Bull Run – Occoquan Trail In Virginia

Here is everything you need to know about the Bull Run – Occoquan Trail:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: Virginia
  • Length: 18 miles.
  • Type: Hiking
  • Surface: dirt
  • Managed By: Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority
  • Permit Required?: No
  • Website: Info not available.

The Bull Run – Occoquan Trail, located in Northern Virginia, holds a significant historical background that dates back to the early 17th century. The trail follows the path of the Bull Run and Occoquan Rivers, which were vital waterways for transportation and trade during the colonial era. These rivers played a crucial role in the development of the region, serving as a lifeline for the local communities.

During the American Civil War, the Bull Run – Occoquan Trail witnessed several significant events. The First Battle of Bull Run, fought on July 21, 1861, was the first major land battle of the war. Confederate forces under General P.G.T. Beauregard clashed with Union troops commanded by General Irvin McDowell. The battle resulted in a Confederate victory and highlighted the challenges both sides would face in the long and brutal conflict.

In addition to the First Battle of Bull Run, the trail also encompasses the Second Battle of Bull Run, fought from August 28 to August 30, 1862. This battle, also known as the Battle of Second Manassas, was a significant Confederate victory led by General Robert E. Lee. The battle marked a turning point in the war, as it allowed Lee to launch his first invasion of the North, leading to the Battle of Antietam.

Today, the Bull Run – Occoquan Trail serves as a reminder of the region’s rich historical past. Hikers and nature enthusiasts can explore the trail while reflecting on the events that shaped the nation. The trail offers a unique opportunity to connect with the past and gain a deeper understanding of the sacrifices made during the Civil War.

While On The Trail

Access Points

1. Bull Run Marina: Located in Fairfax Station, Virginia, this access point offers parking and access to the trail along the Bull Run.

2. Fountainhead Regional Park: Situated in Fairfax Station, this park provides parking, restrooms, and access to the trailhead.

3. Hemlock Overlook Regional Park: Located in Clifton, Virginia, this park offers parking, restrooms, and access to the trail.

4. Bull Run Regional Park: Situated in Centreville, Virginia, this park provides parking, restrooms, and access to the trailhead.

5. Bull Run Occoquan Trailhead: Located in Clifton, this trailhead offers parking and access to the trail.

6. Occoquan Regional Park: Situated in Lorton, Virginia, this park provides parking, restrooms, and access to the trail.

7. Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge: Located in Woodbridge, Virginia, this wildlife refuge offers parking and access to the trail.

8. Occoquan River Trailhead: Situated in Woodbridge, this trailhead provides parking and access to the trail.

9. Occoquan Regional Park – River View Trailhead: Located in Lorton, this trailhead offers parking and access to the trail.

10. Occoquan Regional Park – Bluebell Trailhead: Situated in Lorton, this trailhead provides parking and access to the trail.

These are some of the major access points or trailheads along the Bull Run – Occoquan Trail. There may be additional smaller access points or trailheads along the trail as well.

Transportation Available

1. Bull Run Regional Park Shuttle – Shuttle service providing transportation within Bull Run Regional Park.
2. Occoquan Regional Park Shuttle – Shuttle service offering transportation within Occoquan Regional Park.
3. Fairfax Connector Bus – Public bus service connecting various locations in Fairfax County, including the Bull Run – Occoquan Trail.
4. Uber – Ride-hailing service providing on-demand transportation.
5. Lyft – Ride-hailing service offering convenient transportation options.
6. Taxi – Traditional taxi service available for transportation needs.
7. VRE Manassas Line – Commuter train service connecting Manassas to Washington, D.C., with a station near the Bull Run – Occoquan Trail.
8. Rental Car – Various rental car companies provide options for personal transportation.
9. Bike Share – Bike-sharing program allowing users to rent bicycles for short trips.
10. Walking – The Bull Run – Occoquan Trail can be accessed by foot for those seeking a more active mode of transportation.


