|View towards Shenandoah from High Point Overlook|
Access: Paved road to trailhead; free access
*Note: High Point Overlook is currently closed due to hiker overuse. Check with the Bull Run Mountains Conservancy for the most recent information. Trails elsewhere in the preserve are still open.*
The Bull Run Mountains are a gem of Northern Virginia. While it doesn't offer solitude and deep wilderness, this range of small, wooded mountains does offer sweeping views of the Virginia countryside, green forests, and bubbling brooks, less than an hour from the Beltway. I would consider this hike and the Billy Goat Trail as being the two most rewarding hikes within an hour radius of Washington DC. This hike is on land operated by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, a state agency that manages conservation easements and lands made public through private gifts of forward-thinking Virginians. The nonprofit Bull Run Mountains Conservancy has excellent trail maps; I'd recommend printing a copy of their map before going, as the trail system at the preserve is quite complex and confusing. The highlight of the hike, the High Point Overlook, is actually on private land, which has been generously opened to the public: please help yourself, the conservancy, and future visitors out by respecting the rules set for the hike to High Point.
My family drove up to the Bull Run Mountains on a clear June day from Fredericksburg, but I'm guessing that most readers of this blog will plan on visiting by driving out from Northern Virginia. Getting there is very straightforward: take I-66 west from Tysons Corner to Haymarket, exit onto US-15 south; turn right from US-15 onto VA Route 55 west, and follow that for two miles to Turner Rd. Turn right onto Turner Road, which crosses over I-66, and then immediately turn left onto Beverly Mill Drive. There is a fairly obvious parking area that stretches along the road near the trailhead.
There are many trails in this park, and you could come up with any combination of trails to hike. I will describe a hike that starts uphill on the Chestnut Ridge Trail, links up with the Dawson Trail, then ascends on the Ridge Loop Trail, visits High Point on an out-and-back, then returns downhill on the Chestnut Ridge and Fern Hollow Trails.
The trails begin across the railroad tracks from the parking area. We started on the Chestnut Ridge Trail, which started on a gentle, fairly continuous ascent for a third of a mile before coming to a multi-way junction. Here, we took the flatter Dawson Trail, which soon brought us to the side of Catlett Branch, a very attractive stream.
|Bubbling waters of Catlett's Branch|
|Ascending the Ridge Loop Trail|
|The Blue Ridge and the Piedmont|
We returned to the trail junction with the Ridge Loop Trail, but instead of taking the same trail down, we chose to descend on the Chestnut Ridge Trail. This trail followed the ridge for a while before making a steep descent down to the junction with the Fern Hollow Trail. Turning right onto Fern Hollow Trail, we continued the descent, eventually reaching and following the bottom of the hollow past the ruins of an old homesite, where a chimney and the foundations remained. The trail then turned, paralleling the railroad back to the parking area.
|Old Beverly Mill|