The Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park is better known as the W&OD; Trail to most in Northern Virginia. Labeled as the “skinniest park in Virginia” it is one of the longest parks at 45 miles.
Most of the W&OD; Railroad Regional Park is sitting on the same site as the old railbed of the retired Washington & Old Domionion Railway. The 45 miles of trail are asphalt paved with crosswalks and or lights where the trail crosses major roads. Alongside 35 miles of the trail is gravel base path for equestrian riders. The trail takes you from Shirlington, VA in Arlington County and if you travel the entire 45 miles you end up in Purcellville, VA in Loudoun County. From Shirlington to Purcellville you pass through the cities and towns of Arlington, Ballston, Falls Church, Vienna, Reston, Herndon, Sterling, Ashburn, Leesburg, Paeonian Springs, and Hamilton, VA.
The Washington and Old Dominion Railroad closed it’s doors in 1968. The last large project the failing railroad company faced was the installation of Washington-Dulles International Airport. Many supplies were brought to the area via the railroad company. After the Washington-Dulles International Airport project was completed the railroad company closed it’s doors unable to compete with other railway companies in the region. Shortly thereafter the railbed property was sold to Virginia Department of Highways and then portions were sold to Virginia Electric and Power Company for the installment of electric transmission lines.
The first portion of the trial opened in 1974 in the City of Falls Church when Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority leased the rights from the power company. When the trail became popular they purchased this portion and other segments to continue the trail. The trail eventually reached Purcellville and was completed in 1988. Other small segments were then added with the last being paved in 2007. Small remnants of the railroad remain along the trail along with small exhibits/displays that talk about the history of the railroad company and trail. Companies like Norfolk Southern Railway and others have donated three cabooses that are displayed along the trail and two of them house small displays about the W & OD Railroad and Trail.
The W & OD Trail is great place to walk, jog, bike and or horseback ride. Many cyclist use this trail to ride to and from work since it crosses many towns and cities. Of course the trail is the safest in the day light hours but you pass through many scenic and natural areas so it’s wise to take precautions when using the trail alone.
Happy Trails to you!