There are seven hiking trails that criss-cross Ball’s Bluff Battlefield Regional Park in Leesburg, including a section of the 710-mile Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.
Situated in Loudoun County, this wooded regional park is well-trafficked on fair-weather weekends, particularly among young families and dog walkers.
The park sits on the site of the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, a ferocious Civil War clash on a bluff over the Potomac River that took place on October 21, 1861.
Battlefield interpreters lead tours that range from introductory (45 mins) to in-depth (90 mins) on the history of this bloody day-long battle between North and South.
|Mostly dirt trails
Arriving at the Trailhead
Ball’s Bluff Battlefield Regional Park is located at the back of the Potomac Crossing neighborhood of single-family homes in Leesburg.
Take Balls Bluff Road NE to the very end and you will arrive in the parking lot. There is space for 20+ cars, but given the park’s popularity, it can easily fill to capacity.
If the lot is full, you can parallel park in the neighborhood. There is also a cul-de-sac to park in at the entrance. From here, it’s a short five-minute walk to the trails.
The First Steps
With seven miles on the Ball’s Bluff trail map that cross and overlap at this 76-acre historical park, it’s a cinch to create your own hike, or go by an AllTrails map, like I did.
I opted for a 2.6-mile loop that was mostly easy to follow, but a touch confusing at times when it jumped from one trail to another to create a loop around the park.
For this hike, look for the start of the Red Trail on the right side of the parking lot as you enter. It’s next to the Orange Trail (which is where I briefly got turned around).
While AllTrails rates this hike as easy – and it is mostly easy – this is no flat trail through the woods. The elevation gain is 371 feet, which means there are ups and downs.
Follow the red blazes through the woods. At the .2-mile mile mark, you’ll reach an intersection. Turn left to walk down the hill, still following the red blazes.
At the .3-mile mark, turn left again to stay on the Red Trail. In a few more steps, you’ll reach a comfy bench. It’s the perfect spot to relax and recharge.
Look for wooden steps across a creek at the .6-mile mark. It’s rather steep here. Thankfully, another bench turns up about mid-way up the hill. Phew.
The Red Trail has now ended, and you are now on the blue-blazed Potomac Heritage Trail. Once you’re nearly at the top of the hill, look left – and turn left, if you choose.
Here you can make a stop at the Ball’s Bluff National Cemetery. It’s a nice, historic stop on the hike. Re-trace your steps, then follow the blue blazes down the hill.
You will cross over a wooden bridge, then reach the Potomac River by the .8-mile mark. Now, it’s a nice relaxing – and flat – walk along the easy-going river banks.
At the 1.2-mile mark, you can continue straight ahead on the Potomac Heritage Trail. Or, like I did, you can turn left on the Orange Trail to hike to the top of the bluffs.
It’s rather scenic at the top of the bluffs, though quite a steep (if short) hike to the top. Continue on the Orange Trail. A wide-open battlefield will soon be on your left.
If you choose to step out to the battlefield, you’ll notice there are several educational placards and benches. It’s also a nice spot to toss down a picnic blanket or kick a ball.
Keep moving along the Orange Trail. At the 1.6-mile mark, the Potomac Heritage Trail connects with the orange-blazed trail. Turn left to stay on the Orange Trail.
From here, you’ll follow the orange blazes all the way back to the parking lot. At the 2.6-mile mark, your hike is complete. Celebrate.
From the parking area, this Northern Virginia hike took me one hour to complete, including time spent snapping photos along the way.
As I noted above, there are so many different routes you can take. There’s no need to limit yourself to this particular loop. Print out the trail map before you go.
For post-hike snacks and sips, a personal favorite is Vanish. It’s a local farm brewery with lots of food options and outdoor seating. It’s only a 15-minute drive.