Northern Virginia Hiking Guide For Dog Owners & More

A dog exploring a hiking trail with its owner.

Are you ready for an adventure through the scenic wonders of Northern Virginia? Well, with our guide to the best hikes for dog owners, you won’t be disappointed.

From tranquil riverside trails to historic sites with plenty of intrigue, these seven hikes offer something for every outdoor enthusiast. Plus, they’re all pet-friendly, meaning your furry companions can join in on the fun! That is, as long as they’re on their best behavior and follow all the rules and regulations!

7 Best Hikes In Northern Virginia

Before we get into our list of the best hikes in Northern Virginia, it’s important to note that all of these trails are dog-friendly. However, none of them allow for dogs to be off-leash, which means you’ll need to keep your pup close and make sure their lead is on at all times.

1. Great Falls Park Trails

  • Address: 9200 Old Dominion Dr, McLean, VA

Situated along the majestic Potomac River in McLean, Great Falls Park’s trails offer the perfect outdoor experience. With a variety of trails available for all skill levels and ages, you can safely explore everything from rugged landscapes to lush forests and (of course) the cascading waterfalls that give the park its name.

Whether you want to take a leisurely stroll or push yourself to tackle more difficult trails, you’re guaranteed to find what you’re looking for here. Just remember that if you’re bringing your pup along, it should be properly leashed and kept in the designated pet-friendly areas!

2. Huntley Meadows Park: Cedar Trail

  • Address: 3701 Lockheed Blvd, Alexandria, VA

Tucked away in Alexandria, Huntley Meadows Park is filled with nature trails that truly make it a hidden gem. However, you’ll need to take note of which trails are dog-friendly (for dogs on a leash) and which ones aren’t.

This picturesque trail leads through lush wetlands, offering you a glimpse of diverse wildlife and gorgeous water views along the way. This is also a relatively easy trail, but you may need to lend a hand to small children. Still, the park’s natural beauty is on full display, which makes it the ideal spot for nature lovers of all ages.

So, whether you’re an avid birdwatcher or just need a well-deserved break from the hustle and bustle of city life, Huntley Meadows Park is the perfect place to be.

3. Scott’s Run Nature Preserve

  • Address: 7400 VA-193, McLean, VA

Here’s another popular McLean hiking trail that will leave you in awe: The Scott’s Run Nature Preserve trail. Here, you’ll find the best waterfall hike in all of Northern Virginia, otherwise known as the Potomac Heritage Trail. This brisk 1.5-mile path is an easy hike for families or smaller dogs, although the climb to the waterfalls can be a little tricky for beginner hikers.

If you want a little more adventure, you can always take the 3-mile perimeter trail that includes woodlands, rugged cliffs, and views from the Stubblefield Falls Overlook (particularly around sunrise!).

Note: The preserve is temporarily closed from March 2024 to mid-May 2024 for maintenance work.

4. Bull Run Regional Park Occoquan Trail

  • Address: 12619 Old Yates Ford Rd, Clifton, VA

Have you ever heard of the Bull Run Occoquan trail in Bull Run Regional Park? Well, now you have – and trust us, you’re not going to want to leave once you get there! This is perhaps one of the most scenic and serene hikes you’ll ever go on – and it’s full of wildlife.

However, if you do bring your dog on their leash, you need to think about how they’re going to react to the bird life here. Although dogs are welcome in designated areas, you still want to remain respectful of the local wildlife and maintain a level of relaxation for other visitors. So, just be sure that your pup is well-behaved before you head on over to this trail.

5. Theodore Roosevelt Island Trails

  • Address: Theodore Roosevelt Island, Arlington, VA

Located in Arlington, the Theodore Roosevelt Island Trails are maintained by the National Park Service and are all accessible via a footbridge. This 88-acre island is an incredible tribute to former President Teddy Roosevelt and his conservation efforts.

The trails on the island wind through forests and marshlands, which gives you the chance to explore in the heart of the Potomac River. The main 1.5-mile loop encircles the entire island, offering unparalleled views of not only the river but also of Washington D.C.’s iconic skyline.

Tip: Make sure to bring the kids along on this hike – the signs along the trail serve as a fantastic education on the island’s natural features and Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy.

6. Beaverdam Reservoir Loop

  • Address: Beaverdam Reservoir, 42400 Mt Hope Rd, Ashburn, VA

If you’re near Ashburn, you won’t want to miss your chance to take on the Beaverdam Reservoir Loop hike. This unique hike goes around a 350-acre dam-fed reservoir and is an 8.3-mile loop, giving you enough time to take in the water and the surrounding landscape.

Beginning at the National Recreation & Parks Association building, there are plenty of things to do and see along the way. From birdwatching to fishing and simply enjoying the peace of nature, there’s something for everyone. It’s important to note that the trail’s terrain can vary, though, so you may need to watch out when you’re visiting with pets or small children.

7. Ball’s Bluff Battlefield Regional Park

  • Address: Balls Bluff Rd NE, Leesburg, VA

Ball’s Bluff Battlefield Regional Park in Leesburg is steeped in history and, of course, plenty of natural beauty. What we love about the park is it has seven hiking trails that wind through the park’s rolling hills and woodlands and along the bluffs overlooking the Potomac River.

This is another great learning opportunity for history lovers and kids thanks to the preserved earthworks and interpretive signs designed to educate visitors on the Battle of Ball’s Bluff.

If you bring your pup along, just remember to keep them leashed and on their best behavior! This quiet park doesn’t take too kindly to boisterous dogs.


Are the hiking trails in Northern Virginia suitable for beginners?

Yes, there are plenty of beginner-friendly trails in Northern Virginia. However, it’s always best to check the incline, length, and difficulty of the trail before you head out.

Ideally, beginners should opt for a loop hike, since it loops back to the beginning of the trail, meaning you won’t have to worry about navigation. Instead, you can focus on enjoying the outdoors with your hiking partners (or your four-legged companions) and take in the scenery.

Are there other good hiking trails in Northern Virginia?

Absolutely! There are plenty of other trails that you can enjoy, including:

  • The Appalachian Trail

  • The trails at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park

  • The trails at Sky Meadows State Park

  • The trails at Burke Lake Park

  • The trails around the Manassas National Battlefield Park

Keep in mind that not all of these trails are pet-friendly, so be sure to check the websites or enquire at the visitor center in the parks to check whether you can bring your fur baby along.

Are the hiking trails pet-friendly?

While all of the hiking trails on this list are pet-friendly, it’s important to remember that not all of the hikes in Northern Virginia allow for dogs to accompany you. In some areas of Northern VA, you may need to check whether the trails allow for pooches. And, if they do, you’ll also need to verify whether your pup needs to stay on a leash (this is true for most cases, though).

Just remember, when you’re out on the trails, you should always bring along some bags to dispose of your pet’s waste properly. Although you can hire a pooper scooper service (like Pet Domestic) when you’re at home, it’s up to you to keep the trails clean and ready for everyone to use.

What are the best times of year to hike in Northern Virginia?

The best times of year to hike in Northern Virginia are in the spring and fall (March to mid-May and October through November, respectively). During these seasons, the weather is mild and pleasant. But it should be said that you can enjoy a hike in Northern VA all year around, as long as you pay close attention to the weather and any weather warnings for the trails you’re visiting.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re keen on a leisurely walk or a more challenging trek, Northern Virginia’s hiking trails provide the perfect opportunity to connect with nature. Plus, with seven of our favorite recommendations, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for.

So, grab your hiking boots and your pup’s leash and get ready to explore some of the most beautiful pet-friendly trails that Northern VA has to offer!