Before the leaf watching season ends, pack a hot coffee and some trail mix and go experience fall on the trails. Whether you live near Northern Virginia or are just passing through, there are tons of gorgeous fall hikes at all levels within about an hour’s drive from DC in any direction. Sorry for the lack of fall pictures, but at least you’ll have an idea about the kinds of views you might see!
Great Falls Park: View the Potomac river falls through the Mather Gorge from a few overlooks near the parking lot, or choose one of 15 different trails at any level of difficulty. The toughest hike in the area, the Billy Goat Trail, as well as the relatively flat C&O Canal Towpath, are both accessible via the Park. Trails are all dog friendly, some are bike friendly, and a few feature historic ruins.
Hawksbill Mountain Trail: This short, 2 mile hike has a huge payoff, but it’s relatively strenuous (we met someone at the top practicing for her upcoming trip to Annapurna base camp). After a 700 ft elevation gain, you’ll be at 4,000 feet with expansive, 360° views for 90 miles, as well as a look down into Linville Gorge. Dogs are welcome on the trail.
Manassas Battlefield Park: If you’re a Civil War aficionado, you’re familiar with Bull Run and the battles of Manasass. And if you aren’t, you can still enjoy the rolling hills and meadows, and the 40 miles of mild hiking trails and historic markers and buildings. Dogs are allowed on all trails.
Difficult Run: Don’t be scared by the name. Much of the Difficult Run trail is flat and wide. Offers some rocks scrambling, birding, and tons of stream views.
Huntley Meadows Park: Wetlands-focused suburban park with a half-mile of ADA accessible boardwalk, plus easy woodland and meadow trails, along with observation towers. Popular with birders, this park is home to more than 200 species of birds that have been identified so far.
Scott’s Run Nature Preserve: Includes a waterfall, ruins, a grove of ancient hemlocks, boulder-hopping, and a mix of easy and difficult trails,
Old Rag Mountain: First and foremost, go during the week. This is one of the most popular hikes in the area, and gets super crowded. Parts of the trail are dog and kid friendly, but there is a very challenging rock scramble that’s not for everyone. The elevation gain is approx 2300 feet. If you want to complete the hike and summit Old Rag, expect it to take most of the day. The hike typically lasts about 6 hours round trip, plus your drive time.
Sky Meadows: With 15 hiking trails and expansive mountain views a la The Sound of Music, this park, not far from Shenandoah National Park, is the perfect place for taking in the 360 fall views.
Natural Chimneys Park: Very short hike to the top of the Chimney’s overlook, which has a beautiful view–try to catch a sunset. Also a lovely park for a picnic lunch from the pavilions adjacent to the chimneys. From here it’s just under an hour to Skyline Drive.
Blandy Experimental Farm: Blandy is gorgeous in every way, and has 4 easy, kid-friendly trails to explore. Check out the arboretum, herb garden, meadows, wetlands, native plant trail, observation stops, and more. The farm is home to the State Arboretum of Virginia, with 5,000 trees and shrubs from around the world.