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Bull Run Mountains
Natural Area Preserve, VA

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This hike occurred on Saturday, May 4, 2019. Participants were Tom O'Brien, Dave McIntyre, Mary Gordon, Caitlin Powell, Jessica Lowry, Mike Calabrese, Cub Master Tim Young, 1 Scout parent and 3 Cub Scouts.

We all met at the


parking lot like always and left promptly at 8:00 AM. As with the last few hikes we would
manage to pull this one off in between 2 rain storms. The name of this place had changed slightly from Bull Run Mountains Conservancy to Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve since the

Virginia Outdoors Foundation

took it over within the last 5 or 6 years.

We got to the Preserve around 8:30AM. The scouts had not arrived yet but did within 6 minutes. Once all assembled we started off westward and counterclockwise along the Green Trail loop. We travelled a bit past the Red Trail loop turnoff as we wanted to see the Ice House, which was a brick lined pit, and the back side of Chapmans Mill. This is the old structure that one sees when driving along I66 at the Prince William/Faquier county line. We took pictures, then backtracked a bit and started north along the Red Trail loop.

It was all uphill for the next quarter mile or so. We stopped at the Chapman Cemetery, hiked uphill some more, stopped at at a quarry trench that probably supplied the stones for the grist mill and adjacent house remains that we passed at the beginning. Then, we turned right onto what appeared to be an old road.

This old road was surprisingly level as we walked the ridge in a northeasternly direction. At about the 1 mile mark we came to an intersection with the Green Trail. The map didn't fully depict the trail at this point. When we thought that we were going straight and east on the green trail, we were really going northwest. So we discussed the situation as we were not seeing some of the landmarks presented on the map. So after about 1,500 feet we turned around and went back to the last intersection.

I had hiked this trail counterclockwise about 5 or 6 years ago. And what I saw going southeast and then east looked familiar to me. So we went that way. At this point the scouts were getting tired so they departed and hiked the .75 mile Red Trail back to their vehicles. We saw a bench dedicated to a young man that lost his life on the railroad tracks at the southern end of the preserve. And we saw another bench that was an Eagle Scout project that someone had stolen the plaque for. We crossed Catletts Branch and started a grueling up going east and then southeast along the eastern side of the Green Trail.

Once we got on top of the ridge there was a long down. We passed the ruins of an old house that looked to be over a hundred years old. The trail leveled out as it turned to the south. We then passed a wooded area that had over 50 small orange flags scattered around the woods. We guessed that these were civil war graves that had been recently discovered. I had hiked this stretch numerous times and never saw the few headstones that were present in that area.

We continued in a southernly direction on the Green Trail until we came to the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks. The Green trail used to cross these tracks. But now it turned to the southwest, recrossed Catletts Branch, turned west, then northwest and started a tough up to the intersection with the Yellow Trail. We had hiked about 2.2 miles so far. But it felt like more. The map that we had did not include some of the numbered wooden posts that we saw on these trails.

We turned left onto the Yellow Trail, followed it counterclockwise for about
a half mile, turned left onto the Red Trail and followed it for about a half mile. And then we were done. I think that we did around 3.4 miles all together when you included the backtracking that we did. The terrain here was the toughest that we have encountered so far. This is what the Appalachian Trail is like, only longer. We saw 4 or 5 other hikers today. The Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is rich in natural beauty, history and challenging terrain and is well worth exploring.

Mike C
More Images

Chapman's Mill ruins
  Chapman's Mill ruins.
   By Mike Calabrese
Group image @ beginning of hike   Group image @ beginning of hike.
   By Mike Calabrese
Chapman family cemetery   Chapman family cemetery
  By Mike Calabrese
One of many large trees
  One of many large trees.
  By Mike Calabrese
Hiking the Green Trail
  Hiking the Green Trail.
  By Mike Calabrese
Ruins of old house
  Ruins of old house.
   By Mike Calabrese
Hiking the Red Trail
  Hiking the Red Trail.
   By Mike Calabrese

Bench @ Red/Green Trail JCT

  Bench @ Red/Green Trail JCT.
  By Mary Gordon

Tim Y helping Mike C over a blowdown

  Tim Y helping Mike C over a
  blowdown. By Mary Gordon

Exploring Chapman Cemetery

  Exploring Chapman Cemetery.
  By Mary Gordon

Ice House Pit

  Ice House Pit.
  By Mary Gordon

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