Updated Aug 30, 2022 - Things to Do

Editor's pick: Best places to hike with your dog in Northern Virginia

A red merle Australian Shepherd sits near a stream in the forest.

Kirby the Australian Shepherd loves to spend time in nature. Where should we hike next? Photo: Kayla Sharpe/Axios

My Australian Shepherd Kirby recently got neutered, so after two weeks of bed rest (and the cone of shame), we're ready to make up for lost adventure time.

Why it matters: I'm a huge fan of dog-friendly local hikes that don't require a ton of skill or gear. Here are my favorite Northern Virginia spots to explore with my good boy:

๐Ÿž Seneca Regional Park in Great Falls is a great walking spot along the Potomac. Stick to the gravel road if you want the easiest route down to the river. If you want a more adventurous route, veer off onto one of the marked trails.

Pro tips: There are several benches by the river. Take some time to rest and reflect.

  • Be sure to download or print a copy of the trail map so you don't get lost.
  • The park's gravel parking lot can fill up pretty quickly so arrive early on weekends and consider carpooling if you visit with a friend.
  • Visit: 101 Seneca Rd., Great Falls

๐ŸŒณ Walker Nature Center in Reston is situated amid several wooded walking trails. During our hour-long adventure, Kirby and I saw foxes and deer, and even stopped to read some signs about native Virginia plant species. This is a great spot to spend time in nature while knowing that you're only a mile or so from a main road or residential area if you get lost.

Pro tips: The nature center has water fountains out back so bring a water bottle and portable dog bowl to fill up.

  • Visit: 11450 Glade Dr., Reston

๐ŸŽถ Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts combines music with nature in the best ways possible. In addition to being a great outdoor concert venue, the park also has two trails and many grassy areas that are perfect for hikes, birdwatching, or picnics.

Pro tips: If you take a hike during the afternoon before an evening concert, you might be lucky enough to hear an artist's soundcheck.

  • If you or your dog are keen to cool off, Wolf Trap Run is a small creek that runs through the woods. Kirby had a great time splashing around.
  • Of note: Despite the name, there are no longer wolves in the Northern Virginia area, per the National Park Service.
  • Visit: 1551 Trap Rd., Vienna

๐ŸŒผ Riverbend Park is a popular hiking destination, and for good reason. There are plenty of well-marked trails to choose from, many of which wind scenically alongside the Potomac River. You can even hike three miles to Great Falls National Park, no entry fee required.

Purple flowers in a meadow
I don't know what kind of flowers these are, but they were very pretty so I stopped in the meadow to take a picture... and catch my breath. Photo: Kayla Sharpe/Axios.

Pro tips: Whatever route you take, make sure it includes the Bootlegger Trail which passes through the beautiful Conn's Farm Meadow.

  • Visit: 8700 Potomac Hills St., Great Falls

๐Ÿ•๐Ÿšถ๐Ÿพโ€โ™€๏ธWhere should Kirby and I venture next? I'm sure there are other fantastic walking spots in the Washington area. Let me know which nearby dog-friendly trails we should explore.


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