Face it, most of us are stressed out. Commuting, extra-curricular activities, never ending e-mails…it can be too much. We long for the ability to truly unplug from technology, responsibility, and noise.We often hearhikers say, “hike your own hike.” Whether that means you stay on local park trails or you adventure to higher, steeper elevations, just get outside and do it!We live in an amazing place with trails around every corner. Below are 5 of our favorite hikes, representing a variety of difficulty levels and features. Enjoy and explore!
If you need help finding the right gear, obtaining maps, or just want to talk with other outdoor enthusiasts, then stop by River Rock Outfitter in Downtown Fredericksburg.
Photo by Vincent Knaus, Shenandoah National Park 2016
1. Motts Reservoir, Fredericksburg (EASY)
Motts Reservoir has over 4.5 miles of pleasantly wooded hiking trails on over 850 acres of protected land. The reservoir provides a nice back-drop to mostly flat trails with the option of rolling slopes. This one is appropriate for the entire family. Stop by their nature center so your kids can identify the animals, bugs, and fauna that they may see on the trail, then take a hike/scavenger hunt. Plan on spending 2-3 hours to enjoy the sights and sounds of Motts Reservoir.
2. Red Bluff Trail, Germanna Foundation’s Siegen Forest (EASY/MODERATE)
The Red Bluff Trail is about 3.0 miles long and provides a unique opportunity to walk in the footsteps of history. Hiking through the 179-acre forest, you pass the millrace used by settlers centuries ago, Civil War earthworks, five different types of forests, and the beautiful Rapidan River. The trail begins at the Germanna Foundation Visitor Center and is marked in half-mile intervals, so you can decide how long your hike will be. The first half of the trail is relatively flat as it follows the river, and the latter half rises and falls over several 100-foot elevation changes. In the spring, the path is carpeted by Virginia Bluebells and other spring flowers. Trees are marked with interpretive signs that contain QR (Quick Reference) codes, which can be scanned with your smartphone for complete information.
3. White Oak Canyon, Shenandoah National Park (MODERATE)
This hike is a Virginia Classic. Start on the eastern edge of Shenandoah National Park, and hike 3.7 miles up the White Oak Canyon into the Park. This trail follows a beautiful mountain stream complete with waterfalls and picnic spots. The trail keeps to one side of the creek, so stream crossings are not an issue, and the path is one of the best-maintained in the park. Brave the cold of early spring or late fall for some froze waterfalls! When you reach the end of the trail at Skyline Drive, enjoy a lunch by one of the falls and then head back down the trail to the parking lot. This is an out-and-back for a total of 7.4 miles, and typically takes about 4 hours with a lunch break. The parking lot is 2 hours from Fredericksburg.
4. Crabtree Falls, George Washington National Forest (MODERATE/ADVANCED)
Enjoy a beautiful walk past the longest waterfall in Virginia: almost two miles of tumbling cascades, complete with steps and railings. Continue along the dirt road until you reach the Crabtree Meadows parking area, then link up with the Appalachian Trail and head north to a commanding lookout on The Priest—the highest peak in Virginia’s Religious Range. Once you’ve had your fill on the peak, head back the way you came. The parking lot is 2.5 hours away from Fredericksburg, and the hike usually takes 4-5 hours including a lunch break.
5. Signal Knob, George Washington National Forest (ADVANCED)
Take a walk through history in the Great North Mountain region of the George Washington National Forest up to Signal Knob. This peak was used as an important lookout point by both the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War, with spectacular views of the Shenandoah Valley. Start at the parking lot on Fort Valley Road west of Front Royal, VA, and hike up the ridge past the Buzzard Rock overlook, and then on to the Knob. Have lunch while you enjoy breathtaking views at the summit, and take the southern route back along Tuscaroga Trail across the Great North Mountain ridge, until you reach the Massanutten Trail. This trail takes you back to the parking lot. The loop is 9.9 miles, and generally takes about 5-6 hours with a lunch break. The parking lot is 1 hour, 45 minutes from Fredericksburg.