About twenty years ago, there was an oil spill from a tank farm in Fairfax City, Virginia, that caused some environmental damage to watersheds in the area. This included the creek that runs right through Daniels Run Park, that’s accessible to three neighborhoods, and a place that I’ve spent a lot of time in. As a young boy, I used to enjoy the rope swing that has since been taken down, and taking my mountain bike off of the trails into the thick brush and indentations in the ground that allowed one to escape gravity for a few seconds. Thankfully, the oil leaks have been cleaned up, and you can still catch small crawfish and sunfish in the creek pond that’s closest to the exit at Cornell Road in the Old Lee Hills Neighborhood. You’ll see plenty of wildlife no matter what time of the day you go, but of course the most popular animals are dogs.
A lot of Fairfax City residents are dog owners, or as I joke owned by these four legged creatures. This is prime real estate for dogs, as the trees provide lots of shade, and the creeks that run through the numerous acres of woods are clean enough for Fido to get a drink of water or simply cool off. The trails in Daniels Run Park are well maintained, even though they are not paved, and hills are minimal if you stay in the main areas. The main trail is about three miles long, and branches off from Estel Road in the Little River Hills neighborhood, to Tedrich Blvd in the Fairview Development. If you are up for an adventure, and want to let your dog run off leash, I’d recommend an unmarked trail near Estel Road.(1/4 mile down from that intersection) This is hilly, involves climbing over and under logs, and is isolated from the rest of the park. Eventually this area brings you up to a fenced area, that runs perpendicular to the Army Navy Golf Course.
If you have children, they will enjoy the numerous bridges over creek areas. The adventurous little ones will enjoy building “dams” with the rocks by the creekbeds, and there’s a small playground with several slides and coiled riding horses. Its nothing special, but it will allow them to exercise a bit. Next to the little playground is a cleared out area with a gazebo, that has charcoal grills. This is a fine place to enjoy a picnic lunch or dinner, and reservations are not required. There are plenty of trashcans, but this park could use a few “don’s jon’s” or other portable restroom facilities. In an emergency, at least there’s heavy underbrush that offers some privacy.
The best part about Daniels Run Park is the sheer amount of wildlife. Its sometimes easy to forget you are in the suburbs, just outside Washington D.C., due to how quiet it is in this park. While it can get busy with hikers and bikers on weekends, try to get here on a weekday, especially during the early evening hours. I’ve seen a lot of deer here, along with some coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and skunks. Be careful near the creek areas, as Northern Water Snakes are prevalent, but they are not venomous. Unfortunately they are confused with Copperheads, and killed often due to this. Just be aware of these thick snakes with half moon shapes on their sides, as they can be a bit aggressive if bothered.
This is a fantastic park, and I hope that development will not take away any more of its land or pristine beauty. Anyone who’s visiting out of town gets to visit this, and not one person has been disappointed. While its mostly known by city of Fairfax residents, its gained a lot of popularity with running and hiking groups over the years. The reason is simple, as its beautiful plant and wildlife make it a fantastic diversion from the “hustle and bustle” of city life. If you are in the area, you can access the park through numerous points, but be aware that its open from sunrise to sunset only. Open fires are not permitted, and please leave it as clean or even cleaner than you encountered after visiting it. This park is a real gem, and is a tradition enjoyed by numerous generations of area residents.