www.nova-natureguide.net Providing nature-related information for Prince William & Fairfax Counties, Virginia
Places to Go in Northern Virginia

Despite being a sprawling suburb in the shadow of Washington D.C., there are a surprising number of places to go in Prince William and Fairfax counties where you can enjoy hiking, birdwatching, kayaking, picnicking, nature photography, & even en plein air painting, either alone, with friends, or with organized groups.  The problem is that all those places are under a crazy number of different agencies and jurisdictions, making it difficult to find all the opportunities available.

Below is a growing (alphabetical) list of places in Northern Virginia where anyone can go and enjoy nature-related activities.  Clicking on the location name will take you to a page with my overview of the place, directions & coordinates, links to the location's official website, & links to maps.  Clicking on the jurisdiction or agency will take you to their official website.

If you don't see your favorite place on my list, you can contact me and let me know what you like about it.  I'd love to visit it and write about it.

Also, none of the information on NVNG should be considered 'official.'  NVNG is not endorsed, funded, or in any way connected with any of the places I describe or link to.

Things to be aware of before visiting any of these natural areas:
  • Many of the places listed open at dawn and close at dusk, meaning their hours change throughout the year.  Others have regular unchanging hours.  Always check for current hours.
  • Some places are open 365 days a year.  Some are closed on certain days or due to bad weather.  Always check.
  • There is a significant difference in the missions of parks vs. refuges and other natural areas.  Parks are managed for the benefit of the visitors.  Refuges and other natural areas are managed for the benefit of the wild plants and animals that live there -- NOT the visitors.  The rules about where you can go and what you're allowed to do on the land vary from place to place and are based on the overarching mission of that location.  Please learn and follow all the rules.
  • Pets are usually allowed in parks.  Pets are often forbidden from refuges whose primary mission will be to protect its wild plants and animals.  Please learn and follow the rules regarding pets for the places you visit.
  • Regardless, as far as I know, if animals are allowed on the property, ALL these areas require that ALL pets must be on leashes ALL of the time.  Even well-behaved dogs can run off after a squirrel and get lost for days.  Comply with leash rules for the safety of your dog and others.
  • Also, you must always pick up your pet's feces and dispose of them in the appropriate manner, which does NOT mean stuffing them into hollow tree trunks or tossing them into a body of water or down the storm drain.
  • Always dispose of your trash in appropriate trash cans, if they are provided.  If they're not provided, pack out all the trash you create including your pet's feces.  If possible, also pack out any trash you find.  Take only photos; leave only footprints.
  • However, collecting any natural or historic items found in any of these parks or other natural areas is always prohibited.  This includes flowers, butterflies, feathers, bird nests, stones, shells, bricks from old homesteads, etc.  Take only photos; leave only footprints.
  • Please protect yourself with sunscreen, bug repellent, and appropriate footwear & clothing for your activity and the weather.
  • If you are concerned about safety in general (e.g. how safe are the parks, what animals to beware of, etc) please read my Safety page.
List of Parks, Refuges, and Natural Areas in Northern Virginia

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