Bull Run Occoquan Trail
Copyright © 2014 by Ralph F. Couey
Research yielded yet another surprise, this time very close to home. The Bull Run-Occoquan Trail runs 18 miles along Bull Run Creek and the Occoquan River from southern Chantilly, Virginia to Fountainhead Regional Park near Fairfax Station, The trail is a surprise because it winds through some of the most densely populated areas of Fairfax and Prince William counties.
The area of this trail is rich in history, dating back to the time when the Taux and Doag tribes roamed the area, rich in wildlife. During the early years of European exploration, the rivers served as a wilderness highway and surveying landmark. During the Civil War, two major battles were fought over the same ground north of this area, and the streams formed part of the Confederate defensive line.
The Bull Run-Occoquan park area encompasses some 5,000 acres adjacent to the streams. Bull Run's headwaters are located in the Bull Run Mountains and is fed by various streams along its way. From Bull Run Marina onwards, the stream is named the Occoquan, which translates to "End of Waters."
The trail itself is a real pleasure. I started at the northwestern trail head, part of Bull Run Regional Park, located south of US 29 and Bull Run Post Office Road.
It was a perfect fall day, albeit a bit on the cool side, convincing me to add a fleece jacket to my hiking gear. The leaves were turning, although the colors were patchy. I think another five to seven days and the leaves will be at their peak.
The trail follows the mostly placid waters of Bull Run Creek. Being in close proximity to civilization, you can't escape the occasional sounds of traffic, but for the most part, it is a peaceful and contemplative walk. And a relatively easy one. In the first three miles, there are only two elevation changes of any note, bluffs which must be climbed at those points. I'm told that the further southeast one goes, the more hilly it gets. There are signs around that talk about the springtime, which is apparently the time of year to visit. BROT is home to the largest acreage of Bluebell flowers in this part of Virginia. Having seen some of these beauties along the trail near Great Falls, I know what a lovely site they are. Along the way is a bench with a plaque which says, "For Mary, who loved the Bluebells." I'll be back in April.
This is supposed to be a deer conservation management area, but the only wildlife I saw were a few birds and a lot of grey squirrels. There are places where the path takes you into some marshy and boggy areas, signs that this stream does flood from time to time. But the good folks who manage this area have erected some helpful boardwalks to get the hiker over the worst parts.
The trail is like so many other places in Northern Virginia, a dirt track meandering through a thick forest rendering that special peace that comes with spending some quality time with our cousins, the trees.
One of the great things about this trail are the access points. The AT, while a challenge and an absolute gas to hike, is somewhat handicapped by the limited access points for the day hiker. The BROT, on the other hand is easily accessible at several places, making a good option for section hikers.
A nice 6.6-mile out-and-back on a glorious autumn day.