Dr. Kayes' Favorite Places
Because dental problems are often related to physical or emotional health, and because physical activity is known to help promote health and reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and problems of aging, I encourage my patients to seek a physically active lifestyle. I have seen over the years that my patients who are active throughout life usually have happier outlooks and are generally healthier physically. I know for myself that getting out for fun in the outdoors helps me immensely to maintain a high energy level, to keep me feeling calm and unstressed, and to help improve my flexibility and balance.
Here are some of my favorite places to hike, bike, climb, ski, canoe, or swim. I welcome hearing about other favorite local spots. If you are new to active physical activity or have chronic health problems, be sure to check with your health care provider to determine any fitness testing needs before starting an exercise program. For more information on exercise, visit the website of the American College of Sports Medicine, http://www.acsm.org
Shenandoah National Park
While hiking in the park I strongly recommend purchasing topographic maps of the park to avoid getting lost. (Maps are available at REI and other sporting outlets.) I always take a map and compass, even though I am very familiar with most of the trails I travel. It comes from my Boy Scout training motto of "Be Prepared." Pets are allowed on many trails but are prohibited on the more popular, crowded trails. Below I have detailed some of my personal favorites.
Easily accessible from Rt. 211 out of Sperryville Virginia this is probably my most visited site in the park. Accessible year round, even when the Skyline Drive is closed, Maureen and I take the hike up to the viewpoint when we need a quick getaway to the mountains. Park at the Panorama visitor's parking lot either in the park, or in the lot on the left off of Rt. 211 just after the bridge under the Skyline Drive.
Go south past Panorama from the Rt. 211 entrance station and after passing through the tunnel go past mile post 33 and start looking for the Meadow Spring Parking area on the left. This is a beautiful hiking area with a nice little waterfall down the trail. Take the Hazel Mountain Trail to the White Rocks Trail and the falls will be on the left.
Buck Hollow / Buck Ridge
A great quick hike that is also accessible when the Skyline Drive is closed due to snow and ice in winter. This hike is accessed from Rt. 211 shortly after passing the park boundary markers just west of Sperryville, Virginia. It is on the left and there are usually some cars parked in the pull off on the left. The hike starts off crossing two vigorous streams so be prepared to get wet if your stone hopping skills aren't the greatest. This can be a quick stroll in and out up the Buck Hollow trail that follows a happy little stream or a strenuous workout if you choose to climb the Buck Ridge Trail or do the entire loop. The Buck Ridge trail is not as well maintained so wear long pants because the brambles grow into the trail at times in the summer.
Little Stony Man / Stony Man Mountain
Little Stony Man is my favorite climbing location. It is easily accessed from a parking area just after mile post 39. I have spent many enjoyable climbing expeditions at this beautiful climbing spot along the Appalachian trail. I most often find at least one other climbing group at this challenging climb site, many coming from great distances to climb.
Little Devil's Staircase
This site is accessible off Rt. 211 just past Washington Virginia. Turn right on Rt. 622, Gidbrown Hollow Road, and proceed until you find Rt. 614, Keyser Run Road. Turn left and follow the gravel road to the parking area at the end of the road. The trail to the right goes up the mountain following a creek. The trail is often wet and slippery so be prepared for a strenuous hike in wet conditions. The climb is well worth the effort as this is a beautiful little hollow and many peaceful spots can be found for a quick snack or a full lunch. At the top the trail crosses above a waterfall and proceeds left up the fire trail that is a longer but gentler way down if you wish to make the hike a circuit. Many people just go down the way they came up.
White Oak Canyon (a waterfall hike)
This is a popular place in the park to see some waterfalls. The parking area is just after mile post 45 on the left. The Limberlost Trail is handicapped accessible. There are six waterfalls along this popular trail. Enjoy!
Old Rag Mountain
This is the classic hike you've just "got to do" for bragging rights. It is strenuous with rock scramble but it is loads of fun. I have hiked the Old Rag mountain trails since I was a young Boy Scout. It has always been one of my favorite spots. The views from the top are spectacular, which has led to crowded conditions and hard to find parking at the trailhead on weekends. If you want to hike the nine mile loop, I suggest an early start. Parking is on the left at the Park Service's entrance station. Proceed up the road to the trail. I prefer going up the ridge trail which is a challenging but rewarding trail. There is a lot of rock scramble and there are some great photo opportunities so charge your camera batteries and take extra memory cards. Once on the top allow plenty of time to soak in the view and be sure to pack food for a picnic lunch. The fire road trail down the other side allows for a gentle return to civilization passing the Byrd's Nest shelters and some beautiful restful scenery.
I found out about this park when my son called me up one weekend and asked if I wanted to go trail cycling, and of course I told him I did. Fountainhead, nestled against the Occoquan River in Fairfax County, has a wonderful mountain bike and hiking trail system. There are separate trails for each activity so hikers and cyclists do not get in each others' way. I have only cycled there so I reserve comment on the hiking except to say the area is spectacular. I had a wonderful experience on my bike and actually managed to keep up with my sons.
Local Parks Close to Haymarket and Gainesville
Manassas National Battlefield Park
This park, while rich in history, also has some great woodland hiking. We spent much time here when our children were young. It's easy to get to and the hikes are not too strenuous. We have maps of trails at our office, but you can also pick up guides when you visit.
