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In Northern Virginia's suburban community of Springfield, Lake Accotink Park provides a wilderness escape amid the city surroundings. The 500-acre park features picnic areas, miniature golf, an antique carousel, a 55-acre lake with canoe and kayak rentals and, of course, trails. The Lake Accotink Trail follows part of the former rail bed of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, along which soldiers and materials were transported during the Civil War. Historical markers outline the railroad's history and help mark the entry to the park.
At the trail's start, it's impossible to miss the still-operating trestle bridge running high above Accotink Creek. The creek's dam, constructed more then 50 years ago, created a popular fishing hole. As you leave the picnic and boat-rental area behind, the trail shoots up a short, steep hill toward the woods surrounding the lake. (If that seems daunting, do the route in reverse and take the 60-degree hill on its descent, instead.) The first half of this route hugs the lake's curves as it travels deeper into the small woodlands preserve that provides shade and wonderful views of marshland and the lake.
When you reach the fork in the road at the trail's midpoint, either continue straight to get another 0.75-mile jaunt on the rail-trail before it dead-ends at Rolling Road, or follow the trail marker indicating a right turn to loop back to your starting point. This 4.5-mile option takes you down a short hill and onto neighborhood sidewalks for three or four blocks and past an elementary school before you return to the park. On the main route, several stairs lead downhill to a bridge and back to the Lake Accotink Trail, which circles around the other side of the lake, to the creek and surrounding marshland. Your round trip will end with a wonderful view of the antique carousel and geese swimming in the shallow lake waters.
From Washington, D.C., take Interstate 395 south. Take Exit 2B (Edsall Road) and travel 1 mile. Turn left onto Backlick Road. Take the third right onto Leesville Boulevard, and then turn left onto Heming Avenue. Turn right into Lake Accotink State Park just before Heming Avenue curves to the east.
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