The Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship (BRCES) has seven different loops of intertwining trails. With a wildlife pond, historic homesteads, wetlands, and Piney Run, this area offers something for everyone. Make sure to bring your camera, because there are pictures around every corner at the BRCES.
The Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship is also a working farm, with a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program, engaging the community as stakeholders in the farm produce. The Robert and Dee Leggett Foundation purchased Mountain View farm in 1999 as a home for the Blue Ridge Center and to preserve the land's history.
All the trails are accessed from the main trailhead, 100 yards from the parking area where the gravel road splits to the right. With multiple different circuits possible, from the shorter 1.8 mile Farmstead Loop passing a wildlife pond, valley views, two old homesteads, and several pastures, to combining that circuit with several of the higher mountain loops to form a 6.2 mile perimeter hike.
Piney Run passes through the middle of the property, on its way to the Potomac River. The run has a beautiful lunch spot on a small island where the Old Bridge Trail crosses it, as well as a large wetlands area that is visible from both the Piney Spur Trail, and Legacy Loop.
But whichever combination of trails you decide to do, make sure to print the trail map, as you might miss something beautiful in this labyrinth.
BRCES Hike Comments
Date of Hike: Sunday, October 7, 2018
The hike was decent enough and the trails were maintained well enough but they were not clearly marked. There were blazes but no indication which trail was which. I came to a couple of intersections and all there would be was a sign with the equestrian symbol and nothing else which did not help me decipher which way I was supposed to go. I had a copy of the trail map and all the trails intersect so more clearly marked signs would have been very helpful. Also, unfortunately due to all the rain we've received the trails are still very muddy and some were even flooded. Still a very pretty place to saunter thru the woods.
Date of Hike: Friday, November 18, 2016
The signage is good, directing you to two parking areas - one by the gardens and one a bit further down the road and down the hill across from the trailhead. The trails are well marked and maintained and it's easy to navigate, with not much elevation change. The ponds and historic cabins are a nice break in the scenery, and there's a few camping spots to take a break if you need. Overall, this wasn't a bad hike as you get the solitude and quiet, but I didn't feel a good vibe here. Perhaps it was the fresh chicken head placed at the trailhead (sad), or the burgundy sedan that sped me off the narrow road as I was leaving, or the fact that you can only hike between 10am-3pm on most days Oct-Nov due to hunting (BE SURE you follow this timeframe carefully), but I won't be returning. Ironically, I didn't see one deer or any other wildlife the entire time I was out here, and I hiked most of it.
Date of Hike: Saturday, July 2, 2016
Very pleasant and secluded hike. Not challenging at all but nice, thick, dense forest next to a pleasant creek.
Date of Hike: Saturday, October 31, 2015
Beautiful drive through wine country to get out to this spot, and even more beautiful views along the trails. The trails are well maintained and marked. Would bring along a copy of the map if you're trying to get in the longer loop, as it can be hard to remember which trails connect to make up the larger loop. The trails close at 3pm on many days during hunting season this year, so call or check online to make sure that you will have enough time to get in your hike. We had the whole place to ourselves the day we went out.
Date of Hike: Saturday, August 1, 2015
This review is based on my experience today. The BRCES organization generously keeps the facility open for recreational use. I hiked it today following the route shown on this website. There was a group of about a dozen campers (I assume) and some folks at the farm area, but not one other hiker. Some of the trails are generously wide, but a lot of them are narrow (maybe one foot wide) with vegetation starting to encroach. Lots of spiderwebs, so the 5 rating for solitude is accurate. Would have been better on a horse. I saw virtually no footprints on the trails, but plenty of hoof marks. There was a small, but dead copperhead on the Piney Run Spur. After seeing it, I really watched my step. The Legacy Loop was overgrown as was Woodthrush Trail. Streams would rate a 2 in my opinion and I had to walk across wet rocks and through shallow (one or two inch depth) running water for several stream crossings. The is a nearly new, rustic-looking log bridge across Sweet Run on the Arnold Trail. Very nicely done with a flat top for stepping, a handrail, and gabion basket abutments. I was happy when I reached the powerlines because the trail was a wide bluestone road on which I saw a nice 8-point buck. The trails would be better for hikers if they were utilized more or if someone would ride an ATV around them a few times. I usually hike at a rapid pace, but this one took me 3.5 hours due to my watching nearly every step that I took on the narrow trails.
Date of Hike: Sunday, August 17, 2014
A nice peaceful hike. I brought my dog and only saw two other pairs of hikers at the outset of my hike. I did not encounter anyone deeper in the maze of trails. The trails weaved through the woods and passed a couple idyllic streams. I thought it was a pretty easy hike a great choice for someone who just wants to wander in the woods with their thoughts. I did get lost at one point but it was my fault as I misplaced the map I printed. If you hike just for a visual reward (a view) then I would choose another hike, like the nearby, but more crowded, trails in Harpers Ferry.
Date of Hike: Sunday, May 25, 2014
A nice walk and much as advertised. We were thrown off a bit not realizing that you have to ford Piney Run on the Little Turtle Trail and/or the Old Bridge Trail. Today the Run was pretty high and fording it would have been difficult without stripping off our shoes. At any rate, wanted to alert people who might not realize that there aren't actually bridges!
Also, this is property is in the process of become a Virginia State Park.
Date of Hike: Saturday, June 1, 2013
This hike is just as advertised. I went on a beautiful Saturday afternoon and ran into two people while hiking the maze of trails for around four hours. Bringing the topo map helped alot, and was a good guide to decide what trails we needed to take next. While hiking, we saw a couple of turtles, a woodpecker, a deer, and some cranes. If you are in the mood for solitude, it does not get better than this hike.
Date of Hike: Sunday, March 10, 2013
Had a really great time with a group of 4, plus our two dogs. Since we knew the trails weren't overly long we weren't too concerned about which trail to take at first. Saw an indigo bunting when out in the fields to the left, which was awesome! We took Farmstead Loop the rest of the way, taking a few side tours to the creek for the dogs rehydrate and to cross over the awesome log bridge about halfway through the loop. All in all it was a really great hike on a beautiful Spring Sunday. Didn't encounter too many people, either, which was perfect!
Date of Hike: Friday, November 23, 2012
This was a very relaxing hike. especially after the bustle of Thanksgiving. The day was nearly perfect sunny and warm, near 60 degrees. There were plenty of hikers on the lower farmstead loop by the stream, but there was absolutely no one on the backside by the Piney Branch loop. This is a great place for beginners of if you take along younger children. I thought that the trails could have been blazed a little better, but it's really not hard to stay on the path, as they are pretty well worn. Not much wildlife, but plenty of birds to watch.