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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 miles of multiuse trails. The main Lake Accotink Trail follows part of the former railbed of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, along which soldiers and supplies were transported during the Civil War. Historical markers outline the railroad’s history and mark the entry to the park.
On the north side of the lake, as well as downstream from the lake, the trail connects to Fairfax County’s 40-mile Gerry Connolly Cross County Trail. South of the lake, between the main trail and the railroad tracks, is an extensive network of singletrack trails popular with bikers and hikers. (Many of these trails feature steep inclines, with some leading off park property, and signage is not provided.) Ninety percent of the trail is a mix of gravel and dirt, with patches of asphalt covering the rest. Stretches of the trail featuring asphalt include the northern part of the trail (around Ellet Road) and the southernmost part of the trail heading to Carrleigh Parkway.
At the trail’s start, it’s impossible to miss the still-operating trestle high above Accotink Creek. The creek’s dam, constructed more than 50 years ago, created a popular fishing hole. (Do not attempt to cross during or after heavy rainfall, as this area is susceptible to frequent flooding.) As you leave the picnic and boat-rental area behind on this clockwise route, you’ll head up a short, steep hill toward the woods surrounding the lake. (If that seems daunting, do the route in reverse and descend the 60° hill instead.)
The first half of this route hugs the lake’s curves as it travels deeper into the small wooded preserve that provides shade and wonderful views of the marshland and lake. When you reach the fork in the road at the trail’s midpoint, either continue straight for another 0.75-mile jaunt on the rail-trail before it dead-ends at Rolling Road/VA 638 or follow the trail marker indicating a right turn to a 4.5-mile loop back to your starting point. The loop 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.
Parking is available at the Lake Accotink Heming Ave Parking Lot (5660 Heming Ave), the Lake Accotink Park (7500 Accotink Park Rd), and Lake Accotink Parking on Accotink Park Road west of Highland St.
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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