About the Basin: Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve

Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve

August 20, 2021

The Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is an outdoor living laboratory located only an hour drive from the D.C. Metro area. It is staffed with Natural Area Preserve managers who carefully oversee the 2,486 acres to preserve the impressive biodiversity and the unique forest and woodland communities found on the mountain.

A wide-angle view of a mountains during autumn.

Photo Credit: Virginia Outdoors Foundation

Since 2002, Bull Run has been owned and managed by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) which was established to promote the preservation of open-space lands and to encourage private gifts of money, securities, land or other property to preserve the natural, scenic, historic, scientific, open-space and recreational areas of the Commonwealth. They protect 850,000 acres across Virginia.

In an effort to balance public use with the preservation of the natural ecosystem, the northern section has restricted access, and the southern section is only open to the public Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The public can access the area by way of 7-miles of hiking trails, public programming, and volunteer opportunities. Grab a trail map to find the hikes that lead to picturesque views of the Blue Ridge mountains. A few simple rules apply during your visit: please stay on the designated trails, no dogs are allowed, and practice Leave No Trace principles. They also host school-aged children, university students, and researchers. There is an active stream restoration and monitoring program on site.

Cultural history is an important part of the VOF program. The area is part of the ancestral land of the Manahoac Indigenous people who practiced prescribed burning to create a wildlife habitat conducive for hunting. However, according to notes by the explorer John Smith, they did not burn the hills along Bull Run and throughout the Blue Ridge mountains. The VOF protects many regionally important cultural history sites on the land. Staff provide guided hikes with titles such as Black and African American History of the Preserve and a spooky Cemetery Night Hike. Volunteers are a vital part of the program, so if this sounds interesting, contact them to find out more.

Not too far from Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve, the Bull Run Mountains Conservancy works to protect the region through education, research, and stewardship. They provide engagement opportunities throughout the year at nearby areas like Leopold’s Preserve. The Halloween Safari is an annual event at Leopold’s Preserve, which is a not-as-spooky-as-it-sounds nighttime hike followed by a bonfire and live music.

Contact these organizations to learn more about the recreation, education, and volunteer opportunities in the area.