45 Bikes & Hikes: Wildcat Mountain Natural Area

Warrenton, Va
Secluded Sanctuary
Wildcat Mountain Natural Area

Distance: 5.1-mile loop

Though it’s minutes from I-66, you may well have the entire 655-acre preserve to yourself. This figure-eight-shaped hike within a Nature Conservancy holding starts with a lung-busting climb up England Mountain aided by switchbacks. At the top, breaks in the forest allow views west to the rocky outcrops of North Marshall Mountain in Shenandoah National Park. Trails and forest roads meander through former pastureland, often intersecting with impressive handmade stone walls bordering the forest. Stop for a picnic on the lawn of the abandoned Old Smith House and imagine the hard lives of homesteaders who farmed here a century ago. See nature.org (links to a PDF).

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