Resources for Exploring, Appreciating and Understanding
Loudoun County's Natural Wonders

Here are some links to sites that will give you ideas about places to visit in and around Loudoun County that are family friendly and offer a mix of learning, recreation, and interactive opportunities that will appeal to young and old alike.
In Loudoun County Around Loudoun County Resources for Learning and Added Enjoyment

 

In Loudoun County

 

  • The Piedmont Environmental Council's Loudoun Outdoors Guide provides links to county parks and identifies places for biking, hiking, kayaking and canoeing. This guide is a great place to find ideas for outings in the county.

  • The Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy has lots of activities on their website for kids and a wealth of information on local wildlife that will make you and your kids smarter about the critters you may see on your travels.
  • The Audubon Naturalist Society’s Rust Sanctuary The ANS offers activities for kids and adults, kids’ camps, lectures and outings and the sanctuary has nice trails to hike which are hilly in spots but overall an easy hike.A real outdoor treasure close in by Leesburg where you would least expect to find it.
  • The Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship offers miles of trails to hike, lovely scenery, and a variety of programs (many done in partnership with the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy) throughout the year. Trails can be challenging for younger kids. Rest facilities may not be available.
  • The Claude Moore Park offers nice trails for walking, several ponds, a Nature and Visitor Center, and a wide range of nature related activities and events for families and kids throughout the year. The park is a great place to stretch your legs, soak up some great regional history, learn about nature, and if you want, visit the Loudoun Farm Heritage Museum which is on the park grounds as well.
  • The Loudoun Farm Heritage Museum History, great activities for younger kids, and trails outside to walk.Good for either a sunny or rainy day outing.
  • LCMG Demonstration Garden Located on Ida Lee Park Drive in Leesburg, the Demonstration Garden maintained by local Master Gardeners is a place residents can visit and learn about chemical-free gardening. Roam the 1/3 acre of vegetable gardens and themed ornamental gardens; especially, visit the Children’s garden featuring child-friendly plants and activities. Workshops for adults and children offered regularly in season.
  • Chapman DeMary Trail The CD Trail is located in what is considered to be the last stand of old growth forest in the Town of Purcellville, and runs along the South Fork Catoctin Creek. This one-mile trail is easy to hike and has interpretive signs and markers to help you identify flora and fauna along the trail. Parking is available behind the building at 205 East Hirst Road in Purcellville, Virginia. The trail is supported by the The Nature Generation, Loudoun Valley High School, the Piedmont Environmental Council, and the Town of Purcellville.
  • Oatlands Plantation Interesting history, lovely gardens, nice gift shop, great place to walk.
  • The Mosby Heritage Area Association The MHAA always has interesting events and activities planned and offer CDs and booklets that provide narrated driving tours of the area that focus on the Civil War exploits of Colonel Mosby, ‘The Gray Ghost.’
  • The Loudoun Museum A worthwhile stop on a rainy day to soak up history instead of rain drops or a good add-on to a stroll around Leesburg.
  • Banshee Reeks Preserve provides acres of beautiful hills and woods to wander and well kept trails.The park trails afford access to a small pond and to Goose Creek and most are for rated as easy hiking with only a few hills.
  • The Aldie Mill A well interpreted, fully restored, working grist mill that is staffed and open on most weekends during the warm weather months. If your kids wonder where bread and rolls come from this is a great way to get back to basics and learn some great local history at the same time.

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Around Loudoun County

 

  • The River Stories Places Page is another great place to look for day trip destinations that are in and around Loudoun County.These places have been carefully selected as sites that will entertain both parents and children and have insightful recommendations appended for each destination.
  • The Chesapeake Gateways Potomac Valley Gateway Page provides an interactive map of all official Chesapeake Gateway sites that are located in the Potomac Valley region east of Loudoun all the way down river to the Bay.Quick, easy and accurate information.
  • Journey Through Hallowed Ground Beginning at Gettysburg and running all the way to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, this section of Route 15 has been designated The Journey Through Hallowed Ground and this web site will allow you to see what sites there are to visit along each section of this historic and scenic route.The JTHG web site is a great trip planning tool and a useful reminder of just how much history lies outside our doors.

