Cub Run Stream Valley: Great Suburban Find

I’ve written about urban areas in my last couple posts so now I’ll turn to the suburbs. I recently started exploring the Cub Run Stream Valley in Centreville, which is a large park (over 800 acres — that’s bigger than Central Park in New York) just a few streets from my house. Fairfax County’s system of stream valleys is actually quite nice, though some are nicer than others. You won’t find park benches, BBQ pits or playgrounds here, but it’s a nice place to “get away from it all” without actually getting away from it all — the majority of the stream valley is within a few hundred feet of townhouse and single family home developments and there are many access points throughout the surrounding communities. Some portions of the park are popular with dog-walkers, joggers and bikers, but others look like they’ve barely been explored. There are miles of asphalt, dirt, paved and gravel trails so it’s a great spot for biking and it’s quite beautiful, especially during bluebell season (see pics below).

I love this place for the following reasons:

1.) Narrow, winding paths surrounded by woods on both sides

2.) Meadows with wildflowers

3.) A relatively large creek with stone crossing

4.) Bluebells in spring

5.) Easy community access. I think this is key. So many suburban parks require driving to get to. I love when green spaces feel like they belong to a community, rather than being a pretty but faraway weekend park.

6.) This is the kind of place I fantasized about as a child (to think it was here the whole time!) so going here kind of makes me feel like I’m a kid exploring new places, which really is a nice feeling.

The Bluebells are usually in full bloom by early April and last about three weeks. They give portions of the trails at CRSV an "enchanted fairytale" vibe.

The Bluebells are usually in full bloom by early April and last about three weeks. They give portions of the trails at Cub Run Stream Valley a dreamy, “enchanted fairytale” vibe.

Bluebell ground cover.

Bluebell ground cover.

Tree trunks and bluebells.

Tree trunks and bluebells.

The creek at Cub Run Stream Valley.

The creek at Cub Run Stream Valley. It gets pretty wide in some portions of the park.

Weeds and Wildflowers.

Weeds and Wildflowers.

A stone creek crossing at the most popular section of the stream valley.

Picturesque stone Crossing relatively near the Stone Road entrance the park. This is one of the more popular sections of the park.

Dirt path leading to creek.

Dirt path leading to creek. Last time I rode my bike here there were some boys fishing. It had rained the day before and there was even a small waterfall.

Biking/jogging path close to sunset.

This is one of the many paved biking/jogging paths in the stream valley. Some of the connecting trails are gravel, so you’re better off with a gravel/mountain bike. On a typical ride, you’ll pass dense woods, Cub Run Stream, some train depot ruins dating back to the late 1800s, a golf course and plenty of plant and animal wildlife. Watch out for squirrels!



Categories: Centreville, DC Area Outdoors Activities, Parks, Suburban Finds, Suburbs, The Urban Anthropologist Files, Virginia

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4 replies

  1. Beautiful. I’m glad someone had the foresight to preserve it ( rather than “pave paradise and put in a parking lot”!).

  2. I enjoyed your photos from two years ago. I, too, live near the Park and was walking a dirt path just downstream from the northern of the two footbridges they constructed several years ago. Bluebells there are just starting to bloom and should be at their peak in about one to two weeks and others in the park roughly the same time. By the way the official name of this tributary of Bull Run is Cub Run—run is just a synonym for creek, brook, branch, etc. In this area of VA most small streams seem to be called “runs” or “branches.” I find “Difficult Run” an amusing name due to its pun with the musical term, which is appropriate since Wolf Trap is close by. The remains (which I visited today) are two abutments of the never-completed branch line of the Manassas Gap Railroad—abandoned in 1857.

    • Hi, thanks for the information. I’m living in Arlington now and haven’t been to Cub Run Stream Valley in at least a year, but I may try going out this week to see if the bluebells are out. I would have loved to have known about this place when I was a kid! Do you know of any other less-visited parks in the area?

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