Trail Tour: A Hilly Workout with Some of Reston’s Best Scenery

Now that the weather is mild and the flowers are out, I want to be outside all day long. This time of year offers perfect conditions for one of my favorite walks in Reston. The latest in our series of trail tours is our longest one yet: a 3.5-mile loop that offers some of the best scenery that Reston has to offer: woods, streams, open green spaces, flowers, wildlife, and Lake Anne Plaza.

This loop is a hilly one! It’s not for people who are new to exercise or have medical conditions that prohibit hill climbing. If you are fit enough for a hilly 3.5-mile walk or run, you will definitely get a good workout on this loop! The trail is paved and well-maintained the entire way, so it’s fine for strollers or bikes (but only if you can handle the hills!) It is not entirely shaded and does include paths in the woods, so I recommend sunscreen and insect repellant.

This trail tour is long and twisty, so there are lots of pictures here to guide you. Grab some coffee and get comfortable before you start reading this epic post. Or even better, grab a water bottle and read this on your phone as you walk. It’s too nice outside to sit on your couch anyway.


Start at Lake Anne Plaza. There is plenty of parking in the plaza parking lot. I like to do this loop clockwise, so I can do the hardest hills during the first half of the journey and get them over with.


Enter the plaza, and walk beyond the children’s fountain. You will see an opening with stairs leading out of the plaza. Take those stairs, cross a small street, and take the trail directly ahead of you.


You will go through a tunnel and come to a fork in the path. Take the path on the right, up a hill. It will lead you past Lake Anne Recreation Area’s playground and tennis court. Continue straight until you go through a covered bridge.


On the other side of the bridge, continue through the Northgate apartment complex straight ahead. Walk straight until you get to North Shore Drive, and then turn right and cross the concrete pedestrian bridge over Wiehle Ave. On the other side of the bridge, walk a few yards along North Shore Dr. until you reach the beginning of a trail. Turn right to walk on that trail.


Walk south along this trail for a while. You will pass several townhouses and eventually enter a quieter, wooded area of the trail. In early April of each year, the magnolias and cherry blossoms are beautiful along this stretch of the walk.


Head through some trees into a clearing. That treeless hill to the right is the famed Mt. Reston of the snowy season. The trail leads down a steep hill at this point. Continue until the path ends at a bridge with a T-junction. Turn right to head south.


The trail levels and leads through some peaceful woods. One of my favorite spots along this entire loop is this bridge over a stream. It’s a quiet place, nestled in the woods far from cars, and a lovely spot to sit and take in the natural scenery.

The water is only a couple inches deep through most of this area, so kids might enjoy bringing water shoes and hunting for tadpoles, and dogs might enjoy splashing around. Be warned that the water suddenly becomes about two feet deep at those two slanted trees, so you’ll need to supervise kids carefully in the water.


Continue south along this pretty and quiet trail through the woods. During this stretch of the trail, I recently saw pileated woodpeckers and an owl. Look around and see what you’ll find.

The trail will curve to the left and lead up a steep hill. This is the biggest hill climb of the whole loop. This picture is misleading, because the path curves to the right and just keeps going up. It’s cardio time here.


At the top of the hill is Tall Oaks Village Center. Walk along the main shopping center sidewalk, along all the (empty) storefronts. There’s not much to see in this mostly deserted shopping center, but if you are ready for a lunch break, Pho Reston 75 has some great Vietnamese food. But an even better idea is to wait until you get back to Lake Anne Plaza and eat at one of their outdoor restaurants.

To continue on this loop, walk down the stairs to the left of Pho Reston 75. If you are traveling with wheels, go to the right instead and take the hill/ramp behind the restaurant.


At the bottom of the stairs and/or hill is a tunnel. Go through the tunnel and continue straight on the hill. To the left is a swimming pool, and to the right is LANK preschool. You want to go straight into the woods.

Shortly thereafter, you’ll come to a fork in the road. Go right at the fork to head west toward the golf course.


Go through a tunnel under Wiehle, and on the other side you’ll find yourself at Hidden Creek golf course. This is about the halfway point of your trip, and the scenery will change considerably. At this point, you switch from woods to open green spaces. It gets less hilly, too!


Walk along the golf course for a while, until you get to Golf Course Island pool and park. This is one of the best playgrounds in town, with a huge structure for older kids, and a smaller, fenced-in one for toddlers. There is also a covered picnic pavilion, two basketball courts, and an RA pool. If you are traveling with kids, this is a great place to let them stop and play.


