4 kid-friendly hikes to try in Northern Virginia

Maybe you were an avid hiker pre-kids. But even with that baby-in-a-backpack Biorn made for hiking, sometimes you just need an easy trail. Here are four places the kids—and you—can stretch your legs worry-free.

red and blue carousal
The carousal at Burke Lake Park. (Photo by Renee Sklarew)

Editor’s Note: This post was originally written for our April print issue, before the current coronavirus situation began. Please check the trails’ websites to see if they are open at this time.

Written by Renee Sklarew, Mathina Calliope and Nevin Martell

Burke Lake Park is one of the most popular Fairfax County parks for families (the carousel and miniature train see to that). There’s also plenty of hiking for families who want to experience nature together. Everyone can challenge themselves on the 4.7-mile loop trail around the lake—or check out the circuit training’s balance beam and log hop. Take breaks to watch the waterfowl frolicking from one of many shoreline benches. // 7315 Ox Road, Fairfax Station

There are a number of short trails at Prince William Forest Park (including some that can accommodate strollers), plus a park for post-hike playing. Start your hike at the Laurel Loop trailhead by the Pine Grove Picnic Area for a 1.4-mile jaunt over the river and through the woods. For a 1.8-mile extension, bear right onto the Birch Bluff Trail that connects back to Laurel Loop. // 18170 Park Entrance Road, Triangle

If you want to be a bit more ambitious, Lewis Springs Falls is one of the highest elevation falls at Shenandoah National Park, but don’t worry, there’s a sturdy guardrail. At the observation point, you can look down at the 81-foot falls spilling over the rock, then splashing out of sight. The easy-to-follow 3.3-mile loop is very doable, and the elevation changes are less than 1,000 feet. // Milepost 51.2

Stroller-friendly and short enough that toddlers won’t get worn out, the hiking at Chessie’s Trail at Lee District Park is easy peasy lemon squeezy. Along the way, little ones can relax at the unique nest-seating area and play with the spinning rocks. Keep an eye out for statues of indigenous Chesapeake Bay-region creatures and the clever face sculpture embedded in the ground. After the walk, tykes can ride on the carousel or romp through the treehouse to extend their time outside. // 6601 Telegraph Road, Alexandria

This post originally appeared in our April 2020 print issue. For more great hiking and biking trails, subscribe to our Parks & Rec newsletter.

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