Smithsonian Associates Launches New Local Hiking Program

’60 Hikes within 60 Miles’ authors will lead hikers out to Lorton for a day of nature, history and art offerings.

Photo by kerkezz/

Sometimes we can forget the embarrassment of riches we have in the Northern Virginia area when it comes to nature, history and culture because it’s all so readily available. How often do we truly take advantage of the history preserved from our founding fathers? Or the variety of parks spread across the area?

With the help of local authors Renee Sklarew and Rachel Cooper, who co-wrote the book 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian Associates is launching a series of hikes to fix that. One of the first outings includes a full-day hike in Lorton.

The authors, both seasoned hikers and travel writers, selected Lorton for its trifecta of sites: Mason Neck State Park, Gunston Hall and the Lorton Workhouse Art Center.

“By combining a hike with some more cultural attractions, we’re offering something different than you would get from say if you go on a hike with a hiking club, and then again different if you just go on a tour of a historic site,” explains Cooper. Read on for highlights of the day-trip.

  1. Mason Neck State Park: Offering a mix of wetlands, forests and open waters, Mason Neck State Park is also home to the first federal sanctuary for bald eagles. A presentation by a naturalist will kick off the day followed by a 3-mile hike through the park. Keep your eyes peeled for eagles.
  2. Gunston Hall: Once the home of George Mason, hikers will take a history break to learn about the Virginia statesman, including his contributions to the Bill of Rights, before stopping for a picnic on the grounds of the 18th-century mansion.
  3. Lorton Workhouse Arts Center: Housed in what used to be the Lorton Jail, the Lorton Workhouse Arts Center today is home to a number of local artist studios who display and sell their works on-site. The historic center, which was where many women protestors were jailed during the suffragette movement, also played a pivotal role in amplifying the need for the 19th amendment.

The Smithsonian Associates’ Nature, History and Art in Fairfax County all-day tour will take place Nov. 3 from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Transportation is provided. //; $190

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