-mile Great Marsh Trail, accessible from Gunston Road. Mason Neck hike details.
Crisp Fall days are perfect for hiking the open fields of Manassas National Battlefield, where you can immerse yourself in the details of two important Civil War battles. We hiked the 5-mile First Manassas loop, but shorter hikes are available from the Visitor Center and the old Stone Bridge. After your hike, continue your history lesson with a stop at The Winery at Bull Run. Picnickers gathered here to watch the Battle of First Manassas unfold, and some even became caught up in the action. Manassas Battlefield hike details.
Burke Lake, the largest lake in the Fairfax County Park system, is a wonderful place for boating, fishing, disc golf, and cross-country running. For a Fall hiking visit, try the 5-mile trail that circles the lake. Most of the trail is a wide, level, dirt path, with frequent places to stop and enjoy views of the lake. This is a family-friendly hike with plenty of opportunities to watch turtles, frogs, birds, and other critters. Burke Lake hike details.
The Bull Run – Occoquan Trail is 17 miles long, beginning at Bull Run Regional Park in the north, and ending at Fountainhead Regional Park in the south. We like to hike the segment accessible from Yates Farm Road in Clifton, following Bull Run (a run is a stream) in either direction. This trail segment has the distinct advantage of ending right next to lovely Paradise Springs Winery, where you can celebrate your walk with a nice glass of wine. If it’s near meal-time, you can choose from several restaurants in the quaint and historic town of Clifton. Bull Run – Occoquan Trail hike details.
You’ll find open fields, wooded hills, and beautiful views when you hike the trails at Sky Meadows State Park. We enjoyed a 4-mile loop hike that culminates in a gorgeous view of the valley from the Piedmont Overlook Trail. The park includes 17 miles of trails, a segment of the Appalachian Trail and a 1-mile interpretive trail, so you can choose your level of difficulty. After your hike, you can continue the views with a short drive north to Bluemont Vineyards. On our last visit, we could see the buildings of Tysons Corner from the porch at Bluemont. Sky Meadows hike details.
If you’re looking for a walk along the Potomac River, Seneca Tract in Great Falls provides access to a nice segment of the Potomac Heritage Trail )PHT). Seneca Tract also includes lovely wooded trails, perfect for enjoying late Fall foliage. Like the hike at Riverbend, the riverside trail is muddy or impassible after a heavy storm, so visit on a dry day. Another nice segment of the PHT is accessible from Turkey Run Park, off of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Seneca Tract hike details.
8. Big Schloss
The trailhead is in West Virginia, but the hike straddles the border, and the peak is at least partly in Virginia, so this hike makes the cut. A 4-mile out and back hike, the payoff is a rocky white sandstone summit with gorgeous views into West Virginia and Virginia. The hike begins at the Mill Mountain trailhead, in the Wolf Gap Campground. The first .7 miles climbs steadily on a somewhat rocky trail; but beyond that you’ll follow a fairly level ridge until you cross a wooden bridge to reach the summit and those amazing views. Big Schloss hike details.
You can explore several different trails at Bull Run Mountains, but the White Rocks Overlook is closed due to erosion (since early 2015). There are some interesting historic sites along the lower trails, including an old cemetery and quarry trench, so you can still hike in the area. However, you can’t currently reach the rocky outcropping at the end of the Bull Run Ridge Trail so you’ll miss the beautiful views west to the Blue Ridge Mountains. If you do visit, relax with a stop at the nearby Winery at La Grange after your hike. Bull Run Mountains hike details.
Those are 8 of our favorite Fall hikes in Northern Virginia, perfect for a crisp autumn day. Since it’s such a great season to hike, we rounded up a second batch of great Fall hikes in Virginia:
Check out these round-ups for more of our favorite Northern Virginia trails:
- Short Hikes to Gorgeous Virginia Views
- 8 Epic Virginia Trails to Hike and Bike Less Than 2 Hours From DC
- 5 Hike and Wine Day Trips Close to Washington DC
- 8 Great Winter Walks in Northern Virginia
- 8 Great Spring Hikes in Northern Virginia
- 8 Great Summer Hikes in Northern Virginia
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