November 2007: Sky Meadows State Park


Paris, Virginia

It was 1731 when James Ball picked up 7.883 acres on the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountain from Lord Fairfax. Over the years through inheritance the land was divided and divided and divided. In 1966 a housing development was planned that called for further division into 50-acre lots. At this Point Paul Mellon stepped in and eventually donated 1,132 acres that became Sky Meadows State Park in 1983. Mellon was happy enough with the results to donate an additional 462 acres across Route 17 that had originally been purchased by George Washington from Lord Fairfax. 

When you place your park on the Blue Ridge mountain slopes far removed from eight-lane roads clogged with traffic you have to work hard not to be the best place to hike with your dog in Northern Virginia and Sky Meadows does not disappoint. The real star here are the meadows - there simply aren't many open-air hikes available across Northern Virginia. Be advised, however, that if you've never gone much beyond your neighborhood walk with your dog, this isn't the place for your first big adventure. Except for the Snowden Trail nature loop you will be hiking up a mountain at Sky Meadows.

The trail system offers about ten miles of marked paths that can be molded into canine hiking loops, the most popular being the North Ridge-South Ridge circuit. The South Ridge Trail utilizes an old farm road while the North Ridge Trail picks its way up the mountain like a traditional hiking trail. You are probably best served by going up the South Ridge since it is not as steep and are longer coming down the North side.

For those looking for a full day of hiking with your dog the Appalachian Trail is 1.7 miles away and there are loop options up there as well. If you just want to enjoy the meadows you can confine your explorations to the Piedmont Overlook Trail on the North Ridge. It is also possible to enjoy the park without hard climbing on the Snowden Trail interpretive nature walk and the Shearman's Mill Trail.  

Once a month, on Saturday evenings beginning in April, Sky Meadows hosts astronomy events behind the Mount Bleak House. Isaac Settle built the house and gave it to his son Abner as a wedding gift in 1835. It now serves as the park visitor center.

From Route 50 turn left on Route 17 South to park entrance on right. From I-66, take Exit 23 on Route 17 North seven miles to the park entrance on left.