The trail gets tricky in the Golf Course Island area. Follow these trail markers, and zigzag your way northwest through the townhouse community.


At the end of the townhouses, the trail takes you back to Hidden Creek golf course. Turn right at this fork in the path, and walk onto the course. It is a really pretty stretch of this trail, because the course is beautifully landscaped.

At this point, the trail actually crosses the golf course. You can see the trail in the above photo, heading up a hill within the course. This is an official RA path, and you are welcome to walk on it. Please be quiet, though, so you don’t disturb the golfers. Let’s be good neighbors.

For the most part, the black asphalt path is for walkers/runners, and the white concrete trails are for golfers only. At the top of the hill on the right side of the photo above, though, you will turn to the left and walk for a while on one of the white golfer paths. Head toward the Country Club House and walk around that building. Again, this is authorized, as long as you don’t get in anyone’s way.


On the other side of the Country Club House, you will see the beginning of another black asphalt RA trail. Walk on this trail along the golf course, toward Fairway Apartments. Enjoy the views on this last stretch of the golf course.


As you leave the golf course, head straight toward Lake Anne Elementary School. When you get to North Shore Drive opposite the school, turn right and look for a trail marker. Follow the trail down a hill and through a tunnel.


After climbing all those steep hills, I consider this part to be victory lap. It’s an easy, gradual downhill slope that leads to Lake Anne.

When you get to the lake, head left and walk through Waterview Cluster and its beautiful scenery.


Follow the trail marker down a hill to the Van Gogh Bridge. It’s no secret that I love this bridge. It’s one of my favorite places in all of Reston.


Follow the path around the corner, and you’ll have returned to Lake Anne Plaza. Grab your water bottle and sit on one of those benches to relax as the geese swim by. Or even better, consume the calories you’ve burned with some pizza, beer, or Pad Thai at one of the restaurants. You’ve earned it.

Please let us know if you try this trail tour! We’d love to hear what you think. Are there any other trails that you recommend we cover in Modern Reston? 

Related stories:

Trail Tour: The Splendor of Lake Newport in the Fall

Trail Tour: An Ideal Mile Loop in South Reston

Trail Tour: Lake Audubon’s Breathtaking Fall Scenery

Guest Post: The RUN Around Reston


  • Andrew I

    This sure is a great loop through a beautiful part of Reston! However, is it necessary to encourage trespassing on private property through the Northgate Condos and Fairway Apartments? Both instances have easy ways you can go around them and stay completely on RA paths and sidewalks. The route would be just as scenic and essentially the same length. You are kind enough to mention that you should be quiet while on the official RA path that goes through the golf course but without any concern you send people through two condo/apartment complexes that do not have RA path easements going through them.

    • If anyone is concerned with walking through these communities, I encourage them to find alternate routes. I have never encountered any concern from residents as I walk or run along residential sidewalks.

      • Andrew I

        Respectfully, as a resident of one of those communities, just because no concerns have been brought up to you while passing through is no reason to assume you should promote to all your readers that it is OK to cut through their property without permission.

        • Thanks for the comment. I certainly mean no disrespect. I encourage our readers to be good neighbors and navigate accordingly.

    • Liza

      Andrew, Would you happen to have some details on how to navigate around the complexes while staying on the RA paths? I just did the trail loop today. It was my first time navigating any of the RA trails so I’m really unfamiliar with alternate paths. If you can share some details on where we should turn to stay off the private community areas that would be great. Thank you.

      • Andrew I

        Hi Liza. When you approach Northgate, after small covered bridge pictured in the post turn left to go behind some of the condos. Before you get to the underpass for North Shore Drive turn left again to follow that up to the road. Turn right on North Shore Dr toward the traffic light to pick up the directions above. Alternately, you can pass through the park from the trail before the bridge by the volley ball and tennis court to take you to the road.

        When you approach Fairway apartments, turn left before entering their parking lot and follow the path to North Shore drive, turn right there and pick up the instructions at that point.

  • I did this loop with a friend this morning and really enjoyed it. Challenging but not too much :-). We got off track at the golf course but managed to get back on without going too far out of our way. I’ll do it again but next time with my MapMyWalk app tracking so I can follow it again without having to constantly refer back to your directions! 🙂

    Thanks for posting this!

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Lisa! It does get tricky to follow all the directions, but after you do the loop once or twice, the route will be more intuitive. Have fun out there. 🙂