Segment 4 (Final): Byron Avenue Park in Springfield to Occoquan Regional Park
By Angela Hazuda Meyers
Welcome to the fourth and final segment of the Cross County Trail! This last leg covers 10.5 miles from Springfield to Occoquan. The trail continues along Accotink Creek before picking up at Pohick Creek and eventually concluding at Occoquan River. Much of this segment, around 80%, is paved.
To get a trail overview, see our NOVADog Spring 2017 Issue or review the Fairfax County trail map: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/cct/. Bring your fully charged phone (with a GPS) and zoom in until you can see the trail. Technology is helpful in ensuring you stay on track; however, most of this segment of the CCT was pretty well marked!
We left off our hiking adventure at Byron Avenue Park in Springfield. For Segment 4, we head south out of Byron Avenue Park, where the trail quickly crosses Old Keene Mill Road, passes by Hunter Village Park, and stays fairly close to the road until you cross Rolling Road. Here you’ll turn right, then take a left shortly after onto a housing development trail. You’ll continue, crossing the Fairfax County Parkway, on to Hooes Road, then take a left to head into the woods. At this point the trail begins meandering along and crisscrossing Pohick Creek. This portion lasts about 3 miles and is particularly lovely. It’s fun to cross the stepping stones and just savor the stream bed valleys. Plus, you’ll get plenty of scenery and wildlife: a deer, a fox, a red-tailed hawk, and many other birds all made an appearance at different points.
The trail continues along Pohick Creek and then cuts through a few different housing developments. Stay alert! While this part meanders a lot, the turns are all marked. When you come to Silverbrook Road, the trail continues on the other side of the road, but there are unfortunately no immediate markings. However, you can turn right or left to cross at one of the nearby lights, then double back to pick up the trail. At this point we are heading onto a wonderfully historic part of the trail. As soon as you cross Silverbrook Road, you’ll see the Lorton Reformatory, originally called the Occoquan Workhouse. The trail leads around half of the prison yard, where you’ll see the brick guard towers and walls. Then you’ll turn right and pass through the dormitories. President Theodore Roosevelt commissioned the reformatory in the early 1900s as a “rehabilitation campus” for inmates from DC, in an effort to provide better living conditions for prisoners. It gained notoriety due to its open-style model of reform, but also for the “Silent Sentinels” women suffragists who were imprisoned there. The prison was expanded in the 1930s, and prisoners hand-made all the bricks, fired them on site, and built the new structures. Over the years the prison declined, though, and it was closed at the end of 2001. The dorms have recently been transformed into a community room, pool, workout rooms, and luxury apartments.
Head down into the woods and into Giles Run Meadow Park, a scenic 153-acre tract of land. You can take in additional historic sites including railroad boxcars, the Barrel Bridge, a historic home property, and more. After you pass under the Barrel Bridge, you’ll come to Workhouse Road, where you’ll turn left. Continue on Workhouse Road for about half a mile, then take a left onto Ox Road. Here you will get an excellent view of the Workhouse Art Center, which used to be a part of the old Lorton Prison called the Women’s Workhouse. It was transformed into an active arts community and opened in September 2008. After about a quarter mile, immediately before the fence starts, head into the grounds of the Workhouse. You’ll see a trail in front of you. Get onto the trail, turn right, and head past the “lighthouse” towers. You’ll pass two towers, then turn right onto a narrow trail. You’ll continue about a quarter mile until you reach Outlet Road. Cross over to the trail and turn left, heading down the trail into Occoquan Regional Park. You’ll reach the heart of the park after about 1 mile of gradual downhill trail. About halfway down you’ll see one of the old “beehive” kilns to your left. In the park you’ll have some wonderful views of the Occoquan River, plus the small town of Occoquan on the opposite shore. The park has many amenities in the warmer months, but please check the park schedule for hours and dates of operation.
This was one of my top two segments of the CCT. With all the rich history and scenery around, there were plenty of times I had to remind myself I was just a stone’s throw from NOVA’s dense population. The historical aspects of this segment are worth lingering over, so plan additional time to investigate and relax. If you can only hike a portion of this segment, I would recommend starting at Silverbrook Road and heading to the Occoquan (roughly 3 miles) OR starting at Hooes Road and the Fairfax County Parkway and hiking until Pohick Creek (3 miles).
That’s it! Our journey of the 40-mile CCT is complete. I hope you have the chance to get out and enjoy it as much as we have. It was quite an amazing adventure over the past 12 months, and one we would definitely do again. Have fun hiking!
Distance: Create your own length from the 10 miles featured.
Fido Friendly Features: Shaded, stream access, lake
Best time to go: During daylight hours
Access: Parking available at the following Parks: Byron Ave Park, Hooes Road and the Fairfax County Parkway, South County High School (off Silverbrook Road), Workhouse Art Center, Occoquan Regional Park
Rated: 2 Paws. The trail is not hard. Very easy, no hills, but I give it a 2 for the distance. 80% paved surface.