Fauquier is for Runners. As most runners have experienced this past year, finding extra motivation to lace up and get out has been difficult. With races cancelled and running groups disbanded into the unseen future, it’s hard to keep spirits high for daily runs or long-mileage weekends. Luckily, Fauquier County provides some inspirational options for destination running. From paved paths to hilly trails, there is something for every interest and ability.
Northern Fauquier Community Park
A hidden gem for runners is the flat, paved path at Northern Fauquier Community Park in Marshall. This loop is about one and a half miles long, which makes it an excellent option for anyone training for a 5K race. Running past families on playgrounds, at soccer practices or having picnics in one of the many shelters provides a warm, energizing feeling. The many trees that line the trail are excellent waypoints for fartleks and other speedwork. You will even enjoy the views of a neighboring horse farm as you come down the long, straight stretch.
Northern Fauquier Community Park has something for all ages, making it a great option for runners who want to bring their families along while they get in their workout. Nearby, the town of Marshall is host to several good lunch spots, including Johnny Monarch’s, the region’s only “bustaurant” offering a variety of comfort foods and outdoor picnic area. For more information visit www.fauquiercounty.gov.
Old Town Run
Many people already know of Old Town Warrenton’s charm. Here, a 10-plus mile loop can be made that takes runners on a challenging course through the hills of downtown. One favorite loop includes parking near Carousel Frozen Treats, where you start your run by making a slow climb up Waterloo Road. Reaching Main Street, pass by the famous Red Truck Bakery and enjoy a long, downhill stretch on Alexandria Pike. From there, take a right on Walker to run one and a half miles before traveling back up towards Old Town. To end your run, meet up with the Warrenton Path Greenway, following an old rail line. Reaching the red caboose that marks the end of the path, choose any of the side streets that wind through the Warrenton Historic District and back to your car.
Old Town has much to offer after your run as well. Enjoy a post-run breakfast biscuit from Freed’s Biscuit Company at the Farmer’s Market (April to November) or have brunch at any of the local restaurants with outdoor seating.
Those runners seeking the quiet solitude of trails have many options to choose from in Fauquier. In the northern end, Sky Meadows State Park provides a marked 5K trail run, which travels by stream, woodland, and wide, open pastures. For those seeking some hill training, climb the Piedmont Overlook Trail, which rises almost 1,000 feet in less than a mile. For your herculean efforts, you will be rewarded with a stunning view of the historic Crooked Run Valley. There are many other trails within the park to choose too – and they can all be combined to achieve runs of various lengths.
Intersecting the trails of Sky Meadows, the Appalachian Trail runs the ridge above the park, from the town of Linden to Paris. This is a challenging 12-mile run, and any way you tackle it will start with a steep uphill climb. It is also a trail best done with a friend. Leave one car at the trail parking off Route 50, and the other at the trailhead parking in Linden, off Tucker Lane. The Appalachian Trail is well-marked with its famous white blazes and is also well-maintained. If you need a break, stop at the Whiskey Hollow Shelter to read the trail log of hikers, and soak your feet in the cool waters that run next to the camping area.
Closer to Warrenton, runners can get in a quick trail run at Whitney State Forest. This 148-acre park is home to hikers, bikers, runners, and horseback riders who navigate the small hills through hardwood forests and open fields. There are several stream crossings, and the clay-laden soil tends to get muddy after a rainy spell, so plan your trip accordingly. The trails are marked. However, with many cross-sections, it could be easy to get turned around. Bring your phone to check in with a map so you can navigate a four-plus mile trail run without worry.
Vint Hill for runners
What was once home to one of Virginia’s military bases is now an area of long, paved paths, athletic fields and suburban housing. The Vint Hill trails are some of the best for getting in runs up to about seven miles, and there are plenty of side trails to choose from. Park at the community center and wind your way around the mostly flat neighborhoods, enjoying nice, long stretches to settle into your stride. Afterwards, enjoy a meal at the Farm Station Cafe or a cold beer at Old Bust Head brewery.
At the Warrenton Aquatic and Recreation Facility (WARF) and nearby Athey Sports Complex, a paved running trail around the gym and athletic fields is perfect for hill and speed work. While mostly flat, there is a short incline in the western part of the park that can be used for hill repeats. Runners here will find an easy mile loop that travels past a public playground, soccer fields and a glistening pond that is often home to ducks in the winter. A trip here can be combined with a visit to the WARF, which has resident and non-resident day passes, and hosts both a competition and leisure pool, a large hot tub and a lazy river (good for walking to build leg strength). The water slide and shallow play area also make this a great choice to bring your entire family.
A trip to any of Fauquier’s trails provides a way to break out of a running rut and stay in shape for a promising year of races. Be sure to check online for the many 5Ks and other races that occur within the county, and don’t forget to leave time for some other fun stops during your visit! For more information visit www.warrentonva.gov.
By Erin Mcarty