Sip, relax, and soak in beautiful Northern Virginia winery views at these vineyards close to Washington DC. Enjoy views of ...
Every day of lovely Fall weather is another day to explore beautiful Northern Virginia. We love a walk and wine combination, and it’s even better with history added to the mix. This week we visited Manassas National Battlefield Park and The Winery at Bull Run for a walk, wine and history.
Manassas National Battlefield Park
Manassas National Battlefield Park preserves the site of two major battles of the Civil War. On July 21, 1861, two nascent armies clashed for the first time. The Confederate troops prevailed, but significant losses on both sides was a sobering indicator that this would not be a quick war. A year later the armies would converge here again and the Confederate army would secure a solid victory in the Battle of Second Manassas.
Located just outside the Fairfax County boundary, to the west of Bull Run, the parkland looks much like it did during the time of the battles. Several buildings, armaments and extensive historical markers tell the story of both of the battles fought here. Even the two major roadways which transect the park—now routes 29 and 234—played a part in the battle.
The National Park Service maintains an excellent Visitor Center off of Sudley Road, and we encourage first time visitors to begin here. A 45-minute film describing both the First and Second Battles of Manassas plays every hour. For a shorter visit, we recommend the 6-minute narrated map display which shows Union and Confederate positions during the first battle.
First Manassas Loop Trail
The 5.5 mile First Manassas Trail covers much of the ground that Union and Confederate troops traveled during their first encounter. Some of the hike is wooded, but most of it is in open fields, so this hike is best for cool weather or a cloudy day. There are some steep and rocky sections, but most of the terrain is moderate or easy.
We parked and began our hike at the Stone Bridge parking area, on the eastern edge of the park, but you could also park at the Visitor’s Center and hike from there.
The Stone Bridge over Bull Run was destroyed during the Civil War, but the current bridge follows a similar design. Once you cross the bridge, head right and follow the trail along the river until it turns up the hill to you left and enters the meadow.
After some meadow hiking, you’ll pass Pittsylvania, a mansion owned by the Carter family. Used as a hospital during the war (like many buildings), we were impressed with the description by one eyewitness of the wounded lying on four-poster beds in the dilapidated mansion.
Cannons and signs on Marshall Hill mark the site of the Union advance. From the hilltop you’ll see the Stone House, which was constantly under fire and also used as a hospital, sometimes by Confederate and sometimes by Union armies, during the battles. The Stone House is open on weekends until Columbus Day, but it was closed when we hiked by.
The trail crosses busy route 29 at The Stone House and there is no crossing light so use caution. After crossing the road, you’ll head back uphill in open fields toward Henry House and the Visitor Center. This area was the site of some of the heaviest fighting during the battle.
The rebuilt Henry House marks the site where 85 year old Judith Carter Henry became the only civilian casualty of the battle (her grave is also nearby). Behind the house, a monument honors the dead from both sides of the conflict. If you have time, continue around the Henry Hill loop to the statue of Stonewall Jackson and other markers.
When you reach the Visitor Center, stop in to watch the video or the fiber-optic map presentation (and maybe buy a souvenir at the store). The First Manassas Trail continues at the end of the parking lot, crossing the Henry Hill loop before heading back into the woods. It’s about 2 miles from the Visitor Center back to the Stone Bridge boardwalk.
If you’re looking for a shorter hike that’s good for younger kids, the Stone Bridge Loop Trail focuses on the area’s natural resources and includes a long stretch of boardwalk.
The Winery at Bull Run
All that hiking had to make you tired and thirsty. Fortunately, if you’re parked at the Stone Bridge, you can see the entrance to The Winery at Bull Run calling to you. Not only will you find delicious Virginia wines here, but you can also continue your history lesson. This is one of only two Fairfax County wineries, and it’s a beautiful place to relax after a hike.
Spectators from as far away as DC set up picnics on the hillside here to watch the battle. When some spectators decided to get a closer look they got caught up in the chaotic Union retreat. New York Rep Alfred Ely got a little too close and was taken prisoner by the Confederates.
The Winery property has preserved the remains of buildings that stood here during the 1800s, including the stone patio that was present during the Battle of First Manassas. Inside the Tasting Barn you’ll find interesting displays of artifacts found on the property and other historic information.
There are lots of options for relaxing with your wine—rockers and tables on the patio, plenty of indoor seating, and two large outdoor areas with picnic tables—one for adults and one for families with children along.
A glass of Viognier, a comfy rocking chair, and a view of the Virginia countryside. What a nice way to finish a day of history and hiking.