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8 Outdoor Activities To Do in Northern Virginia

February 16th, 2024

By Sofia Alonso

6 min read

Northern Virginia, often overshadowed by the urban sprawl of nearby Washington D.C., holds its own as a sanctuary for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers. This region, rich in history and natural beauty, offers a surprising array of activities that cater to a wide range of interests—from serene hikes through lush forests to adrenaline-pumping climbs on rugged rock faces. Whether you're a seasoned hiker looking to explore the rolling hills of the Shenandoah or a cyclist eager to traverse miles of scenic trails, Northern Virginia provides an outdoor playground that is both diverse and accessible.

Since its creation in 2001, AV Architects + Builders has deeply rooted itself in the fabric of Northern Virginia, not just through the creation of custom modern homes but also through its unwavering commitment to the community. Francisca and Tony Alonso, the owners and co-founders, have leveraged their expertise and passion for design and construction to enhance the living experiences of busy professionals, empty nesters, and homeowners seeking a unique, high-end luxury living experience in NoVA. Beyond building homes, they have fostered strong community ties by actively participating in local charities, supporting philanthropic events, and contributing to the economic and aesthetic growth of the region. 

Northern Virginia's outdoor activities offer an escape for every type of adventurer, from tranquil nature walks and leisurely bike rides to thrilling water sports and challenging winter activities. It's a region where the great outdoors beckons with endless possibilities for exploration, relaxation, and adventure, inviting everyone to step outside and discover the natural wonders of Northern Virginia.


Things to Do Outdoors in Northern Virginia


1. Hiking, Walking, and Running Trails

Northern Virginia's trails offer something for every type of hiker and walker. The W&OD Trail and the Mount Vernon Trail provide miles of scenic paths for casual strolls and serious treks alike, connecting historic sites and offering breathtaking views of the Potomac River. For a more rugged experience, the trails at Great Falls Park and Sky Meadows State Park challenge adventurers with their natural terrain and reward them with stunning vistas of Virginia's countryside. These trails not only cater to avid hikers but also serve as accessible routes for families and individuals seeking a peaceful escape into nature. Along these paths, one can witness the changing seasons, encounter local wildlife, and enjoy the rich tapestry of NoVA's natural landscapes.

Runners in NoVA enjoy a variety of scenic routes. The W&OD Trail and Mount Vernon Trail are favorites for their flat, paved surfaces and beautiful landscapes. For those seeking a trail run, Prince William Forest Park and the Cross County Trail offer miles of natural terrain to explore. These trails not only serve as a training ground for serious runners but also as a peaceful retreat for those looking to clear their minds and rejuvenate their spirits. The diversity of running paths in Northern Virginia ensures that every run is an opportunity to discover something new about the landscape and oneself.


2. Cycling

Cyclists find a haven in NoVA, thanks to an extensive network of biking trails. The W&OD Trail again makes the list, offering a lengthy route for cyclists to push their limits or enjoy a leisurely ride. The Mount Vernon Trail and Custis Trail provide scenic routes that cater to both recreational riders and commuting cyclists, highlighting the accessibility and beauty of cycling in Northern Virginia. These paths are meticulously maintained, ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for cyclists of all ages and skill levels. Moreover, the community around these cycling trails is vibrant and welcoming, often organizing group rides and events that foster a sense of camaraderie among local and visiting cyclists.


3. Fishing and Water Sports

Fishing enthusiasts find Northern Virginia to be a surprisingly rich area for casting a line, with a variety of freshwater and estuarine fishing opportunities. The region's rivers, lakes, and streams are home to an array of species, including largemouth bass, catfish, trout, and panfish, catering to anglers of all skill levels.

The Occoquan Reservoir is a prime fishing location, known for its peaceful setting and abundance of largemouth bass and catfish. The Potomac River offers diverse fishing experiences. In its tidal sections, anglers can target largemouth bass and catfish, while the non-tidal portions near Great Falls are popular for smallmouth bass and sunfish. Burke Lake in Fairfax County is well-stocked with game fish, including trout, which are added during the spring and fall. 

The region's waterways are a magnet for water sports enthusiasts. Kayakers and canoeists often paddle the tranquil waters of the Occoquan Reservoir or take on the rapids of the Potomac River near Great Falls. The Potomac River's wider sections also offer ideal conditions for sailing and stand-up paddleboarding. Northern Virginia's waterways invite you to explore and appreciate the outdoors from a different angle.


