Updated on May 9, 2023 by Julie McCool
Hike or bike Fairfax CCT segment 8 to explore woodland trails in the Difficult Run Stream Valley, a section of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail, and paths in Reston Virginia. This section of the Fairfax Cross County Trail is easy to access and close to parking. The trail is not remote, but it includes some nicely wooded sections, stream views, and a little history.
Hiking north to south, CCT segment 8 begins near the Dulles Toll Road underpass in Vienna and ends at Lawyers Road in Reston. Park at either end of the hike, on Days Farm Drive or Lawyers Road, for an 8-mile out-and-back hike.
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The 4-mile segment is also easy to break into roughly even, two-mile hikes. Just park in the small lot at Hunter Mill and Hunter Station Roads, and hike in either direction. Use this Fairfax Park Authority map to see the full route.
The Fairfax Cross County Trail, aka the CCT or the Gerry Connolly Cross County Trail, connects stream valleys and parkland on a 40-mile journey from the Potomac River to the Occoquan. Learn more about the trail in our guide: 5 Tips for Hiking the Cross County Trail.
Fairfax CCT Segment 8: Dulles Toll Road to Hunter Mill Road
This section of Fairfax CCT segment 8 includes a pleasant mile-and-a-half walk in the woods. Next, you follow a short paved stretch of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail. The final section returns to the woods in Reston. The trail is easy and popular for hiking, dog-walking, and single-track biking.
To complete all of segment 8, hiking north to south, park on Days Farm Drive in Vienna. There are a few downsides to starting from the north side of the toll road. The trail is often very muddy as you approach the underpass below the Dulles Toll Road.
There are more muddy sections and lots of side trails just south of the underpass. Finally, there is a fair-weather stream crossing on concrete pillars that is sometimes underwater.
To skip these challenges, start your hike a bit further south. Park at the end of Brittenford or Squaw Valley Drives on the south side and join the CCT from here. This lets you skip the underpass and stream crossing, and you'll only miss a short section of trail.
Cross a metal bridge and, for the next mile-and-a-half, you'll hike a dirt path through Difficult Run Stream Valley Park. The trail passes close to houses in a few spots, but this section generally feels remote and quiet. Two short, steep hills and easy stream crossings add a little variety to your walk. Spring wildflowers and summer blooms add color to the woodland and streamside views.
Segment 8 of the CCT is also a popular trail for off-road biking. The trail is single-track throughout this section and it is a good option for beginners. There are some small challenges along the way, but this is an easy ride overall. Conveniently, this section connects to the W&OD bike trail.
Eventually, you will reach an open field at Tamarack Park, near the W&OD. At the end of the field, turn left on the paved path until it connects with the W&OD. Then, follow the paved bike trail or the parallel bridle trail, another quarter mile to Hunter Mill Road.
Now time for some history! The intersection of Hunter Mill Road and the W&OD includes several historic markers describing important Civil War events. The markers were researched and championed by the Hunter Mill Defense League, a citizen's group formed to protect the rural and historic character of Hunter Mill Road. There is also a port-a-potty and bench here, and a small parking lot across the road.
Hike Hunter Mill to Lawyers Road on the Fairfax Cross County Trail
After you soak up some history, cross Hunter Mill Road and continue on the W&OD. You can stick to the paved path, but we prefer the dirt bridle trail, which follows the same route. The bridle trail is rockier and more hilly as it passes behind neighborhood houses.
In about half a mile you'll hike up a steep hill and cross Buckthorn Road. At the first neighborhood access path, turn left and head back into the woods. Enter the woods next to the CCT map sign and Twin Branches Trail sign. Be careful crossing over the bike trail—bikes often come flying down the hill.
The trail here borders Snakeden Branch, one of the streams that feed into Difficult Run. Watch for a right turn over the second of two wooden bridges.
If you are looking for scenic spots to photograph, you can take a quick side trip before crossing the bridge. Continue straight pass the bridge, heading toward the stream as the path curves. The stream pools at this curve creating a nice view. In summer look for fish where the water pools. When you're ready, walk back and cross the bridge.
Bear left after you cross the bridge and continue on the trail through the woods. Pretty trees line the path and we often see wildflowers here.
In less than half a mile, the trail climbs to a ridge over a small dam. Turn left and cross the ridge where the trail widens. Soon you'll cross a metal bridge where you can look for harmless water snakes that nest in the rocks. There is a nice thicket of mountain laurel past the bridge crossing, which blooms in late May and early June.
The trail, now paved) climbs steeply uphill to Twin Branches Road. Before you cross the road, you'll have a view of Lake Audubon, which is another nice spot for a Reston hike.
Cross Twin Branches Road and reenter the woods on the paved trail to your left. The remainder of the CCT hike to Lawyers Road is paved and follows the restored Glade Stream Valley. This is a nice shady section of trail with gentle hills and a pretty stream. When you reach Lawyers Road you're at the end of Fairfax CCT segment 8.
When you reach Lawyers Road, turn back for your return trip or continue your hike on CCT segment 7. Alternatively, you can create a longer hike and explore more of the paved Glade Stream Valley Trail.
CCT segment 8 is a quiet, suburban section of the Fairfax trail system. This is a pretty trail and It offers a nice break in nature for hikers, cyclists, and dog-walkers. The trail is open and easy to access year-round, but you should expect muddy sections in winter and spring.
You'll find more great hikes in our Hike and Bike collection and our complete list: Northern Virginia Hikes and Favorite Bike Trails Near DC.
This article was published in 2014 and updated in 2020.