The Bull Run – Occoquan Trail offers the following amenities:

1. Restrooms: There are restroom facilities available along the trail for visitors’ convenience.

2. Parking: There are designated parking areas at various access points along the trail for visitors to park their vehicles.

3. Camping Sites: The trail offers camping sites for those who wish to spend the night in the area. These sites may have basic amenities such as fire pits, picnic tables, and access to water.

4. Picnic Areas: There are designated picnic areas along the trail where visitors can enjoy a meal or have a picnic with family and friends. These areas may have picnic tables, grills, and trash bins.

5. Water Access: The trail provides access to the Bull Run and Occoquan River, allowing visitors to engage in activities such as fishing, kayaking, or simply enjoying the water.

6. Hiking and Biking Trails: The Bull Run – Occoquan Trail offers well-maintained hiking and biking trails for outdoor enthusiasts. These trails are suitable for various skill levels and provide scenic views of the surrounding nature.

7. Wildlife Viewing: The trail is known for its diverse wildlife, and visitors can enjoy observing birds, deer, and other animals in their natural habitat.

8. Interpretive Signs: Along the trail, there may be interpretive signs providing information about the local flora, fauna, and historical significance of the area.

Please note that amenities may vary at different sections of the trail, so it is advisable to check specific locations or visitor centers for more detailed information.

Nearby Services

1. Bull Run Regional Park: Offers camping and RV sites near the trailhead.
2. Fountainhead Regional Park: Provides camping facilities and a marina with boat rentals.
3. Hemlock Overlook Regional Park: Offers camping and team-building activities.
4. Occoquan Regional Park: Features a marina, picnic areas, and a miniature golf course.
5. Hampton Inn Potomac Mills/Woodbridge: Nearby hotel with comfortable rooms and amenities.
6. Comfort Suites Manassas Battlefield Park: Hotel offering spacious suites and a complimentary breakfast.
7. Holiday Inn Express & Suites Manassas: Modern hotel with a fitness center and free breakfast.
8. Super 8 by Wyndham Manassas: Budget-friendly hotel with basic amenities and free Wi-Fi.
9. Prince William Forest RV Campground: RV campground with full hookups and access to hiking trails.
10. Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center: Nearby hospital providing emergency medical services.

Bull Run – Occoquan Trail Difficulty Notes

The Bull Run – Occoquan Trail presents a moderate level of difficulty for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. Spanning approximately 18 miles, this trail offers a diverse terrain that includes rocky sections, steep inclines, and occasional stream crossings. While some portions of the trail are relatively flat and easy to navigate, others require a bit more effort and endurance. The trail’s length and varied terrain make it a suitable challenge for those seeking a moderate level of difficulty, providing a rewarding experience for hikers of different skill levels.

Features And Attractions

1. Bull Run Regional Park: This park offers stunning views of the Bull Run River and is a great starting point for the Bull Run – Occoquan Trail.

2. Hemlock Overlook Regional Park: Located along the trail, this park offers beautiful scenic views of the Occoquan River and surrounding forests.

3. Fountainhead Regional Park: Situated on the banks of the Occoquan Reservoir, this park provides breathtaking views of the water and surrounding woodlands.

4. Bull Run Mountains: The trail passes through the Bull Run Mountains, offering hikers panoramic views of the surrounding valleys and rolling hills.

5. Bull Run Occoquan Trailhead: This trailhead marks the beginning of the Bull Run – Occoquan Trail and provides access to the scenic beauty of the surrounding area.

6. Occoquan Reservoir: As you hike along the trail, you’ll come across the Occoquan Reservoir, a picturesque body of water surrounded by lush forests.

7. Historic Occoquan: This charming town is located near the trail and is known for its well-preserved historic buildings, quaint shops, and waterfront views.

8. Bull Run Marina: Situated on the Occoquan Reservoir, the marina offers stunning views of the water and is a great spot to relax and enjoy the scenery.

9. Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve: This preserve is home to diverse plant and animal species and offers hikers the opportunity to explore its natural beauty.

10. Bull Run-Occoquan Trail Bridge: This bridge spans the Occoquan River and provides hikers with a unique vantage point to admire the river and surrounding landscape.

