Meandering through a canopy of lush green trees evokes a scene from a romantic movie or even a fairytale. Few people realize Virginia has its own version of this that you can experience in real life. The Washington and Old Dominion Trail, often referred to as the W&OD, is a multi-use rail trail that winds through northern Virginia’s beautiful counties. The trail is 45 miles in length and welcomes walkers, bikers, and even horseback riders. The canopy of trees that lines a portion of this trail is one of the most breathtaking sites in the area.
Right off of I-395 at exit 6 begins this extraordinary rail trail. The Washington and Old Dominion Railroad Trail is asphalt paved and runs about 30 meters in width, an ideal size for anyone up for a stroll or leisurely ride. Today’s trail runs over what used to be the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad, a line that closed in 1968.
An early section of the W&OD Trail opened in 1974 in the City of Falls Church. When the trail became increasingly popular, more land was purchased from a power company known as NVRPA so that the path could be extended. By 1987, the National Parks Service deemed the trail a National Recreational Trail. It was not until October of 2007 that construction started to pave the pathway, and in 2009, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held.
A fascinating characteristic of this trail is the combination of the surrounding urban and rural life. It’s just miles from some of Northern Virginia’s most densely populated communities, and yet the path itself is sheltered by groves of towering trees, open fields, and rural peace.
The trail winds through rolling hills, runs, and even some historical landmarks. Some of the structures even date back before the Civil War. Another notable landmark is the Luck Stone Quarry, just east of Goose Creek. The manmade area is quite stunning and serves as storage for trap rock.
The trail ends in Loudoun County, near the town of Purcellville, and the majority of its route parallels the Route 7 as well as the Potomac River. The W&OD Trail also runs parallel in some parts to the Four Mile Run Trail, which is comparatively more hilly and curved as it winds its way through Arlington. The two trails even intersect at a few points.
By far, one of the most breathtaking sections of the trail is when it disappears into the heavily wooded forest that creates a tree canopy. No matter the time of season, these branches create a sense of tranquility and awe. It's the perfect place to lose yourself in Virginia's beautiful countryside, even if only for an afternoon.