Written by Lia Hobel | Photos courtesy of A.T. Festival
The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is the oldest and longest marked footprint in the country — and Loudoun is fortunate to have it in its backyard. The Appalachian Trail follows 2,190 miles of mountain ridge lines and crosses 14 states, from Maine to Georgia.
The town of Round Hill sits between two Appalachian Trail centers: Bears Den to the south and Blackburn to the north. In 2019, the first Appalachian Trail Festival was held to celebrate the designation of Round Hill as an Appalachian Trail Community. Jody Brady, the director of the festival, was instrumental in its launch. “I moved to Loudoun almost ten years ago, after falling in love with rural Loudoun decades ago when I first came here to visit with a college friend’s family. I had lived here for several years when Melissa Hynes, then the Round Hill town planner, put out a call to people in the area interested in promoting Round Hill as a green town,” she explains. “I was one of a handful of people who answered the call. Together, we formed the group Round Hill Outdoors, committed to getting more residents invested in enjoying and protecting all the amazing green spaces around us. We successfully applied to become an Appalachian Trail Community, a program of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.”
The 2023 festival will continue to celebrate and encourage families to enjoy the great outdoors. Round Hill will also team up with the neighboring town of Hillsboro to celebrate its designation as the newest Appalachian Trail Community and the fifth year of Round Hill’s commitment to promoting and protecting the trail. “We’re honored as well to have the Village of Bluemont, another 2023 Appalachian Trail Community, as one of our festival sponsors this year,” shares Brady. “With 15 nonprofit hiking and environmental organizations participating in the festival, we’re happy to say that our mission to promote and protect the A.T. and other green spaces should be bigger and better than ever.”
Visitors to the Round Hill / Hillsboro Appalachian Trail Festival in The Gap will enjoy music, kids activities, and talks with bites and brews from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Organizations participating in the festival include the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Sierra Club, Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, Appalachian Mountain Club, Potomac Riverkeepers Network, Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Sweet Run State Park (our newest Virginia state park!), Virginia Master Naturalists, Blue Ridge PRISM — and six more. A scavenger hunt takes festivalgoers around to displays by these groups to learn about their programs.
Brady says it is the hope through this festival to get more people outdoors and to advance environmental stewardship. “We have the privilege of both enjoying and protecting this national treasure for future generations. The organizations that participate in this event, from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to Potomac Appalachian Trail Club to the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and all the rest, come to the festival to share both the beauty of what’s around us and the responsibility of stepping up to stewardship.” ML