11. Bull Run Mountains Loop Trail: This trail branches off from the Bull Run – Occoquan Trail and takes hikers through the scenic Bull Run Mountains, offering breathtaking views along the way.

12. Hemlock Overlook Suspension Bridge: This suspension bridge crosses over the Bull Run River and provides hikers with a thrilling experience and stunning views of the river and surrounding forests.

13. Bull Run Creek: As you hike along the trail, you’ll come across Bull Run Creek, a picturesque waterway that adds to the natural beauty of the area.

14. Bull Run Mountains Overlook: This overlook provides hikers with a panoramic view of the Bull Run Mountains and the surrounding countryside.

15. Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge: Located near the trail, this refuge is home to a variety of wildlife species and offers visitors the chance to observe and appreciate the natural environment.

Usage Guidelines

– Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times.
– Horses are allowed on designated equestrian trails only.
– Bicycles are allowed on designated multi-use trails.
– Camping is not permitted along the trail.
– Fires are only allowed in designated fire rings or grills.
– Hunting is allowed in designated areas during the appropriate seasons.
– Fishing is allowed in designated areas with a valid fishing license.
– Swimming is not permitted in the Bull Run or Occoquan Reservoir.
– Motorized vehicles are not allowed on the trail.
– Littering is strictly prohibited; please carry out all trash.
– Respect wildlife and do not disturb or feed them.
– Stay on designated trails and do not trespass onto private property.
– Follow all posted signs and regulations.

Seasonal Information

The Bull Run – Occoquan Trail, located in Northern Virginia, offers a picturesque and diverse outdoor experience for hikers, nature enthusiasts, and adventure seekers. The best times of the year to visit this trail are during the spring and fall seasons. In spring, the trail comes alive with vibrant wildflowers, lush greenery, and the soothing sound of flowing water from the Bull Run and Occoquan River. The weather is generally pleasant, with mild temperatures and lower humidity, making it ideal for long hikes and exploration.

During the fall, the trail transforms into a breathtaking display of autumn colors as the leaves change, creating a picturesque backdrop for outdoor activities. The cooler temperatures and crisp air make it a comfortable time to hike, bike, or simply enjoy the scenic beauty of the trail. Fall also offers the opportunity to witness the migration of birds and spot wildlife preparing for the winter months.

It is important to note that the Bull Run – Occoquan Trail has seasonal closures in certain areas. The trail is closed during the winter months, typically from December to February, due to inclement weather conditions and potential hazards such as icy paths and fallen trees. It is advisable to check with local authorities or trail management before planning a visit during these months to ensure the trail is open and accessible.

Additionally, it is worth mentioning that the trail can be quite popular during weekends and holidays, especially in peak seasons. To avoid crowds and enjoy a more serene experience, visiting on weekdays or during off-peak hours is recommended. Overall, the Bull Run – Occoquan Trail offers a wonderful outdoor escape throughout the year, with spring and fall being the prime seasons to fully appreciate its natural beauty and tranquility.


1. Paved Pathways: The Bull Run – Occoquan Trail features paved pathways that are wheelchair accessible, providing a smooth and even surface for easy navigation.
2. Accessible Parking: Designated accessible parking spaces are available near the trail entrances, ensuring convenient access for individuals with disabilities.
3. Restrooms: Accessible restrooms are located along the trail, equipped with features such as grab bars and wider doorways to accommodate wheelchair users.
4. Picnic Areas: Wheelchair-accessible picnic areas are available along the trail, providing a space for individuals to relax and enjoy outdoor meals.
5. Benches: Wheelchair-accessible benches are placed at regular intervals along the trail, offering resting spots for individuals with mobility challenges.
6. Signage: The trail features clear and visible signage, including braille and tactile elements, to assist individuals with visual impairments in navigating the area.
7. Accessible Trailheads: The trailheads are designed to be accessible, featuring ramps or graded slopes for easy entry and exit for wheelchair users.
8. Trail Width: The Bull Run – Occoquan Trail is wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs, allowing individuals with mobility devices to comfortably traverse the path.
9. Accessible Fishing Spots: The trail provides accessible fishing spots, equipped with features like lowered platforms or piers, allowing individuals with disabilities to enjoy fishing activities.
10. Assistance Animals: Service animals are permitted on the trail, providing support and assistance to individuals with disabilities as they navigate the area.

