Potomac Heritage Trail

Residents of Sterling, Virginia who are fans of nature are lucky to have the Potomac Heritage Trail running right through their back yards.  Established in 1983 as a National Scenic Trail, the PHT consists of over 700 miles of existing and planned sections, spanning several states in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States.  

Running through Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington D.C., the PHT traces the outstanding cultural, historical and physical features of the upper Ohio River watershed, which runs through Western Maryland and Pennsylvania; the Potomac River corridor; and the Rappahannock River watershed, which is found in Virginia.  All this is managed by the National Parks Service.

What Makes the Potomac Heritage Unique?

Unlike the Appalachian Trail, which runs almost the entire length of the Eastern United States, the Potomac Heritage trail is a more general route with multiple side paths to explore.  Some of the paths run parallel to one another on either side of the Potomac River and are connected by various roads.

Also, the PHT intersects with the Appalachian just outside of Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, making it possible for the most adventurous explorers to hike along parts of both scenic routes.  The PHT additionally connects with the American Discovery Trail along a portion of the C&O Canal Towpath running from Washington, D.C. to Oldtown, Maryland.

When the PHT originally became a National Scenic Trail in 1983, it consisted of three sections.  The longest was the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath, which ran 184.5 miles along the D.C. and Maryland side of the Potomac from Cumberland, Maryland to Georgetown, Washington D.C.  There was also the 18 miles of the Mount Vernon Trail in Virginia and the 70 miles of the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail in Pennsylvania.

These paths were a mix of different surfaces such as gravel, asphalt and natural surfaces which shows the wide variety of landscapes and cultures that make up the region.  This is unlike other National Scenic paths, which have a more homogenous quality to them.

PHT Association

The Potomac Heritage Trail Association is a membership-based organization dedicated to the interpretation, preservation, development and construction of the PHT.  The group works with local, state and federal officials and authorities to develop new sections along the Potomac Heritage National Scenic corridor. The group, along with other advocacy groups sponsor, work trips to maintain and construct natural surface portions of the trail.  These include the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, the Great Falls Trail Blazers, the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Oxon Hill Bicycle Club among many others.

Guidebooks to the Potomac Heritage

There are also two guidebooks dedicated to mapping out the PHT for people wishing to try hiking different areas.  The Potomac Heritage Trail: A Hiker’s Guide exclusively deals with the PHT and all the pathways that it is comprised of while The C&O Companion guidebook has a section devoted to this specific portion of the PHT.

The Potomac Heritage Trail is just one of the many naturally beautiful paths that are part of the National Parks Service.  The PHT is perfect for lovers of nature who enjoy hiking regardless of their level of experience. Luckily for residents of Sterling, Virginia there is a trail just outside their doors waiting to be explored.

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Claude Moore Park – A Little Something for Everyone

In Sterling Park, Virginia, there is a park that is a favorite among residents called the Claude Moore Park. This park has natural habitats, a historical area, recreational facilities and educational opportunities.

History of Claude Moore Park

The park was named after Dr. Claude Moore, the last resident to own private land on the area that would eventually become a staple of the Sterling Park community. Dr. Moore was a medical officer during World War I.

Dr. Moore bought the property in 1941 from the Lane family, who had owned the land for 162 years. He owned it until 1975, when he donated his property to the National Wildlife Foundation. So, the land was only owned by two families over its 200 years of being occupied, a rare occurrence even among the thirteen colonies.

Dr. Moore wanted to keep the site as a place where people could learn about and enjoy nature, so when the land was sold to developers in 1986, he fought in the court system to make sure they would not bulldoze the natural beauty.

He was ultimately successful, with the county buying the land from the developers and designating it as a historical park in his name in 1990.

Historical Trails

Be sure to stop at the Visitor’s Center to pick up a brochure of the Claude Moore Park Lanesville Area Walking Tour. Take time to walk through the Park and its natural beauty and read the interpretive displays along the way.

The Vestal Gap Road, originally a Native American footpath, became a major route for settlers between Alexandria and Shenandoah Valley pre-revolution and served as a byway for troops in the French and Indian War. The road was named after John Vestal, who ran a ferry where today’s Route 9 crosses into the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Historical Buildings

Nestled in the park are several historic buildings: the 1779 Revolutionary War-era Lanesville Ordinary, the schoolhouse, and the Frogshackle.

The Ordinary played an important role in the War of 1812, at one point providing temporary housing for the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The Ordinary is a two story, side gabled frame house with a history that belies its “ordinary” appearance.

The schoolhouse on the property is one of the oldest one-room schoolhouses in Loudon County. The second floor was the residence of the teacher.

Another building of importance is the Frogshackle, a log cabin that today houses the hands-on nature center.

Family Fun and Recreation

There are many picnic areas to enjoy, fishing opportunities, and several hiking trails through the natural habitats, with the longest trail being 3.5 miles. Color-coded markers indicate the trail range from 1/4 to 3 miles. Inside the Visitors Center is a classroom-type arrangement, mirroring the style of the old schoolhouses.

Interpretive programs, classes and camps are offered to encourage children to explore the natural world. Claude Moore Park is ideal for families to picnic and enjoy the great outdoors.

