Have you been longing to take your toddler or preschooler on a hike, but aren’t sure how to get started? Fortunately, Loudoun County has you covered! Here are five mostly flat trails that vary in length from approximately 0.4 miles to 1.6 miles, but don’t be fooled by their brevity. Each one offers unique features that will make you and your child feel like you’re embarking on a true adventure.
Bear’s Den Overlook, Bluemont
This popular hike leads to a rock outcropping with breathtaking views of the valley below. While there are several ways to get there, head to the day-use parking lot at Bear’s Den Center to access a 0.4-mile out-and-back hike that is perfect for little ones. Once you’ve paid the $3 parking fee, walk past the bear sculpture that has been carved into a tree and make a right to head up the gravel driveway. Hop on the blue blaze trail on your left. Follow this heavily shaded path until you see the boulders at the start of the overlook. If this hike is too short for your children, try adding the nature trail loop that is adjacent to the parking lot.
Nearby Stop - Head less than four miles down the road to Great Country Farms. This magical place is home to U-pick fields, farm animals and a massive play area that includes jumping pillows, a ninja obstacle course and tunnel slides built into the hills.
Where to Eat - Grab some tasty treats from the farm’s Knead It Bakery - the apple cider donuts will make a great breakfast in the morning. The quirky Bluemont General Store in town serves ice cream as well as simple, kid-friendly sandwiches like PB&J and country ham sliders.
Claude Moore Park, Sterling
Claude Moore Park’s manageable size and amenities make it a great option for families new to hiking. For a 0.6-mile loop hike, park at the Visitor’s Center where you can find both trail maps and child-friendly exhibits. Head toward the trail entrance to the left of Picnic Shelter 1 and follow until you see the larger of the two ponds. Take a right onto the trail that circles the pond, making your way around the peaceful water. When you reach the field and second pond, visit the wildflower patch and explore the little fishing pier to your left. Then make a left onto the gravel drive ahead and keep walking until you see your car on the right.
Nearby Stop- Claude Moore Park is home to the delightful Loudoun Heritage Farm Museum. Children can engage in imaginative play as they milk a cow, gather supplies in the general store, prepare a meal in the farmhouse kitchen and teach others in the one-room schoolhouse.
Where to Eat - Ridgetop Coffee and Tea is located just two miles from the park. In addition to its namesake beverages, Ridgetop boasts a thoughtful, kid-friendly food menu. The inviting indoor play area is also not to be missed.
Bles Park, Ashburn
Bles Park’s location along the Potomac River, Broad Run and a lovely pond make it a unique spot for wildlife sightings. For a one-mile loop hike, face the tot lot and walk right on the gravel trail. After passing a bench on your right, continue straight through the little field and make a left on the gravel drive. Take your next right onto a gravel path that heads into the woods. This path becomes a packed dirt, blue blaze trail that winds through the woods and eventually back toward the parking lot, depositing you on the other side of the little playground. Don’t forget to pause along the way to explore waterside paths and search for birds swooping over the wetlands.
Nearby Stop - Just over two miles away, One Loudoun offers plenty of entertainment for young children. Catch a recent or classic kid’s movie at the Alamo Drafthouse, play in the splash pad on a hot day or coordinate your visit with a children’s book author event at Barnes & Noble.
Where to Eat - There are many dining options at or near One Loudoun. Silver Diner and Ted’s Bulletin feature robust and reasonably priced children’s menus and South Block offers several tot-sized mini smoothies.
Red Rock Wilderness Overlook Regional Park, Leesburg
Parents and children alike will appreciate the one-mile out-and-back route to the stunning overlook that gives Red Rock Wilderness Overlook Regional Park its name. To get there, start walking toward the parking lot’s entrance/exit until you see a brown “Trail Starts Here” sign on your left. Follow the path and turn right at the stone marker that sits in front of a leash law sign. Continue on the white and blue blaze trail for a little less than half a mile. You’ll soon reach the lone bench perched on a fence-protected cliff, offering an expansive view of the Potomac below. Enjoy a snack on the bench, and then simply retrace your steps to the parking lot.
Nearby Stop - Less than three miles away from Red Rock, the unique new playground at Douglass Community Center features equipment for all ages, in addition to placards that celebrate African American history and culture. While in the area, stop at the nearby Leesburg LOVEwork and pose for a picture in front of a Love sign made entirely out of bicycle parts!
Where to Eat - Indulge in Melt Gourmet Cheeseburgers, which offers multiple appealing options for its littlest diners. For a sweet treat, try Mom’s Apple Pie Company, where you can purchase individual slices or whole pies, in addition to other homemade desserts.
Phillips Interpretive Hiking Trail, Waterford
The lovingly maintained Phillips Interpretive Hiking Trail is a 1.6 mile, out-and-back trip through Loudoun County history. The well-marked trail entrance can be found just behind Waterford’s Old Mill. Wander over footbridges, packed dirt and mowed grass as you follow the winding Catoctin Creek through the historic Phillips family farmland. Standout features include two fun stream crossings and a milkweed-rich meadow that attracts monarch butterflies in the summer. The trail ends at the mill dam, where children can sit on a sandy bank and toss shells and pebbles into the pool of water below.
Nearby Stop - Stick around and explore the quaint, historic village of Waterford, where the majority of the buildings predate the Civil War. Pop into the Waterford Market to learn about how local wool is spun into the products on their shelves.
Where to Eat - If visiting on a Saturday or Sunday, head six miles northeast to Vanish Farmwoods Brewery in Lucketts. The weekend barbecue, pizza and burger trucks offer yummy food options for all ages, while parents can sample everything from beer and cider to sangria and wine slushies. There is also an onsite field and playground where kids can run and play.
*** NOTE: While all of the information in this article is up-to-date as of the time of publication, it is always a good idea to check trail maps and/or GPS apps for any recent trail changes or closures.***
Autumn Yates is a local blogger who enjoys exploring all corners of the state with her tween and toddler daughters. Read about her family-friendly Virginia adventures at www.youngvirginians.com and on Instagram at @youngvirginians.