Sky Meadow State Park
This park is a short distance away in Fauquier County. They have trails which have some elevation change so they are a bit more strenuous that a woodland hike, but many of the trail options are short and are good for getting an aerobic workout in a beautiful outdoor setting. Pets are welcome.
Bull Run Mountain Conservancy
This is a privately owned outdoor preserve on Bull Run Mountain, with administration by the Bull Run Mountain Conservancy. However, day hiking is allowed to anyone who signs a waiver. Hikes take the visitor to the top of Bull Run Mountain for a scenic overview of the area. The Conservancy offers memberships for people who would like to become more involved, and they offer special events such as naturalist guided hikes, tea parties in the woods, and nature camps for children.
Bull Run Regional Park
We took our children here when they were small, and I also camped there as a Cub Scout. It was actually the site of my first camping experience. Back then, it was considered really far out in the country. It's interesting to think of how our area has changed, but I appreciate that there are still great parks to visit despite the increase in development.
Farther Sites Worth the Drive
C & O Canal National Historic Park
Great for hiking and bicycling, the park offers 184.5 miles of towpath that is readily accessible. There are other hiking trails off the main towpath. See the website for a list of these trails, which are too numerous for me to mention here.
Point of Rocks
This is one of my favorite access points. It is on the Maryland side of the Rt. 15 bridge over the Potomac River. The access is to the right after crossing the bridge and right again along a little access road that first crosses the railroad tracks, and then crosses the canal. Proceed to the boat landing parking area and enjoy the trail.
This historical park is the site of John Brown's raid and is one of my favorite outing destinations. I prefer to park on the Maryland Heights side and cross the railroad bridge back to Harper's Ferry with my bicycle. This is a great place to observe trains as the pedestrian bridge is attached to a working railroad bridge and you get up close and personal with freight train traffic. (Don't worry, the fencing protects all from danger.) There is ample parking in the National Historical Park visitor center on the West Virginia side. The town is fun to bike or hike through, with historic homes and buildings, and interesting shops and restaurants.
Across the river from Harper's Ferry is the Maryland Heights trail. This is a nice climb up the mountain opposite Harper's Ferry. It allows spectacular views of the valley and shows the confluence of the Shenandoah River and the Potomac River.
This is a quaint town on the Maryland side where Rt. 287 crosses the Potomac River. This is a great place to access the towpath and it has lots of parking. The town is quaint and fun to explore as well. As usual the access is across the tracks under the bridge, so turn right in town and right again, then follow the hills down to the tracks and past the commuter lots to the canal access area.
Great Falls Maryland
This is just a fun place to see the falls and wander out among the boulders. It is a bit crowded for bicycling but great for a stroll along the canal and to see a working canal boat and how the canal was used as a conduit of commerce and transportation to the West.
This is where I learned to rock climb. It is between the American Legion Bridge and Great Falls Maryland. It is easily accessed by crossing the Potomac on Rt. 495, then taking the first exit - Clara Barton Parkway. Go west to the exit for Carderock. After crossing the canal turn right and go to the furthest parking lot. The cliffs are close and you will usually find climbers practicing their skills as this area is a very popular climbing location. It is also an easy access to the towpath for hiking and biking.
Washington and Old Dominion Railroad trail (W & OD trail)
This is a great running, bicycling, and rollerblading trail. There are 45 miles of continuous off road trail. Except for multiple at grade road crossings, this trail is uninterrupted splendor through the area. Very popular, and unfortunately in a high growth area, this once rural path has had lots of development along its sides. The area near Purcellville is still quite remote and lovely. As you get closer to the beltway the congestion increases, but if you want to ride from Purcellville to Washington DC, the W & OD is the trail for you.
Visit the furnace where iron was smelted. From hiking, camping, fishing, and mountain biking, this National Forest recreation area has a lot to offer. This park offers a challenging mountain bike trail up to Signal Knob. (You can also hike this trail.)
At the Beach
While the Atlantic Ocean isn't exactly local, we know that many people in this area vacation there and are always interested in finding less hectic beach locations. We've vacationed there for years with our family and share our secrets to a more peaceful beach vacation below.
Cape Henlopen State Park
We love this area for its non-commercial, nature oriented atmosphere. The park has a great beach, with life guards in summer, but without all the commercial development. (They do have a low key snack bar.) This place is perfect for families who would rather avoid the "noisy, junk food, buy me more stuff" atmosphere of other beaches. We like to visit Rehoboth Beach for a little while, then enjoy most of our beach time actually relaxing at Cape Henlopen.
The park has numerous hiking and biking trails with limited free bike rental. There is also a campground at the park. You can even hike or bike from Cape Henlopen along the beach to Rehoboth on a boardwalk trail (It's about three miles each way.) There is camping available and a nature center with great naturalists who often lead nature hikes. There is a daily car admission fee, but if you plan to spend several days there, you can get an annual pass.
This town is just north of the Cape Henlopen area. It is located where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. Lewes Beach is actually a bay beach, which is wonderful for families with young children who would like to avoid the ocean waves on rough days. Lewes has a canal park that is fun for kids to explore and it is a very friendly town for bicycling. The town also has several very good restaurants.