DC-area hikers don’t have to go far to log some long miles; the strenuous 18-mile shuttle between Bull Run and Fountainhead regional parks treats strong walkers to wooded hills, stream valleys, and open fields within an hour of the capitol.
The blue-blazed Bull Run-Occoquan Trail follows a valley carrying its namesake rivers toward the Potomac, as it passes four state parks, hemlock stands, and springtime bluebells along the way. From the trail’s west end, pass through a soggy floodplain and follow the Cub Run creek downstream. The trail then veers left to trace Bull Run through a hilly, forested stretch containing a bridge destroyed in the Civil War/ At mile 6.5, the trail meetings Popes Run Creek and enters Hemlock Overlook Regional Park. Hike the undulating path through oak and hemlock forest to Bull Run Marina. Cross the water on Old Yates Forest Road, then rejoin the trail as it skirts Occoquan Reservoir for 6 miles.
Info: (703) 631-0550; nvrpa.org
Hike adapted from 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Washington, DC, by Paul Elliot (Menasha Ridge Press)