Visit Sky Meadows State Park in Northern Virginia for beautiful hiking, scenic views, history, star-gazing, fishing, and family-friendly events. The park is perfect for a day trip from Washington DC, just 90 minutes west of the nation's capital.
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. However, the park makes a nice destination throughout the year.
Here is a sampling of the fun things to do when you visit Sky Meadows State Park.
Hike, Ride, or Bike Sky Meadow Trails
Sky Meadows offers 24 miles of hiking trails, from easy to challenging, including access to three miles of the Appalachian Trail. Equestrians 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 Mount Bleak 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 from the Piedmont Overlook. The loop hike passes through woodlands, fields, and pastures on the hilly terrain of the eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains. To extend your hike further, add a segment of the Appalachian Trail, which passes through the western edge of the park.
Attend a Sky Meadows Event
There are interesting and family-friendly events at Sky Meadows State Park throughout the year. Special events feature park history, botany, trails, star-gazing, and more. For example, there are annual Easter Egg Hunts, Kids to Parks Day hikes, and National Trail Day clean-ups. History programs include Revolutionary and Civil War Encampments and tours of Mount Bleak House.
Special activities are generally included with the regular $10 park admission. A few annual events are highlighted below, and you can find more in the park event listings.
First Day Hikes
Kick off a new year of healthy activity with a First Day Hike at Sky Meadows. Ranger-led and self-guided hikes explore the park's trails, and participants can enter an annual photo contest to win prizes.
Sky Meadows Dark Sky Events
One of only five International Dark Sky Parks in Virginia, Sky Meadows State Park offers world-class stargazing. These parks are certified by the International Dark Sky Association as having “an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment.”
Fortunately, the park offers beautiful, family-friendly star-gazing activities throughout the year. At “Astronomy for Everyone” events, members of the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club give visitors a chance to view deep space objects through large telescopes. The events include a Junior Astronomer program and presentations by NASA JPL Ambassadors.
Moon and star-gazing events are weather-dependent, so be sure to check with the park before heading out. Visitors are encouraged to bring a chair or blanket and your own binoculars.
Fall Farm Days
In the Fall, the Sky Meadows Historic Area offers nature-themed programs, historic tours, blacksmith demonstrations, a children’s play area, and more during Fall Farm Days. These special celebrations are held the first four weekends of October, with weekly themes like “The Nature of Sky Meadows.”
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 park's name comes from former owner Robert Hadow who named the property Skye Farm after the Isle of Skye in Scotland.
The property changed hands many times before owner Abner Settle built Bleak House to accommodate his growing family. Today the park offers tours of the historic Mount 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 a shop and restrooms.
Don't miss the beautiful views from the back of Bleak House.
Enjoy Shoreline Fishing at Turner Pond
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.
The pond area is also a nice picnic spot with picnic tables, restrooms, and a small parking area. You'll also find a picnic area near Bleak House and another near the equestrian and bike trails.
Spend the Night at a Primitive Campsite
Sky Meadows offers a unique, peaceful camping experience at their primitive hike-in tent camping sites. There are no cabins or drive-up spaces at the park. 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. Sites include a tent pad, picnic table, bear box, and fire pit. Reservations are required.
Scenic Loop Drive: Fairfax to Sky Meadows Park
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.
Continue west on 50, then turn south on Route 17 just before the tiny town of Paris. Entrances to Sky Meadows will be on your right, just south of the turn.
When you finish your visit to Sky Meadows, go left on route 50, 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, go 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.
Sky Meadows State Park is at 11012 Edmunds Lane in Delaplane, VA. Visit the park website for the latest event schedule.