By Carol Brooks

Red Rock Wilderness Overlook Park, near Leesburg, VA, is the perfect getaway for an easy summer hike with your pup. Located on busy Edwards Ferry Road close to the heart of Leesburg, the park’s curious roadside stone remnants guard a surprisingly remote wilderness behind.

The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority acquired this 67-acre property for recreational use in 1978. It was once part of a 2000 acre parcel owned by Charles Paxton, a wealthy industrialist turned gentleman farmer. The parkland was once the Paxton farm – the stone carriage house, granary, well house and ice house, built in the 1880s, are all that remain.

After parking in the lot at the entrance, my co-reviewer Lily (my neighbor’s active poodle) and I took a tour of the nearby farm ruins. It was easy to imagine a bygone era of horses and carriages, even though the land is now adjacent to housing developments.

As we were leaving the parking area, Lily and I met Don Peterson and his recently rescued dog, Buddy, who live nearby. Don said he and Buddy hiked the park’s main trail, approximately 1.2 miles, twice daily. He enjoys the peaceful escape, and they both enjoy the exercise. He warned us that the colors on the detailed trail map, located at the head of the parking area, do not match the blazes on the trees.

Lily and I reviewed the trail map to decide on a route. It showed six interconnecting trails that you could explore to create any length hike. Don directed us to follow the light green blazed trail, shown as white on the trail map, for the maximum mileage and scenic experience in a single loop.

We located the green blazed trailhead at the top left side of the parking lot. We hiked only a short distance before the sounds of passing cars on nearby Edwards Ferry Road faded into the softer sounds of nature.

The trail is in excellent shape though a few unattended blown-down trees provided some on-the-spot agility opportunities. Not far from the parking lot, the Potomac River becomes visible through the trees. On the day we hiked, a breeze from the water kept us cool. At the river, the green blazed trail turns right and continues to follow the water from a ridge for a short distance. If you want to hike along the river, leave the park’s blazed trail at the turn and go straight following a steep unmarked path to the river. You can reconnect with the park’s green blazed trail downstream by climbing another steep and unmaintained trail leading away from the river.

Lily and I continued to follow the green blazed trail through the woods, up and down hills and crossing several foot bridges. The trail returns to a river overlook again, offering a spectacular viewing opportunity where you can pause on the provided bench. From this point, we continued following the light green blazed trail back to the parking lot. If you want to lengthen your hike or explore other areas of the park, try one of the other color-coded trails.

Red Rocks Wilderness Overlook trails offer an easy and enjoyable hiking experience for any level hiker. Consider bringing a picnic to enjoy on one of the provided picnic benches near the parking lot to enjoy a summer day.

Getting There: Red Rocks Regional Park is located on Edwards Ferry Road in Leesburg, VA 20176. It is next to the Leesburg Water Treatment Plant (43234 Edwards Ferry Rd NE, Leesburg, VA 20176)
Cost: Free
Park Hours: 7 days a week, Dawn to Dusk
What to Bring: Wear sturdy waterproof shoes – the trail has muddy spots. Bring some water for you and your dog, waste bags, and towels for after-hike clean-up. Tick protection is a must.
Trail Specifics: The Trails wind are blazed and easy to follow. There are some downed trees so be prepared to go over or under them.
Fido-Friendly Features: Off-street parking; fun, dog-safe, wide trails.
Use: Hikers, runners, on-leash dogs.
Best Time to Go: Anytime.
Rated: 1-2 paws. Very easy.

Carol Brooks is co-owner of DogOn Fitness, a daily exercise service for dogs. She specializes in high-energy and overweight dogs, providing them with working walks, running, adventure hikes, and training reinforcement.