Why I Hate Hiking in Northern Virginia

The short answer: Because I’ve hiked in Colorado.

Long answer: I would like to make the case that there is no hiking in Virginia.

I know you AT thru-hikers will protest, but there is a difference between walking outdoors and hiking.

If you think you are “hiking” in Virginia, you have never hiked in Colorado (or pretty much any state in the west) or somewhere the rewards are great than just being outside and moving your feet.

So maybe that makes my position entitled — I lived somewhere great hiking is taken for granted — but east coasters have their own entitlement issues (that’s the only reason anybody lives here?) so I think it’s fair to counter-argue that living here sucks if you’re an outdoorsy person.

If you live in Washington, D.C., and want to find a hike with a view (that isn’t urban) you have to be willing to travel — and I have. I have also done several of the hikes that come up when you search “day hikes near D.C.”

Have I done Old Rag? Did it. Have I been to Shenandoah? Of course. Have I seen Great Falls and Sky Meadows?

Did those. The ratio of effort to payoff was a disappointment for all of them.

Hiked Sugarloaf “mountain” and in Harper’s Ferry and Purcellville, too — more on those later.

While I don’t discourage my fellow outdoorsy transplants from attempting the same quest to find the kind of soul-nourishing hiking I was used to here (if you find success, let me know!) — I would encourage you to lower your expectations.

I’m compiling my own attempts here.

First and the reason I finally tipped over the edge and decided to write this blog: Scott’s Run Nature Preserve. This comes up on a list of rewarding “hikes” near D.C. compiled by the state of Virginia. I drove to it — about half an hour from me away — without much hope for Virginia hiking but with a desperate need to get out into nature. I passed a lot of enormous houses with Christmas trees waiting to be taken away on their curbs. If this was Colorado, high property values would be promising for hiking prospects. In Virginia, it just means people have an off-street option to walk from their mansion to the highway.

Do not, I beg you, drive to this trail (and not just because Google will mislead you). You can find a closer local trail to walk your dog on — and that’s the only thing this is good for. Admittedly, there is supposed to be a “waterfall” on this trail that I did not see. If you’ve seen one “waterfall” on the Potomac, you’ve seen them all and you might as well just see Great Falls.

I’m not saying there are no paths like this in Colorado. We just don’t call them “hiking trails.” We call them “that dirt path behind your house.”

Here are more examples:

Why I hated hiking Old Rag