Sweet Run State Park: Virginia’s Newest State Park in Loudoun County

Sweet Run State Park is an 884-acre park in Hillsboro, Virginia. It’s also the newest state park in Virginia, boasting views across the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Two streams, Sweet Run and Piney Run, cut across the wooded state park. There is also a small fishing pond called Gordon Pond.

Gordon Pond at Sweet Run State Park

This state park is the 42nd park in the Virginia State Parks system. It opened in May but was officially dedicated by Governor Glenn Youngkin in October.

However, the green space and trails are not brand new. I hiked there in 2021 when it was called the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship.

Fall Colors at Sweet Run State Park

This non-profit has since been re-named Between the Hills Conservancy and will soon transition to become the state park’s “friends” support group.

Sweet Run State Park

There are nearly 11 miles of wooded trails across 14 blazed paths that range from the 0.1-mile Jonathan’s Trail to the 1.8-mile Legacy Loop Trail.

Nearly all of the trails are available as hiking and equestrian trails. Just one – Jonathan’s Trail – is only available to hikers. All are considered easy or moderate.

Nature Play Area Sign

There is also a nature play area for small children that includes a picnic table and plenty of space to make mud pies. It’s adjacent to a historical springhouse.

This park is under development, so there are no cabins or campgrounds. However, a primitive hike-in campground is in the works.

Bench at Sweet Run State Park

Sweet Run State Park hosts pop-in playtime events and ranger-led hikes, including a monthly bird hike with the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy.

On select dates during hunting season, the park may be closed for managed deer hunts. Check the park’s website before you head out to Sweet Run State Park.

Harpers Ferry Road Access

The main entrance is located at 11661 Harpers Ferry Road. Here you’ll find two parking lots, the nature play area, porta-potties and a few picnic tables.

Nature Play Area at Sweet Run State Park

As you enter, proceed to the second parking lot. There are a couple of porta-potties and room for at least a dozen cars to park.

There you’ll also see a large trail kiosk with paper maps. The park office and visitor center are in development.

Trail Kiosk at Sweet Run State Park

A historic barn doubles as an interpretive center for periodic nature-themed events, like “Hibernation, Migration or Adaptation?”

Just past the kiosk is the start of the Farmstead Loop Trail, which leads to a picnic shelter. On the left is a Little Free Nature Library.

Little Free Nature Library

Farmstead Loop

The red-blazed Farmstead Loop Trail connects with two other loops – the 0.9-mile Derry Loop Trail and 0.5-mile Mountain View Trail.

I hiked both loops and I can tell you that you get what you pay for on the Mountain View Trail. The mountain views are outstanding, especially in fall.

Mountain View Trail at Sweet Run State Park

Within the first steps, you’ll pass Wortman Pond. The Farmstead Loop Trail splits at the 0.2-mile mark. I suggest that you stay left for a clockwise hike.

At the 0.5-mile mark, you’ll reach Old Bridge Trail. This is a nice side walk to a wooden bridge that crosses over Piney Run.

Old Bridge at Sweet Run State Park

If you continue on this loop, you’ll pass the historic ruins of an old cabin and will circle back to the trailhead for a hike that is nearly three miles.

Many visitors take the Farmstead Loop Trail to connect with the Piney Run Trail, Arnold Trail, Wood Thrush Trail and Legacy Loop Trail to reach Gordon Pond.

However, it’s worth noting that there is no bridge to cross Piney Run when you connect with the Piney Run Trail. It’s best to go when water levels are low.

Piney Run Crossing

I did this on my last visit and netted out with around a six mile hike. The trails are well-marked and the trail map is well-done so this is easy to complete.

Sawmill Lane Access

To reach the hiking trails on the south side of the state park, you’ll want to park in the lot on Sawmill Lane. This is also where horse trailers can park.

Sawmill Road Access at Sweet Run State Park

The Sawmill Lane parking lot is about a mile down the road after you turn off from Harpers Ferry Road. It’s at the very end of Sawmill Lane.

From this lot, you can access the East Meadow Trail, Upper Sweet Run Trail and Lower Sweet Run Trail. There is also a porta-potty in this parking lot.

East Meadow Trail at Sweet Run State Park

If you want to reach the Appalachian Trail, you can do that from this access point too. Hike the Upper Sweet Run Trail to the Butterfly Alley Trail.

Turn left onto the Butterfly Alley Trail and this will lead you to the white-blazed Appalachian Trail in less than one mile.

Arnold Lane Access

Arnold Lane is both a gravel road and a hiking trail. As you drive in, the name changes from Arnold Lane to Arnold Trail.

Arnold Trail Sign

To reach Arnold Lane, turn onto Sawmill Lane from Harpers Ferry Road, then make your first right onto State Route 685 (Arnold Lane).

Take this nearly all the way to the end and you’ll see enough room for two to three cars to park on the right hand side.

Arnold Lane Parking at Sweet Run State Park

From here, you’re steps from the pink-blazed Arnold Trail and the purple-blazed Upper Sweet Run Trail. There are also paper maps at this access point.

This is a good option if you’d like a short hike to Gordon Pond. From the parking area on Arnold Lane, it’s a 2.0-mile out-and-back hike to Gordon Pond.

From the small lot, it’s a 0.3-mile walk to the iconic log bridge, which crosses over Sweet Run.

Log Bridge at Sweet Run State Park

Cross the bridge, then bear right for the Wood Thrush Trail. Turn right for the Legacy Loop and you’ll reach a spur trail at the 0.8-mile mark.

This spur trail loops around the pond. There is a picnic table at the south side of the pond. There is also a larger Legacy Loop that goes around the pond.

Picnic Table at Gordon Pond

From the pond, simply re-trace your steps back to the parking lot on Arnold Lane. There are a few wooden benches along the way too.

Wrap-Up Notes

Sweet Run State Park in Loudoun County is a wonderful state park that features expansive views across the mountains. Beautiful.

The park is open every day from 8 am to dusk. On-leash dogs are allowed on the park’s wooded trails. 

A big thank you goes out to the Robert and Dee Leggett Foundation for donating more than 600 acres of land that went to create this green space.

Historic Cabin at Sweet Run State Park

The remaining 280 acres were purchased by the county to establish the first state park in Loudoun County and the newest state park in Northern Virginia.

If you go, I suggest you check out a few of the highlights I mentioned above, including the Old Bridge Trail, Mountain View Trail and Gordon Pond.

Gordon Pond at Sweet Run State Park

Of course, little ones will also love the nature play area with a mud kitchen, “kid kart” for hauling sticks, play toys and an imagination stage.

Sweet Run State Park is truly a gem and it’s so nice to have a state park in Loudoun County.  I hope you get a chance to explore this green space in Virginia.