4. Golfing

Northern Virginia's golf scene is as diverse as its landscape, offering a range of courses that cater to golfers of all skill levels. From championship courses that challenge even the most experienced players to public courses perfect for a leisurely round, NoVA has something for every golfer. 

Designed by Fred Couples, Westfields Golf Club in Clifton is a public course that offers the feel of a private club experience. Its meticulously maintained fairways and greens, combined with strategic play and natural beauty, make it a top choice for golfers seeking a premium experience.

Located in Dulles, the 1757 Golf Club is named after the year Loudoun County was founded. This par-70 course features a challenging layout with water coming into play on several holes. Its practice facilities are among the best in the region, making it a great place to improve your game.

Set against the backdrop of the Catoctin Mountains in Leesburg, Raspberry Falls Golf & Hunt Club offers golfers the feel of a Scottish highlands course. Designed by Gary Player, the course is famous for its challenging layout, featuring tall fescue grasses, stacked stone walls, and natural beauty.


5. Concerts and Live Music

Outdoor concerts and live music are a staple of Northern Virginia's cultural scene. Venues like Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts and Jiffy Lube Live host a variety of performances under the stars, from classical music to rock concerts, making the most of the region's pleasant climate and scenic beauty. These events offer a perfect way to end a day of outdoor adventure, allowing attendees to unwind and enjoy the talents of local and national artists in stunning natural amphitheaters.


6. Rock Climbing and Bouldering

For those who prefer vertical adventures, Northern Virginia and its vicinity offer both indoor and outdoor climbing opportunities. Sportrock Climbing Centers and Earth Treks Crystal City are among the top indoor facilities, providing walls for climbers of all skill levels. Nearby, outdoor spots like Great Falls Park and Carderock Recreation Area in Maryland satisfy those craving the challenge of natural rock. These climbing destinations not only test your physical strength and mental fortitude but also foster a supportive community of climbers who share a passion for the sport. Climbing in NoVA is an opportunity to push your limits, learn new skills, and connect with fellow enthusiasts in a dynamic and challenging environment.


7. Winter Sports

When winter blankets the region, NoVA residents head to nearby slopes for skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing. Massanutten Resort, Wintergreen Resort, and Whitetail Resort are within a few hours' drive, offering well-groomed trails, snow tubing parks, and cozy lodges for a perfect winter getaway. These destinations transform the cold months into a season of exhilaration and fun, providing families and friends with memorable experiences amidst snowy landscapes. 


8. Polo

Polo, often referred to as the "Sport of Kings," has found a vibrant home in Northern Virginia. The area's lush landscapes and affluent communities provide the perfect backdrop for this prestigious sport, attracting both players and spectators alike. 

Located in The Plains, Great Meadow Polo Club is at the heart of Northern Virginia's polo scene. The club hosts the popular Twilight Polo series during the summer months, offering exciting matches under the stars with a festive atmosphere that includes food, wine, and dancing. It's an event that appeals not just to die-hard polo fans but also to families and groups looking for a unique evening out

Banbury Cross Polo Club, nestled in the picturesque town of Middleburg, is another key player in the region's polo community. The club hosts a summer polo series that draws crowds for its high-energy matches and stunning setting. Spectators can enjoy the thrill of the game along with the beauty of Virginia's horse country. 

While primarily located in Charlottesville, which is slightly outside Northern Virginia, the Virginia Polo Center has a significant influence on the sport throughout the state, including NoVA. The center is dedicated to promoting polo at all levels, offering lessons, leagues, and interscholastic competitions.

The Great Outdoors in Northern Virginia

Northern Virginia emerges as a vibrant hub for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a rich tapestry of activities that cater to every taste and skill level. From the serene trails that weave through historical landscapes to the adrenaline-fueled adventures on water and snow, NoVA provides a unique blend of natural beauty and recreational diversity. The region's commitment to maintaining and enhancing its outdoor spaces ensures that residents and visitors alike can immerse themselves in the beauty of the great outdoors, fostering a deep connection with the environment and the community.

Whether you're exploring the winding paths of the W&OD Trail, casting a line in the tranquil waters of the Occoquan Reservoir, or enjoying a concert under the stars at Wolf Trap, Northern Virginia offers endless opportunities for adventure and discovery. The region's outdoor activities are a testament to its residents' love for nature and their dedication to preserving and celebrating the natural and historical heritage of this unique area. In NoVA, the great outdoors is not just a backdrop for recreation but a way of life, inviting all who visit or reside here to step outside and explore the endless possibilities for enjoyment and adventure.



9903 Georgetown Pike Suite 201
Great Falls, VA 22066
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