Sturdy walking shoes, hiking socks, shorts, T-shirt. We don’t change our hiking garb, but this fall, here’s where you can find the latest fall colors in the Northern Neck:
At Belle Isle State Park on a point along the Rappahannock River between two creeks, two trails feature hardwoods that are stunning amid the farm fields and meadows. The land is flat with many paved roads that are suitable for family biking or strolling. For interpreted hiking, register for “A Walk on the Wild Side” on Sept. 9 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. At this event, local volunteer naturalists will share a variety of natural history topics, point out aspects of the park's many habitats (ideal for plant and animal life viewing), and provide participants with nature photography tips should they need assistance. The walks will be conducted at a leisurely pace to allow stops along the way to observe and discuss seasonal aspects of what is happening at the park. The event is free, but pre-registration is required. To register, call (804) 462-5030.
Rappahannock River National Wildlife Refuge covers several counties, but the Wilna Creek Trail outside of the town of Warsaw provides leafy reflections in Wilna Pond. A viewing platform on the pond lends itself to fall photography with a backdrop of nature’s finest artistry. On Saturday, Oct. 16th, “Go Wild at Cat Point Creek” will be held to celebrate National Refuge Week and the opening of the Cat Point Creek unit to the public. The family-friendly event will feature nature exhibitors along with storytelling, a puppet show, archery, face-painting and birdhouse building. Held from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., the event is free, and food will be available for purchase.
Bush Mill Stream Natural Area Preserve (NAP) is a little-known 103-acre preserve in Northumberland County on a tidal creek off the Great Wicomico River. Fall dress features several ancient oaks, along with hickory, poplar, beech, and maple trees. Bush Mill Stream NAP is located on Route 642 in Northumberland County.
Westmoreland State Park dates from the Civilian Conservation Corps and is a well-known hiking area because of the bluff at the park overlooking the Potomac River. Between George Washington’s Birthplace National Monument and Stratford Hall, Westmoreland State Park has an extensive Potomac River vista. For those looking to extend their stay in the Northern Neck, Westmoreland State Park has cabins, and Stratford Hall has cottages available.
Voorhees Nature Preserve, also in Westmoreland County on the Rappahannock River, can be found at 322 Bristol Mine Road, Colonial Beach. Beaver ponds, extraordinary elevations which provide scenic views, and boardwalks extend through 4 miles of deciduous forest owned by The Nature Conservancy. The best fall colors are seen in the forested wetland areas where gum, ash, and maple trees dominate the canopy and provide lots of showy reds and yellows. The best bets for these views are the two river overlooks, the bridge over Owl Hollow, and the Pond Overlook.
The upland forests are dominated by oak, beech, and tulip poplar, which can also have nice color depending on the year. The top pick for viewing these upland forest colors would be the trail leading to the Pond Overlook, which has a bench overlooking one of the preserve’s unique ravines. Sitting on the bench, visitors are at eye level with the forest canopy on the slopes of the ravine, creating a very immersive experience.
Caledon State Park in King George County provides charming hike-to-the water experiences which might include bald eagle or heron viewing. Mark your calendars for the Annual Art & Wine Event at Caledon in November.
Dahlgren Railroad Heritage Trail, a nearly16-mile trail along the abandoned Dahlgren Branch Line in King George County, is popular for walking, cycling, or running. The tree-lined path runs from Sealston to Dahlgren.