It’s fun to celebrate fall in Northern Virginia because the season brings cooler days, beautiful autumn foliage, and lots of Autumn ...
When you explore Sky Meadows State Park in Northern Virginia you’ll discover nature, hiking, history, and family-friendly events year-round; and the park is just 90 minutes west of Washington DC.
Sky Meadows State Park is located in Delaplane, at the northwestern edge of Fauquier County, Virginia. Early fall and spring are excellent times to visit the park, when cooler evenings bring down the heat in the open fields, but the park makes a nice destination throughout the year. Here is a sampling of the fun things to do when you explore Sky Meadows.
Take a Hike, Ride, or Bike
Sky Meadows offers 24 miles of hiking trails, from easy to challenging, including access to three miles of the Appalachian Trail. Horse lovers can enjoy 10.5 miles of bridle trails (bring your own horse), and bikes have access to 9 miles of paved roads and trails. Most of the horse and bike trails are on the east side of route 17 in the Lost Mountain section of the park.
Most of the hiking trails are accessed from the Historic Area on the west side of route 17. Visitors can get oriented to nature in the park and enjoy an easy 1-mile loop on the interpretive Snowden Trail. For a more challenging hike, we recommend a 4-mile loop circuit that leads to beautiful views across the Virginia Piedmont. If you want to extend your hike further, you can add a segment of the Appalachian Trail, which passes through the western edge of the park.
Attend a Sky Meadows Event
Celestial Events at Sky Meadows
Sky Meadows has a lot of open space, and they offer some beautiful star-gazing activities during the year. Check the website for activities like the Full Moon Walk, with a chance to see the valley under the light of a nearly full moon. The Northern Virginia Astronomy Club frequently holds events that give visitors a chance to view deep space objects through large telescopes. Moon and star-gazing events are weather dependent, so be sure to check with the park before heading out.
Spring Strawberry Festival
The annual family-friendly Delaplane Strawberry Festival returns to Sky Meadows in late May. Enjoy hayrides, old fashioned field games, dancing, music, magic, storytelling, crafts, a petting farm, an antique car show, a bake sale, hiking, face painting, cake-walking, a corn hole tournament and more. Pack your own picnic or purchase pizza, wraps, hot dogs, funnel cakes, and, of course, strawberry shortcake and sundaes. Enjoy the day then take home a flat of delicious fresh strawberries. In 2016, admission is $20 per vehicle in advance, $25 at the gate, and the event runs from 10:00 – 5:00 on May 28th and 29th.
Fall Farm Days and Pumpkin Patch
In the Fall, the Sky Meadows Historic Area offers festive food, live music, pick-your-own pumpkins, a corn maze, historic tours, blacksmith demonstrations, a children’s play area, and more during Fall Farm Days. In 2015, these special celebrations were held the first four weekends of October, with weekly themes like “The Nature of Sky Meadows.” Fall Farm Day activities are generally included with the regular $5 park admission.
More Sky Meadows State Park Events
Like most Virginia State Parks, Sky Meadows offers special events, talks, guided hikes, and other happenings nearly every weekend throughout the year. Easter Egg Hunts in Spring, Civil War Encampments, First Day Hikes, and more offer visitors a wide array of experiences. Check the park website for the latest event listings.
Explore Sky Meadows History
Sky Meadows State Park opened in 1983 after the 1,132 acre farm was saved from planned development and donated to the state by philanthropist Paul Mellon. Later, Mellon donated an additional 462 acres of the Lost Mountain Bridle Trail tract to the park.
The history of the farm began much earlier, though, when James Ball purchased the land from Lord Fairfax in 1731. George Washington also purchased a parcel of land in the Lost Mountain Bridle Trail section from Lord Fairfax. The farm changed hands many times before owner Abner Settle built Bleak House to accommodate his growing family. Today the park offers tours of Bleak House, which is furnished to reflect life in a middle-class farmhouse during the 1850s.
Nearby outbuildings include a rustic log cabin, an open barn with farm instruments on display, and a Visitor Center with shop and restrooms. Don’t miss the beautiful views from the back of Bleak House.
Enjoy Shoreline Fishing
Freshwater, shoreline fishing is available at the 3-acre Turner Pond. The pond is periodically stocked with a variety of fish including largemouth bass, catfish, crappie, sunfish and bluegill. A valid Virginia State Fishing License, which can be purchased online or through local retailers, is required, and watercraft are not permitted.
Spend the Night at a Primitive Campsite
Sky Meadows offers a unique, peaceful camping experience at their primitive, hike-in, tent camping sites. The year-round camping area, at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is reachable by a one-mile hike from the overnight parking area via the Hadow Trail. You can also reach the campground by bike (fat tires recommended), but there is no vehicle access. There are 15 individual tent sites, plus group sites for 12, 24, and 36 campers. Reservations are required.
Loop Drive to Sky Meadows from Fairfax County
Here’s a fun loop drive, with stops where you can enjoy a meal or a drink, if you have time. Make your way to Sky Meadows on the John S. Mosby Highway, aka Route 50 west, then drive south on 17 to the park entrane. Consider a stop at the Aldie Mill for a little history or at the Blackthorne Inn for a pint and some cottage pie at the tavern. If the weather is nice you can sit outside behind the tavern and do some bird watching. We encountered two fat guinea hens in the parking lot.
When you finish your visit to Sky Meadows, take 17 north, but turn left onto route 50 west, then right on Blue Ridge Mountain Road. You’ll pass the super secret Mount Weather Emergency Center. Put that camera down! When the road ends on route 7, turn right, then take the first right onto Snickersville Turnpike (route 734). Snickersville is a nice, leisurely drive southeast, connecting back to 50 near Gilbert’s Corner.
If you skipped the pint and have regrets, you could follow the signs to Bluemont Winery for a relaxing glass of Viognier and one of the most beautiful views in the Virginia wine country. Beer fans can visit Dirt Farm Brewing, owned by the same family (who also own Great Country Farms) and featuring that same gorgeous view.
We always enjoy exploring Virginia State Parks; and we return to Sky Meadows often for the journey, the hiking, and the beautiful views.
Sky Meadows State Park
11012 Edmunds Lane
Delaplane, VA 20144