One of Virginia's hidden jewels, and managed by The Nature Conservancy, the Wildcat Mountain Natural Area is a 655 acre preserve located on a plateau in the Northern Virginia Piedmont. The hiking circuit is 2.9 miles, and passes the abandoned Smith House and Spring House. The preserve has a large diversity of wildlife with over 155 different species of birds, as well as black bear and coyote. The name Wildcat Mountain is probably derived from the prominence of Mountain Lions in the area when the mountain was first settled.
In the 1960's a large portion of Wildcat Mountain was bequeathed to The Nature Conservancy for stewardship, and is now available for public hiking. The Wildcat Mountain loop is well marked with yellow blazes. There are many other interconnecting trails in the preserve boundaries, do not attemt to hike them. They are not maintained or marked, and many lead onto private property. Many hikers have become disoriented attempting to hike these trails and have required rescue by emergency personnel. Do not put yourself or the future of these hiking trails in jeopardy, so please stay on the marked trail.
The directions below navigate and point out the highlights of the 2.9 mile Wildcat Mountain loop trail.
From the parking area walk up the gravel road for 120 yards to the point where the road comes to a 'T'. Turn right, following the trail signs for the Wildcat Mountain Natural Area and shortly pass a chain gate. Begin the steepest section of the hike as trail makes several switchbacks for 0.4 miles before reaching a stone wall and intersection of the main loop.
Turn left following the trail signs as it descends the ridge for 0.6 miles then turns right and follows one of the many small fire roads. This area has an abundance of Spicebush, a small shrub that grows to about 6ft. The plant flowers in March/April with small yellow petals, and is also a favorite habitat for butterflies.
The fire road will veer left uphill, then pass around a small rise before reaching a split in the road in 0.3 miles. Stay left downhill and cross a stream. Climb 50 yards to the next intersection where the loop trail turns right. Turn right continuing to follow the Wildcat Mountain loop trail on a dirt road believed to be one of the oldest roads in Virginia. In another 0.1 miles arrive at the Spring House, a replica built in the early 1960's, with the original Spring Box just uphill. The Smith House further up the rise, was constructed in the early 1900's by Enoch Smith, and remained occupied for most of the early 20th Century.
Turn right as the yellow blazed Wildcat Mountain loop trail as it crosses over the earth embankment of a small pond. In 0.2 miles from the pond arrive at a stone wall and fire road intersection on the right. Remain straight following the trail signs for 0.5 miles where the trail turns right off the fire road. Follow the trail signs now downhill before arriving back at the beginning of the loop in another 0.3 miles.
Turn left downhill at the end of the stone wall, retracing the route 0.4 miles back to the parking area.