National Trails Day

County recognizes 10th anniversary of Gerry Connolly Cross County Trail

Although Fairfax County has many bike trails for family outings, commuting to work, or a scenic ride along the Potomac River, there’s nothing like the Gerry Connolly Cross County Trail to see the real Fairfax County.

On June 1, county officials and U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11) are celebrating the Cross County Trail and the others in Fairfax County as a salute to National Trails Day.

These trail markers are posted along the trail to guide the cyclists and hikers. 


“It connects several neighborhoods and offers the potential to be a foundational piece of the broader Northern Virginia trail network with the W&OD, the Mount Vernon and Four Mile Run Trails,” said Joy Faunce, the Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling president. “The CCT is a significant contributor to the Fairfax County trail network,” she added.

Parts of the trail are not for the casual rider though. The nearly 41-mile trail goes through stream valleys, crosses busy roads and puts the rider out in the woods with the birds and deer so it seems miles from the suburban landscape when in reality, it’s just a short side-trail away.

On the northern end, the trail starts near Difficult Run in the Great Falls area, and the trail sets off in the woods, snaking along the creek for a while, giving the cyclist a quick feel for what may lie ahead for riders. Bikes with thin racing tires are not recommended for this part of the trail.

The trail goes under Leesburg Pike, still parallel to Difficult Run, across the Dulles Access Road, towards Lake Thoreau, and then south through Oakton. After crossing I-66, it follows Accotink Creek for miles through Wakefield Park, around Lake Accotink and through Springfield, along the Franconia-Springfield Parkway before going along the Pohick Stream Valley over to the Laurel Hill Golf Course and finally ends at Occoquan Regional Park.

Trail Blazing

All this did not just happen without much planning and rerouting, that began in the late 1990s by hiking enthusiast Bill Niedringhaus, who noticed a nearly continuous stretch of publicly owned land across the county. At that time, Gerry Connolly was the Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, and he supported the effort and introduced a resolution to create the trail in 1998. Construction of the trail began in the early 2000s and in 2014, the 40.5 mile trail was named after Connolly, the FCPA said.

Reporter Note: I biked the whole trail in one day years ago when the internet was just in its infancy. I was dropped off in the morning at the trail’s start near Difficult Run in the Great Falls area, armed with a paper map and determination. That evening, I arrived at the Occoquan River with a new view of the county and the value of planning a trip like that.

National Trails Day

In celebration of National Trails Day, join the Park Authority and Congressman Gerry Connolly for the 10th Anniversary of the Gerry Connolly Cross County Trail and a ribbon cutting for the new bathroom facilities at the Laurel Hill Central Green on Saturday, June 1 from 9 - 11 a.m.