Safety Information

1. Trail Difficulty: The Bull Run – Occoquan Trail is a moderately challenging trail with varying terrain and elevation changes.
2. Trail Length: The trail spans approximately 17.4 miles, offering a long-distance hiking or running experience.
3. Weather Conditions: Be prepared for changing weather conditions, as the trail is exposed to sun, rain, and wind.
4. Trail Markings: The trail is marked with white blazes, but it’s advisable to carry a map or GPS device for navigation.
5. Wildlife Encounter: Keep an eye out for wildlife such as deer, snakes, and birds, and maintain a safe distance if encountered.
6. Water Sources: Carry enough water as there are limited water sources along the trail, and treat any water before consumption.
7. Tick Prevention: Apply insect repellent and wear long pants to protect against ticks, which are prevalent in the area.
8. Poison Ivy: Learn to identify poison ivy and avoid contact by staying on the trail and wearing appropriate clothing.
9. Trail Etiquette: Practice Leave No Trace principles, yield to other trail users, and respect the natural environment.
10. Emergency Preparedness: Carry a fully charged cell phone, a first aid kit, and inform someone about your hiking plans.
11. Trail Conditions: Check for any trail closures or updates before heading out, as maintenance or weather-related closures may occur.
12. Hiking Buddy: Consider hiking with a partner or in a group for added safety and enjoyment.
13. Time Management: Plan your hike according to daylight hours, allowing enough time to complete the trail before sunset.
14. Physical Fitness: Ensure you are in good physical condition before attempting the trail, as it requires endurance and stamina.
15. Leave No Trace: Pack out all trash and dispose of it properly, leaving the trail clean and undisturbed for others to enjoy.
16. Emergency Contacts: Carry a list of emergency contacts, including local authorities and park rangers, in case of any emergencies.
17. Trailhead Parking: Park your vehicle in designated areas and secure your belongings to prevent theft or damage.
18. Trail Closure Notifications: Stay updated on any trail closures or alerts through official park websites or local authorities.
19. Sun Protection: Wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself from harmful UV rays.
20. Enjoyment and Relaxation: Take time to appreciate the natural beauty of the trail and enjoy a peaceful outdoor experience.

Conservation Notes

The Bull Run – Occoquan Trail, located in Northern Virginia, is a significant natural resource that plays a crucial role in the conservation of the region’s biodiversity. This trail traverses through diverse ecosystems, including forests, wetlands, and meadows, providing habitat for a wide range of plant and animal species. The conservation status of the Bull Run – Occoquan Trail is of utmost importance due to its ecological significance and the need to protect its fragile ecosystems.

Efforts have been made to conserve and protect the trail and its surrounding areas. The trail is managed by various organizations, including the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority and the Fairfax County Park Authority, who work diligently to ensure the preservation of its natural resources. These organizations implement measures to control invasive species, maintain water quality, and protect sensitive habitats along the trail.

The Bull Run – Occoquan Trail is also part of larger conservation initiatives in the region. It is connected to other protected areas, such as the Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve and the Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, creating a network of conserved lands that enhance the overall conservation value of the trail. These protected areas provide additional habitat for threatened and endangered species, contributing to their long-term survival.

Despite these conservation efforts, the Bull Run – Occoquan Trail faces ongoing challenges. Urbanization and development in the surrounding areas pose a threat to the trail’s conservation status. Increased human activity, such as recreational use and infrastructure development, can disrupt the delicate balance of the ecosystems along the trail. Continued monitoring and management are necessary to mitigate these impacts and ensure the long-term conservation of the Bull Run – Occoquan Trail and its associated natural resources.

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