Bull Run Mountain is a nice hike that is convenient to the Northern Virginia/Washington DC area. Getting there is only a 30-minute drive along I-66 from the Vienna/Fairfax-GMU Metro station, and a 2.5 mile hike will take you from the trailhead to the summit for a spectacular view of the Shenandoah Valley from 1,329 feet. The only shortfall is the lack of restrooms and drinking fountains at the trailhead, but with Haymarket only a few miles away along VA-55, it’s easy to make a stop along your way.
The trailhead is situated in historic Thoroughfare Gap, so you can visit nearby Chapman’s Mill, first built in 1742 along Broad Run to grind corn and wheat for transport to market.
You can also get an appreciation for the Thoroughfare Gap’s significance during the Second Manassas Campaign in August 1862, during the American Civil War. The Battle of Thoroughfare Gap, fought over the grounds of your hiking route, was a relatively minor engagement that enabled Confederate General Longstreet’s corps to pass through the gap to reenforce a Confederate General Jackson’s corps during the Battle of Second Manassas.
Finally, the Manassas Gap Railroad runs though Thoroughfare Gap (you will cross over it at the trailhead), and was significant both to the mill and to the Second Manassas Campaign. Not only was the line a route to the battlefield, but an unfinished railway cut served as impromptu fortifications for Jackson’s corps as they resisted attacks by Union General Pope’s Army of Virginia prior to Longstreet’s arrival. Today, the rail through the gap is used by Norfolk Southern.
Most of Bull Run Mountain is maintained by the Bull Run Mountains Conservancy.