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 isn’t the most remote, but it provides some nicely wooded sections, stream views, and a little history along the way.
Hiking north to south, Fairfax 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.
The 4-mile segment is also easy to break into roughly even, two-mile hikes. Park in the small parking area at the corner of Hunter Mill and Hunter Station Roads to hike out and back in each 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 and a short paved stretch of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail. The trail is easy and is popular for hiking, dog-walking, and single-track biking.
If you are hiking north to south, park on Days Farm Drive, on the north side of the toll road, or at the end of Brittenford or Squaw Valley Drive on the south side. If you begin on the north side of the toll road, you’ll have to navigate a muddy trail section then walk through an underpass.
The trail can also be muddy just south of the toll road, and you may encounter side paths to wind around the muddiest areas. You’ll cross the stream twice, on stone pillars and a metal bridge, before reaching a left turn to continue on the CCT. (Start from Brittenford to avoid this muddy section and stream crossings.)
Cross another metal bridge and, for the next mile-and-a-half, you’ll be hiking on a dirt path through shady 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, and conveniently 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, then bear right up the hill and onto the bike path. Either hike on 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. Watch for the neighborhood access path in just a bit because that’s where you turn left and head back into the woods. Be careful crossing back over the bike trail—bikes often come flying down the hill.
Happily, you’re back in the woods on the Twin Branches Trail. Here, the trail borders Snakeden Branch, one of the streams that feed into Difficult Run. The trail was moved away from the stream after earlier flooding, so it is much less muddy than it used to be. Watch for a right turn over the second of two wooden bridges.
The CCT turns left over a small dam, crossing a metal bridge further on. There is a nice thicket of mountain laurel just after the bridge crossing, which blooms in late May and early June. The trail 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.
This quiet suburban section of the Fairfax Cross County Trail offers a nice break in nature for hikers, cyclists, and dog-walkers. When you reach Lawyers Road, turn back for your return trip, continue your hike on CCT segment 7, or explore more of the paved Glade Stream Valley Trail.
Find more great hikes in our Hike and Bike collection and our complete list: Northern Virginia Hikes and Favorite Bike Trails Near DC.
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This article was published in 2014 and updated in 2020.