Banshee Reeks is a county preserve amidst Northern Virginia's rapidly developng Loudon County. If you're looking for a beautiful walk in the outdoors, this is the place. You'll find miles of marked trails, picnic tables, porta-potties, and a wealth of information in kiosks right by the parking lot.
What to see: I hiked it three times in September, covering about four of the Preserve's 20 miles of trails. All were well-groomed and well-marked, a tribute to the efficiency of the two paid employees and teams of volunteers that keep the place up. We were lucky to get advice on what to see from members of the Virginia Master Naturalists, whose meeting was ending just as we arrived. The highlights will vary with the season, but don't miss the mountain views from the top of the Raspberry Trail, Goose Creek from the Lookout Trail, and a magnificent jaunt up the well-named Cathedral Trail. The Tree Trail around Springhouse Pond is easy to reach from the Center and offers several places to contemplate the serene pondand the surrounding meadows and woods, with not a subdivision or development in sight.
Caveats: Get a map from the kiosk before you set out; some of the trail markers are ambiguous, so pay attention, especially if you have to be back by a certain time. We saw very little poison ivy and no ticks, though that may vary with the season. The area, like much of our region is a marked tick area and we were careful to dress for the possibility; I made sure my clothes went into a hot washer when I got home.
Hours and access: The Preserve is open to the public only on weekends from eight to four and closes promptly at four PM. Check the website and/or the kiosk handouts for group walks -- there are monthly birding walks and a fall-color walk on October 12. The visitor center, housed in an antebellum farmhouse, is open to the public on the third weekend of each month and is worth a visit to see the exhibits, chat with the naturalists and maybe drop a contribution into the box inside.
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