Monday, November 14, 2005

Hemlock Overlook in Clifton, Virginia

the Bull Run at Hemlock Overlook in Northern Virginia
Hemlock Overlook Regional Park is best known for the kind of corporate team-building events that help white collar cubicle-dwellers learn how little they can trust their managers. Complete with a ropes course and a zip wire, it's actually an outdoor education center run jointly by the regional park service and George Mason University.

Hemlock Overlook in Northern Virginia
More importantly for hikers like me, Hemlock Overlook's section of the expansive Bull Run - Occoquan Trail has some of the most challenging hiking trails near DC. It's wild and mostly unspoiled natural setting traces the Bull Run for more than ten miles along blue-blaze (difficult) trails. As the name of the park suggests, there are cliffs as well as tall hemlock trees, which are unusual in the metro area, and plenty of diverse flora and wildlife.

Wildlife which -- just to warn you -- isn't scared off by the Bull Run Regional Park's shooting range, safely cordoned off to the north. So don't let distant gunshots ruin your fun. Virginia is for firearms ... right?

Hemlock Overlook in Northern Virginia
And while Hemlock Overlook is beautiful at any time of year, the fall colors have already passed their prime, so you'll mostly find crunchy leaves and bare trees there in the coming months. But if you're looking for some rugged hiking in Virginia without a long drive out to the mountains, Hemlock Overlook is a perfect fit.

Hemlock Overlook photos by: Susan MacAuley

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