Sitting in the southern end of Fairfax County, Virginia is Burke Lake, lined with a 4.7-mile trail that offers something for everyone.
The trail encircles the lake, and the park borders the busy Fairfax County Parkway. The park has a par-3 golf course and several family-friendly amenities like a carousel, volleyball courts, food and drink, and much more. But the trail and its gravel surface is perfect for a leisurely trail run.
What Makes It Great
The Burke Lake Park trail offers several benefits. For one, it has a gravel surface — which is a lot easier to run on than unpredictable trails in the woods or in other parks. You won't have to worry about catching your shoe on a rock or root and going down in a heap.
The elevation profile for this route looks jagged at first glance, but it only fluctuates between about 300 and 370 feet above sea level. Running in either a clockwise or counterclockwise direction has roughly the same profile.
There are several parking lots near the park entrance off Rt. 123, so take your pick, limber up, and start running (mile 0 is near the disc golf course). If you head clockwise, you'll run through the busiest areas of the park, where most of the activity takes place. One you get through that, after about a half mile, you'll continue to follow the lake as you enter the quieter and more peaceful sections of the park.
There's a camping area on your left at mile 1.5, and an orienteering course near the 2.5-mile marker. The trail traces a path that mostly mirrors the lake, which is shaped like an amoeba frozen in time.
Just after mile 3.5, you'll turn right and cross over a damn, and then head back to your starting point.
Some portions of the trail are wide open to the elements, while other sections are tree-lined in the woods. If it's sunny, you're better off wearing a hat and/or sunglasses to keep the glare out of your eyes. The gravel surface is forgiving or a variety of shoe types. The trail is also open to bikes.
Who is Going to Love It
Trail runners looking for a leisurely place to run. Once you get through the busy sections of the park, the trail is quite peaceful. Newer runners and walkers will like the trail for its smooth surface and gentle profile.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From the north, take Fairfax County Parkway, exit at Burke Lake Road, and head south. Turn left onto Rt. 123 and the park entrance will be on your left. From the south, exit the parkway at Rt. 643 and turn left, and then take a right onto Rt. 123. You'll see the park on your right shortly after.
There are several parking lots inside the park, which is free to enter for Fairfax County residents. Non-county residents must pay $10 per car to enter from April-late October on weekends and holidays (weekdays are free).