After two years, Hubs finally got me to go hiking at the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship (BRCES). He had done a solo hike there a few years ago. His description led me to believe that it was a 6+ mile loop hike. I am nowhere near hiking 6 miles at this point! As we planned Hike 4 for the 52 Hike Challenge, he brought up his BRCES hike again. Only this time, he explained that there were several trail options. Of course, I looked it up at that point and saw there were several options for my level of fitness. We opted for one of the shorter loop hikes and decided to take our dog Rackers along with us. In the end, we hiked a total of 2.4 miles.
Getting to the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship
The drive to BRCES is 30 minutes northwest of Leesburg, Virginia. From Leesburg, visitors should drive west on Route 7 and at the spilt, head west on Route 9. Once in Mechanicsville, take 671 North (follow the signs for Harpers Ferry). Look for the sign below on the left after the Loudoun Valley Church.
Hiking the Farmstead Loop Trail
We decided to do the Farmstead Loop Trail because it looked to be the shortest loop hike in BRCES. We started by heading west on the look. Along the way, I loved listening to the rushing water of the streams and looking at the abandoned buildings. I also really enjoyed how secluded it was. While we periodically heard people on other trails, we only came across one small group at the very end of our hike.
Hiking the Mountain View Vista Spur
We had not originally planned to hike the Mountain View Vista spur. It wasn’t until the end of the hike and to be honest, we were a bit tired. However, I always enjoy a good mountain view and insisted we make the short trek. In the end, it was a beautiful view of a meadow and mountains.
Tips for Hiking at the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship
There are a couple things of note that I wanted to share with readers who may make this hike.
- The trails are not super well marked. There are blazes, but I swear that we changed colors way too frequently.
- The trails are actual trails, not wide paths like many NoVa trails.
- The trails can get really muddy after rain/snow. We slide around a quite a bit but were able to stick to the edge of the trails for more solid ground.
- While the Farmstead Loop Trail does not have huge elevation gains but was a bit exhausting for me by the end of the hike. Next time, I would take the loop to the right/north and get the elevation gain out of the way at the start.
- Throughout the hike, there are signs that depict different information about birds. Heck, you can even check out a daypack from the office full of birding supplies!
History of the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship
BRCES was founded as part of the Robert and Dee Leggett Foundation and became independent not-for-profit in 2004. The center‘s mission is to “Develop, demonstrate and educate about innovative approaches to environmental stewardship by inviting people and partners to study, restore, interpret and experience our land’s environment and history.” In 2014, the Governor of Virginia made an announcement that 600 of the 900 acres of the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship would be turned into a state park. (Yes, it’s a state park, not a commonwealth park – don’t get me started, lol!) Due to budget restrictions, the transition to a state park will take place over several years and is not yet complete.
52 HIKE CHALLENGE UPDATE
Upon completion of Hike 4, my 52 Hike Challenge statistics are:
- 4/52 hikes completed
- 8.13 miles hiked
- 4 unique hike locations
- 1 solo hike
- 3 companion hikes
You can learn more about the 52 Hike Challenge by visiting the official website.