Getting Fresh Air at Local Parks


Mark Dilallo

Shenandoah National Park provides picturesque spots, including this waterfall.

COVID-19 has been hard for everybody, one of the effects that everybody has felt has been the lack of things to do. Due to safety precautions, many activities are just not possible in a pandemic world. However, there are still things you can do. One of these being the outdoors, and even though the Northern Virginia area has become greatly built up, there are still some great parks and trails in the area. There is a wide variety of parks in our area. Fairly soon spring will be upon us so it is a great time to experience the outdoors.

For a quick walk in the woods there is a park next to Algonkian Elementary School. The name of the trail is Horsepen Run. It is a nice quiet place that not many people know about. The entrance located at 46200 Algonkian Parkway, Countryside, VA 20165. This park is great because it has a variety of trails. You can stick to the pain gravel path that leads to the Potomac River, or if you want a little more adventure, you can head off into one of the trails off the main path and walk along a creek in the woods. The great part is that you end up in the same place. The main trial is around two miles if you go all the way to the river and back. If you choose to take one of the side trails, you will only be adding around ¾ of a mile to your walk to the river. 

Amenities – CountrySide ( 

If you want to have an aquatic adventure, I would recommend Fountainhead Regional Park on the Occoquan Reservoir. This is a bit of a longer drive, taking about 40 minutes to an hour depending on traffic, but I highly recommend it because come April 1st, they will rent you a variety of boats. They will rent you kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards if you want to just enjoy paddling around the lake and enjoying the scenery, or you can rent a jon boat with a small electric motor on the back if you would like to do some fishing. Occoquan has fairly good Largemouth Bass if you like to do that. Another plus for this body of water is that only 10 horsepower motors are allowed for boats, meaning you won’t have to worry about the wakes from big boats flying by ruining your outdoor experience.

Fountainhead Regional Park | Nova Parks

For a day trip, I would recommend Shenandoah National Park. It takes around an hour and a half to two hours to reach the entrance of the park. Fair warning the line can be fairly long. This park offers phenomenal overlooks of the Appalachian mountains. Skyline Drive, the road that climbs the mountain, offers beautiful views at the many overlooks where you can pull your car off the road and get out of your car. There are also some phenomenal trails that pass by beautiful waterfalls. Some of my favorite trails are Rose River Loop, Hawksbill Summit, and Dark Hollow Falls just to name a few. What is also great is that most of these trails have a fire road, a wide and fairly flat gravel road. This allows less experienced hikers to avoid steep rocky trails and still experience most of the same attractions. Shenandoah National Park is a great trip for a weekend or break, while still staying close to home. 

Shenandoah National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (

Last but not least, you can go horseback riding. This is something for the more adventurous types. Now, you don’t need to have ever ridden a horse before. If you go to a place like the Marriott Ranch Trail Barn in Linden, VA, no experience is needed. This place is designed for every experienced rider. You will be riding horses that are trained specifically for inexperienced riders. The Marriott Ranch property offers great guided trail rides through the wooded hills of central Virginia. 

Horse back riding is extremely fun, it allows you to travel long distances a lot easier than when you are on foot. Experiencing the wilderness while riding horse is extremely fun. Plus, you are getting an up close and personal experience with a beautiful animal. The Marriott ranch also has an abundance of wildlife that frequents the property. From deer to turkey, and everything in between, you can get your own personal Virginia safari atop a horse. All in all, horseback riding is a very fun experience. 

The only advice I would give to someone who is riding a horse for the first time is be honest with the staff about your experience, this will allow them to pair you with the best horse for beginners, and be confident, don’t give off a scared or worried energy. The horses can tell and then they will become worried. Again, this place is designed for people of all experience levels, the staff will show you the basics right before you go on the trail. Quick tip, to really get the staff to like you bring carrots and apples if you can, the staff will cut them up for you and you can feed the horses yourself. 

Horseback Riding and Trail Rides near Washington, DC – Marriott Ranch

Exploring the outdoors is a great way to get out of the house while still remaining safe. Also, it is a very enjoyable experience, the outdoors allows you to get away from all of the stress and issues going on around you. The outdoors is a great and healthy way to escape the real world for a few hours. Also, it is a form of exercise, gyms seem a bit sketchy at the moment due to the pandemic. Going for a walk in the woods or paddling on the water is a great way to exercise safely.