The following are direct links to places of special interest close by Loudoun that offer good outdoor, educational and recreational opportunities:

 

  • Bear’s Den Overlook: An easy walk to the overlook with its impressive outcroppings of rocks and a gorgeous view to the west into the Shenandoah Valley. You can access the Appalachian Trail from this location. Honor fee parking. No rest facilities.
  • The Blandy Experimental Farm and State Arboretum More than just a ‘tree zoo’ this is a lovely place to walk and ramble and if you want, learn a lot about the trees and flowers you are seeing.Lovely any time of year.Rest facilities and picnic tables.Dogs permitted if on a lead and if you clean up their waste.
  • The Burwell Morgan Mill: Open May through October.This working grist mill has an unusual inside water wheel.Docents usually are there to interpret the mill and to give demonstrations on weekends. You can purchase flour ground at the mill and make edible souvenirs at home. Rest rooms are open on weekends. Picnic tables behind the mill. Great food available across the street at the Locke Store.
  • The Thompson Wildlife Management Area: A breath-taking display of wildflowers in the spring along the ridge portions of the WMA with the area’s best display of wild trillium bar none.Trails are relatively easy to walk but do have rocks and roots to watch out for which may present problems for the very young or very old. No rest facilities.
  • The C&O Canal at Point of Rocks:Right across the Route 15 bridge in Maryland.Easy access to the tow path from adjacent parking lots. Lots of interesting history and a nice place to stretch your legs.
  • Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park:History. Scenery. Great hiking. Plenty of food. Great book store.Rest facilities.Direct access to town (parking is very hard to find on weekends) or via shuttle bus from National Park Visitor’s Center. Good hiking although the hike up to Jefferson’s Rock will leave all but the most fit puffing hard at the top.
  • Shepherdstown Area Many dining options in town, a nice variety of stores, lots of local history, and many hiking opportunities near by including:The Yankauer Preserve to the west of Shepherdstown and the C&O Canal Tow Path at Lock 38 directly across the river.
  • Antietam National Battlefield (Snavely’s Ford Loop Trail): Oddly enough one of the bloodiest pieces of American earth has one of the prettiest streamside walks in the region (The Snavely’s Ford Loop Trail) which can be directly accessed at the Burnside Bridge and takes about an hour and 20 minutes to walk at a leisurely pace. The trail is relatively easy to walk except for a short segment toward the end of the loop which is uphill and might require kids to be carried or pushed up the hill.
  • The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley and the Glen Burnie Estate: A good sunny or rainy day outing. The MSV is a very well balanced museum that has activities sheets to keep kids engaged, nice artifacts with interpretive material covering 15,000 years of Valley history, amazing doll houses, world class British art, and lots to see for everyone. They also have a great gift shop and a very nice tea room and cafe that serves light lunch and teas. The adjacent Glen Burnie estate offers the opportunity to tour a lovely brick mansion and its gardens which are lovely in all seasons and full of bubbling springs. So you can get both indoor and outdoor time at the MSV and adjust your visit to the particular needs of your family.

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Resources for Learning and Added Enjoyment

 

  • The River Stories Resources Page:has links to on line and printed resources that cover almost all aspects of regional lore: geology; fossils; plants and animals; ecology; and history. If you want to find out what web sites and what books will help your family get more out of your explorations, this is a great place to start.
  • The Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy:has lots of activities on their web site for kids and a wealth of information on books and web sites that will make you and your kids smarter about the critters you may see on your travels.
  • The Digital Atlas of Virginia Flora:may help you determine what that flower you found on your hike might be. Worthy of a browse at any time because of the really great pictures on the web site.
  • The Virginia Native Plant Society and the Maryland Native Plant Society: both offer organized walks and outdoor events throughout the year and in a wide variety of locations. If you don’t know a daisy from a daffodil but want to get outside and learn the flowers, they will be able to help you and your kids learn the local flowers.
  • The George Mason University ‘Virginia Places’ web site is truly amazing.If you want to know almost anything about Virginia, you will probably find good information here. Note: Some of the web links may be out of date but you can probably find an updated link via Google or your preferred search engine.

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Collated for LESA by Hayden Mathews, Nov 2010. Additional suggestions for this page gratefully accepted.