Whitney State Forest: An Easy Perimeter Hike in Warrenton, Virginia
I was on my way home from hiking at Patricia Ann Byrom Forest Preserve in Crozet last week when I made a side trip for a hike at Whitney State Forest.
Whitney State Forest is a 148-acre state forest in Warrenton. It’s tucked away on a small country road. You wouldn’t just stumble on this park.
There are 26 state forests in Virginia, including Conway Robinson State Forest in Gainesville. All but five of these state forests have hiking trails.
At Whitney State Forest, there are seven miles of forest trails and one mile of gated forest road. Walking trails criss-cross the park in various directions.
Unfortunately, while there are blazes to mark hiking trails, there is not a very good trail map. In fact, it’s terrible, so my advice is to follow the blue blazes.
Trail Stats Length 2.5 miles
Trail Type Loop
Elevation Gain 243 feet
Duration 1.5-2 hours
Terrain Mostly dirt & rock trails
Driving Directions Click Here
Whitney State Forest
When you arrive at Whitney State Forest, you’ll notice a small, unmarked parking area with a large trail kiosk and a couple of benches.
There is also a large placard welcoming you to this hardwood forest area that was donated to the state by Mrs. Helen Whitney Gibson in 1972.
The Virginia Department of Forestry manages this forest, which is primarily used for hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking and timber production.
In this natural forest, you’ll encounter various tree types, including northern red oak, white oak, yellow poplar, pignut hickory and Virginia pine.
Our state forests are self-supporting through forest product sales. Residents can also donate a portion of their state tax refunds to Virginia’s State Forests Fund.
On the trail kiosk in the parking area, there is a trail map (kind of). Orange lines are for the trails. Blue lines are for the streams that cut across the forest.
There are no trail names and no indication of which trails go where, so my advice is to follow the blue blazes.
I started my hike with an AllTrails map for a loop hike, but then decided to go my own way and just follow the blue blazes.
For this hike, begin at the orange gate on the north side of the parking area. Walk around the gate for the path. In a few steps, you’ll see your first blue blaze.
As you continue along, you’ll note that the blazes properly indicate which way to go when you reach a trail fork or junction.
When you see two blazes on a tree, the blaze on the top indicates which way to go. If the top blaze is to the right of the bottom blaze, stay to the right.
On this January day there were no leaves so it was a cinch to see what borders the state forest, including farm land on the north side of the park.
The trail alternates between deciduous forest, open green space and pines here and there. You’ll see the pines at the .4-mile mark.
At this point, you’ll turn left to continue around the perimeter of Whitney State Forest. There are several water crossings too, including at the 1.0-mile mark.
You’ll cross back over this same stream at the 1.7-mile mark. There are four stream crossings on this wooded hike, but all are no trouble at all.
I can tell you that I did see other blazes, including green and orange, but following the blue blazes around the perimeter of the park worked out well.
Fortunately, this is not a large park, so even if you opted to follow another blaze it wouldn’t be too tough to find your way back to the parking area.
I spent just over an hour hiking along the blue trail. I did see one mountain biker, but that was all. It’s a quiet park that attracts mostly local dog walkers.
Whitney State Forest is a nice choice when you want to get out into nature but don’t want to share the trails with too many other hikers.
I would like to go back in spring or summer to see the park in full foliage. I’m sure it’s lovely, though it was quite serene when leafless and in snow, too.
It’s also worth noting that Whitney State Forest is on the Culpeper Loop of the Virginia Bird & Wildlife Trail in Virginia’s Piedmont region.
Birds that may be seen at this Virginia state forest include the red-bellied woodpecker, blue jay, downy woodpecker and golden-crowned kinglet.
Erin Gifford is the editor of Go Hike Virginia. She has completed more than 300 hikes in Virginia. She is also the author of three hiking guidebooks from Falcon Guides. Need help finding a hike? Check out the Trail Finder feature or send Erin a message.