A hike on the Bull Run Occoquan Trail, followed by a visit to Paradise Springs Winery, is an ideal way to spend an active but peaceful day outdoors in Fairfax County, Virginia. This walk and wine combination expands on our earlier article about the charming town of Clifton, one of the prettiest small towns in Northern Virginia.
This central portion of the Bull Run trail stay close to the stream in both directions. As you hike further away from the trailhead, you’ll encounter more steep and wooded sections of the BROT. Below we describe three options for hiking the central BROT, including a pretty loop hike. Use these guides to hike other sections of the BROT:
- Northern Bull Run Occoquan Trail Hike in Northern Virginia
- Bull Run Occoquan Trail: Fountainhead to Bull Run Marina Hike
About the Bull Run Occoquan Trail
The Bull Run Occoquan Trail (aka the BROT follows the Bull Run Stream Valley and Occoquan Reservoir along the western edge of Fairfax County. The trail is 18 miles long, beginning at Bull Run Regional Park in the north, and ending at Fountainhead Regional Park in the south. The trail is managed by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority and delivers a pretty slice of nature in busy Northern VA.
The BROT meanders through woods and along the water’s edge. It’s a nice place for bird-lovers to see heron, hawks, vultures, woodpeckers, and more. Deer, fox, and other wildlife are also common in the park.
Bull Run Occoquan Trail Hike
Our Bull Run Occoquan Trail hike begins at the end of Yates Ford Road in Clifton Virginia and leads to the central portion of the 18-mile trail. A short access trail leads down to Bull Run, and from there you can hike north or south. While some segments of the BROT are steep and challenging, the hike we describe here is mostly level along the water. Happily, this segment begins near the lovely Paradise Springs Winery, offering a relaxing stop at the end of your hike.
To reach the trailhead, follow the signs to Hemlock Overlook Regional Park, driving down Yates Ford Road to the end. Hemlock Overlook Park is operated as an education center by Adventure Links (great programs for kids), but you can use the access trail without entering the Adventure Links property. Park in the public lot and follow the yellow-blazed access trail down to the stream.
Once you reach the stream—Bull Run—you can head north or south, following the Bull Run Occoquan Trail along the water.
Central Bull Run Occoquan Trail Loop Hike
Here is a 3-mile loop hike that includes a pretty section of the BROT. Turned right and hike north, following the trail next to the water. The dirt path is mostly level, but there are some rocky sections.
As you hike north you’ll pass the remains of a former bridge crossing.
A few benches are installed next to the trail so you can stop and enjoy the view. There are also flat rocks jutting into the water where you can sit and cool your feet. Be cautious though, as the current can be quite strong.
Watch for a trail on your right to loop back to the parking area. This steep trail, marked with yellow blazes, passes through the Adventurelinks property in Hemlock Park (keep heading straight) to return to the parking lot. There are pretty mountain laurel blooms on this trail in June.
There are some rocky sections along the river and it’s likely to be muddy after a rain, but our 2-mile loop hike was peaceful, shady, and populated with great blue herons and turkey vultures.
Alternatively, you could continue to hike north on the BROT as far as you like then return to the parking lot on the Yates Ford access trail.
Central Bull Run Occoquan Trail to Bull Run Marina
To hike a longer and steeper section of the BROT, hike down to the water on the Yates Ford access trail and turn left. From here you can hike 4.5 miles to Bull Run Marina, another major access point for the BROT.
Heading south, the trail starts out level and close to the water. Before long the path moves away from Bull Run and into the woods. The rest of the hike includes some steep sections where you descend then climb to navigate small stream crossings.
Bull Run widens as you head south and get closer to the marina. You’ll have some water views from the ridge, especially during cold months when there is less foliage. It’s a pretty hike except for a short stretch that skirts the edge of the Kincheloe Soccer Park.
Paradise Springs Winery
Finished your hike and ready to relax? Lucky for you that the Yates Ford parking lot is right across from Paradise Springs, the oldest winery in Fairfax County. Paradise Springs Winery has a beautiful tasting barn, a large porch, and loads of outdoor space.
There are a lot of great seating options—on the front patio or lawn, at picnic tables next to the vineyard, in the tasting room, or on the enclosed back porch. Behind the barn is a huge lawn dotted with picnic tables that’s popular with groups and families.
The winery has a small menu of crackers and cheeses and sometimes offers food pairings from local restaurants. Paradise Springs Winery is open daily from 11:00 to 7:00, to 9:00 on Fridays. Check the winery website for event listings.
Dine and Explore Charming Clifton Virginia
Another great option for post-hike fun is to explore charming and historic Clifton. The walkable downtown is full of lovely architecture highlighted with interesting signs. There are several excellent restaurants, local shops, and a fun ice cream shop in town. Clifton is one of our favorite day trip destinations in the DC area.
Bull Run Occoquan Trail Essentials
Find more information and any trail closures on the NOVA Parks website.
- The Bull Run Occoquan Trail is open daily, from dawn to dusk.
- There is no admission fee and parking is free to area residents. Non-residents pay an $8 day-use fee at Bull Run Regional Park.
- The entire trail is open to hikers, runners, and leashed dogs.
- Mountain biking is allowed, but only on the southern trail section between Fountainhead and Bull Run Marina.
- Equestrians can use most of the trail and there are bypass trails available to avoid any obstructions.
- Fountainhead and Bull Run Park have restrooms, but there are no public facilities on other trail sections.
- 5000 acres of woodlands surround the trail, including beautiful mature hemlock, sycamores, pines, and beech, and other trees.
- Revolutionary and Civil War sites on the BROT include a section of the Washington Rochambeau Wagon Route and a Civil War emplacement
A walk and wine outing is one perfect way to enjoy a beautiful day in Northern Virginia.