For sports fans, their sportsplex offers baseball, softball, and generic rectangular fields. In fact, the beauty of this park makes it a frequent site of choice for local softball tournaments.

There are also two ponds where fishing is allowed certain times of the year. This park is perfect for anyone who wants to enjoy beautiful surroundings and learn the history of the Vestal Gap Road.

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Autobahn Indoor Speedway & Events

The Southern United States has had a love affair with auto racing that dates all the way to the lawless days of Prohibition.  This can be seen every weekend on the dirt tracks and other various race tracks across the south. Hopeful drivers usually get their start racing go karts before working their way up to vehicles with bigger engines.  

Autobahn Indoor Speedway & Events, located in Sterling, Virginia is one of those places where kids can get their first taste of motor sports.  Most people think go-karts are just for children, but they make even adults feel like they are Richard Petty for a little while.

High-Performance Fun

Unlike older go-karts with their leaky gas-powered combustion engines, Autobahn Indoor Speedway has embraced modern technology. They feature electric cars that have the instant acceleration and torque that brings an adrenaline rush to all drivers.  

The electric go karts available top out at 50 mph and feature many of the same technologies of modern race cars.  Featuring dual disc brakes and 4-point raving harnesses, Autobahn keeps the drivers safe. The rear differential and responsive steering give the driver a true racing experience, so they can power through the curves.

The Thrill of the Road

Autobahn Indoor Speedway provides grand prix style road courses, so drivers don’t get bored from only turning left.  There are also reflexive barriers providing advanced safety while racing ten cars deep. There is also high-tech timing systems keeping track of your lap times down to 1/100th of a second while live lap times are kept running during the race so the driver can keep up with their performance.

Fun for Juniors and Adults

Autobahn provides racing instruction for children 8 years and older in junior karts that offer the same thrill as the full-size karts.  This provides children with a safe, controlled environment to learn the ins and outs of motor racing, so they will be ready when they graduate to the larger Formula One style karts.  

In addition to showing them the excitement that motor racing provides, this early education also will help them become better drivers when they are eventually allowed to get behind the wheel of the family car.

Race Against Yourself or Others

Not only are there racing leagues that drivers can participate in, but drivers can compete against the clock, keeping track of their best lap times.  Autobahn Indoor Speedway is also an ideal venue for parties and group events for businesses and groups of friends looking to compete. Drivers can call ahead and book time for their groups, or you can simply “arrive and drive” as long as space is available on the track.

With motor racing being one of the most cost prohibitive sports to get involved in, Autobahn Indoor Speedway & Events provides the perfect intro to the sport of automobile racing.  Children can see if racing is a sport they might want to pursue while adult dreamers can unleash their inner Fireball Roberts as they speed around the track.

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3 Reasons to Visit Sterling Park, Virginia

Located just west of Washington D.C. is the small town of Sterling Park, Virginia. At a population of about 27,000, it is a quiet alternative to the hustle of the big city. While Sterling Park may be small, it has a lot to offer.

The town started, like many other places in the area, as a collection of thousands of acres of farmland owned by a handful of people. The ownership changed hands over the years, but it wasn’t until 1959 when the building of the town began in earnest.

The year 1959 was when construction was initiated on the Dulles International Airport, now the major feature of Sterling Park. Since then, the town has become known as both a great place to raise your kids and a good location to run a business.

The town features three high schools, three middle schools, 12 elementary schools, two colleges, and a number of corporate headquarters. But beyond that, there are plenty of hidden gems in the parks and local scenery that appeal to folks of all ages.

Here is a look at some of the most notable attractions in Sterling Park.

Dulles International Airport

Washington Dulles International Airport was intended to be the major airport for travelers coming to and from Washington, DC. It replaced Washington National Airport as the main avenue of air travel after its construction was completed in 1962.

While it is now one of three major airports serving the Washington, DC area, today it remains one the busiest airports in the country, with over 60,000 passengers a day on average.

Many residents of Sterling Park rely on the airport for their livelihood, and in fact the town did not exist until Dulles became a part of the landscape. Sterling Park is similar to the old railroad towns of the west, popping up only after becoming a major transportation hub.

Algonkian Park

This park is a favorite among the residents of Sterling Park. It is very expansive, totaling 838 acres. It features a golf course, dozens of miles of walking trails, a boat launch, and much more. You can even take a kayak tour down the Potomac river.

Residents say there is nothing like watching the leaves change color in the fall as you float down the Potomac. For years, it has been a place where families and friends gather to enjoy the great outdoors.

Heritage Farm Museum

Sterling Park has its roots in agriculture, and it recognizes this with the Heritage Farm Museum. The museum has a lot to offer and is catered towards kids, offering summer camps and year-round field trips.

Some of the notable exhibits include the Waxpool general store, Ms. Su’s Schoolhouse, and the Claude Moore’s Children’s Farm. On the children’s farm, kids can have fun “milking” the resident cow, or head over to the schoolhouse and general store to pretend they are schoolteachers and shopkeepers from the early 1900s.

The museum also has an American Indian history exhibit, highlighting the people and culture that was here before us with preserved tools and pictures from the time.

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