By Amy Falkofske
Here in Prince William, we are fortunate to have over 100 miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. The Prince William County Department of Parks and Recreation manages 42 of those miles. The rest are state and national trails.
“If you are not into the outdoors or are feeling a little out of shape, hiking may sound intimidating, but really it is just walking with a view. It is a great way to start exercising and enjoying nature. Most of our local trails don’t require any training or prep beyond packing water and snacks, and the only equipment required is comfortable shoes,” said long-time county resident Emily Guerrero.
Potomac National Heritage Scenic Trail and Neabsco Creek Boardwalk
The Potomac National Heritage Scenic Trail, or Potomac Heritage Trail, encompasses hundreds of miles of trails running through Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
In Virginia, it includes the Neabsco Creek Boardwalk that opened last year. The PHT and the boardwalk are a part of the county’s effort to extend its trail system county-wide.
“I have lived in the county for over 40 years. In the last 10 or so, it seems there has been more of an emphasis on investing in and adding trails. Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, which includes the Neabsco Creek Boardwalk, is an example of a concerted effort to connect our neighborhoods to each other, nature and our history,” said Guerrero.
The Neabsco Creek Boardwalk is three-quarters of a mile long and 10 feet wide. It features a two-story observation deck. The boardwalk is part of Neabsco Regional Park, which includes the Julie J. Metz Wetlands, the Rippon Lodge historic property and the Rippon Landing Neighborhood Park.
History, Wildlife and Scenery
Prince William’s trails are filled with history, wildlife and beautiful scenery.
“Occoquan National Wildlife Refuge offers beautiful views and wildlife. The section of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail in Neabsco Regional Park is a must-see. It’s ADA accessible, with the boardwalk that winds through wetlands teeming with birds, frogs and other animals,” said Guerrero.
The boardwalk also connects to tidal wetlands and wildlife such as fox, deer, muskrat, beaver, herons, egrets, ospreys, eagles, hawks, snakes, fish and birds.
Guerrero pointed out the wealth of history that you can experience on the trails in Prince William.
“If you want to explore history, Manassas Battlefield of course comes to mind. But Leesylvania also has the ruins of the Lee family home and Civil War battlements along with sweeping water views. Prince William Forest Park has tie-ins to local history along with cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps where spies
trained during World War II,” she said.
Trails for Hiking, Biking and Horseback Riding
If you want to explore some of the trails the county has to offer and you’re not sure where to start, here’s a handy list including the length of the trail and whether each trail is suitable for hiking, biking, horseback riding or all three.
- Catharpin Creek: along Catharpin Creek – 9 miles – hiking, biking, horseback riding
- Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail: along Powell’s Creek
- Watershed and a partially completed route between Leesylvania State Park and Belmont Bay – 8 miles – hiking and biking
- Broad Run: 3.5 miles – hiking, biking
- Neabsco Creek Greenway: located in Andrew Leitch Park – Trailheads at Princedale Drive and Lindendale Rd. – 3.5 miles – hiking, biking
- George Hellwig Memorial Park: 1 mile – hiking, biking
- Andrew Leitch Park: along the Neabsco Creek – 3.5 miles – hiking, biking
- Ben Lomond Park: 2 miles – hiking, biking
- Nokesville Park: 2 miles – hiking, biking, horseback riding
- James Long Park: along the Catharpin Creek – 4 miles – hiking, biking, horseback riding
- Silver Lake Park: 4 miles – hiking, biking, horseback riding
- Veterans Park: along wetlands and the Occoquan Bay – .5 mile – hiking, biking
- Chinn Aquatics & Fitness Center: 1 mile – hiking, biking
- Locust Shade Park: 4 miles – hiking, biking
- Lake Ridge Park: 1.5 miles – hiking, biking
- Bristow Station Battlefield: 2.7 miles – hiking, biking, horseback riding
Visit pwtsc.org/directory/ for a map of these trails.
Trail Guidelines and COVID Safety
When using the trail system, you’ll want to keep these guidelines in mind. Trails are open from dawn to dusk. Pets have to be on a leash, and pet owners are responsible for properly disposing of pet waste. No motorized vehicles are allowed. Be kind to our environment and “leave no trace.” Dispose of trash in designated trash cans, or if none are available, take it with you.
During the global pandemic, remember to think safety. Maintain at least 6 feet between you and others, except those in your party, and wear masks in situations where you can’t social distance.
No matter where you live in the county, there is a trail near you, and you are guaranteed scenic views, possibly a little history and maybe even some wildlife.
“As somebody who travels often, I’m still amazed by the beauty that we have right here in Prince William. I’d encourage everybody to explore our parks and trails. It’s like a little vacation without leaving home,” said Guerrero.
Amy Falkofske is a freelance writer and photographer. She has a Master’s degree in Film-TV with a concentration in screenwriting. She lives in Bristow with her husband, two boys and two Beagle dogs.