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Featured National Recreation Trails

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Every kind of trail activity is represented in the listing of designated NRTs. Besides hiking and bicycling, the system includes water trails, motorized routes, snow tracks, greenways, and equestrian paths. The NRT program showcases the diversity of trails across America, from our cities and suburbs to the deserts, waterways, and high mountains.


Warrenton Branch Greenway - Warrenton, Virginia

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This rail trail and historic area has become a focal point for downtown Warrenton. The trailhead features the old rail yard, a renovated caboose, and park plaza. Designated as a National Recreation Trail in 2012.

arrow Click on map or link to see detailed map of the trail and vicinity


photo of trail and old railroad sign

Old railroad sign along the rail trail

The Warrenton Branch, a spur of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad line, was completed in 1852. Passenger service continued on this line until 1941 and all service was finally discontinued in 1988. During the 136 years that the Branch was operational it was replete with its own examples of historic Virginia events.

One of the first notable events was the visit by U.S. President Franklin Pierce. The President arrived in Warrenton via the railroad and this occasion is considered to be one of the first times that a President used the rail to visit the country for relaxation.

Although the line had been operating for less than ten years, it became a transportation route and hosted other significant events, on both sides, throughout the Civil War. In 1862, Union General George McClellan reviewed his troops for the last time after being relieved of his command and continued back to Washington D.C. via the Warrenton Branch. Beginning in 1863, the station became the site for a number of actions conducted by Confederate Col. John S. Mosby. It was also the site of the attempted assassination of Col. Mosby as he was exiting the train.

photo of steel bridge with birch trees

Original steel girder railroad bridge convered to trail use

During the first few decades of the 20th century the Branch was the scene of other historical events, including the visit by William Jennings Bryan who came to preach at the annual Chautauqua held in Warrenton. The station saw more military action during this time period when the Warrenton Rifles U.S. Company C boarded the train for their trip to combat Pancho Villa. In 1935, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt came to Warrenton as part of the Farm Housing Service and met with the women of Fauquier County.

The Warrenton Branch helped create the growth of Warrenton by providing a means of communication and connection to the rest of the world. Using a Virginia Department of Transportation grant, the Fauquier Trails Coalition, the Town of Warrenton, and Fauquier County Parks and Recreation Department have cooperated to develop this important walking/biking trail along a portion of the old Warrenton Branch spur line. The trail currently stretches a distance of 1.48 miles, from the rail yard trail head at the 4th Street parking lot in downtown Warrenton to the Old Meetz Trailhead on the cul-de-sac at Old Meetze Road, adjacent to Warrenton Mini Storage.

photo of bench and old railroad sign

Bench and historic sign along the rail trail

The trail crosses three town roads that provide access to neighborhoods and includes two bridges. Citizens use the greenway to walk/bike from residential communities that are connected by sidewalk to Old Town Warrenton where they take advantage of local shops, a seasonal Farmer's Market, library, County Government Offices and Courts, Taylor Middle School, and a downtown park. Mileage markers, informational kiosks, benches and trash cans are strategically placed along the trail.

Leashed pets are welcome and encouraged by providing pet waste disposal stations along the way. Current counts record over 70,000 use trips each year by residents and visitors. It is a perfect trail for learning how to ride a bike, skate, or just get some fresh air.

The trail is accessible for people with disabilities at both ends and has very mild grade changes. Parking lots are located at each end of the trail and a bike rack has been installed at the 4th Street lot. Landscaped beds have been installed at points bordering the trail including beautiful rhododendrons, viburnums, redbuds, and river birches.

A park and plaza area with a railroad theme has also been constructed at the 4th Street trail head. There is a small parking area and there are plans for an amphitheater with a railroad flat car to be used as a stage. A short section of rail line has been installed by the Piedmont Railroaders Club for the retired caboose that was donated by the Norfolk and Western Railroad. Painstakingly restored by the club as well as other community volunteers and generous local businesses, it is a major focal point for this facility. The renovated caboose and associated railroad displays are maintained by the Friends of the Warrenton Caboose, a group of volunteers committed to preserving the area's railroad heritage. The caboose as well as other exhibits are open for tours seasonally. For more information on activities and tours, please visit

In addition to the actual work on the trail installation, the old turntable has also been uncovered. This special piece of county history was abandoned and covered by the railroad in 1951 due to the advent of train engines that could run in both directions. Now it provides a glimpse into a by-gone period.

Future plans extend the trail to Lord Fairfax Community College and the Stafford Educational Farm which will add an additional 1-2 miles of enjoyment.

The greenway has been involved in many races, including fun runs, 5K walk/run races, and bicycle rides organized by different trail and health organizations. These organizations include Fauquier Trails Coalition, Fauquier Running Club, Partnership for Warrenton, and others. The Fauquier County Department of Parks and Recreation is responsible for the overall maintenance.

For more information:

Fauquier County Parks & Recreation Central Region Office
Warrenton Community Center, 430 East Shirley Ave., Warrenton, VA 20186
(540) 422-8560


trail noteWe frequently add NRT information, photos and maps to these pages. Send suggestions and information requests to American Trails. Research additional NRTs in the NRT database.Trail managers can update online trail information in the NRT database. You may also e-mail information on minor changes or to update Featured NRT pages.



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