Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts | HIKING TRAILS

Wolf Trap Trail Map (click to enlarge)

Wolf Trap Trail Map (click to enlarge)

Wolf Trap Track Trail Map (click to enlarge)

Wolf Trap Track Trail Map (click to enlarge)

Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts is actually quite large, way bigger than what is needed for the Filene Center, the Theatre-in-the-Woods, and parking areas. Overall there are 69 undeveloped acres that are part of the park, and for those wanting to explore the area, there are two hiking options. The Wolf Trap Track Trail is the shorter of the two, a 1.5-mile loop. This is a family-oriented trail that has four different brochures that go along with it that encourage kids to do exercises along the trail or learn about the plants and animals that live in the area. Kids can register and win prizes for completing the different tasks. To get the brochures, visit The Kids in the Park website for Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts.

The longer trail, the Wolf Trap Trail, is also a loop, and it overlaps with most of the Track Trail. However, it does not have a brochure (other than a trail map) or things for kids to do. This is the trail I hiked, and you can read about it in the following review.


WOLF TRAP TRAIL

Length: 2.7-mile loop
Time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Moderate

The Wolf Trap Trail circles the park, and there are numerous places where you can begin. I started my hike from the southern entrance of the West Parking Lot. A sign marks the start. (If you park in the East Lot, pick put the trail by walking out to the main road at the northern entrance.)

Start of the Wolf Trap Trail at the southern entrance to the West Parking Lot of the Filene Center, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

Start of the Wolf Trap Trail at the southern entrance to the West Parking Lot of the Filene Center, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

To stay on track, look for blue blazes painted on the trees. These are painted frequently enough that you can usually see the next blaze within a minute from the one you just passed. Furthermore, the entire trail is well marked with directional posts at each intersection and turn.

The Wolf Trap Trail route is marked with Blue Blazes painted on trees, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

The Wolf Trap Trail route is marked with Blue Blazes painted on trees, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

A hike through a park known for hosting performances doesn’t sound like it would be too difficult, but the terrain at Wolf Trap is actually quite hilly. The trail begins by heading up a moderate hill towards Highway 267, then makes a U-turn and comes right back down to the parking lot, all for no apparent reason. It then continues between the highway and the backside of the parking lot. You actually end up walking outside the park boundary fence on a narrow and slightly overgrown trail.

Wolf Trap Trail follows the backside of the Filene Center's West Parking Lot, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

Wolf Trap Trail follows the backside of the Filene Center’s West Parking Lot, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

The trail reenters the park through a gap in the fence near the back, northern corner of the parking lot. When you come to the pavement, continue straight ahead towards a maintenance building to get back on the hiking trail.

Wolf Trap Trail cuts across the back corner of the Filene Center's West Parking Lot, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

Wolf Trap Trail cuts across the back corner of the Filene Center’s West Parking Lot, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

After all that, I could have just walked from the West Parking Lot’s southern entrance to the back corner and been no worse for wear.

Proposed shortcut across the West Parking Lot

Proposed shortcut across the West Parking Lot

The pointlessness continues once the trail reenters the forest. It follows along a small stream, Wolf Trap Run, and comes out on Trap Road next to the northern entrance of the West Parking Lot—I had done nothing but walk a half mile around the parking lot! There were blue blazes on the trail the entire time, so this route is indeed the Wolf Trap Trail.

To continue the hike, cross Trap Road, a four lane highway—though unless a performance is going on there isn’t much traffic—and be on the lookout for a trail marker at your 10 o’clock position. Wolf Trap Run flows under the road through a culvert at this location. If you parked in the East Parking Lot, this is where you would start the hike.

Wolf Trap Trail continues across Trap Road, right next to the north entrance to the Filene Center's East Parking Lot, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

Wolf Trap Trail continues across Trap Road, right next to the north entrance to the Filene Center’s East Parking Lot, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

Once across the road, the trail follows the bridge guardrail just long enough to cross over the creek, then dips down a hill back into the woods and heads north towards a marsh area. An elevated boardwalk keeps hikers out of the mud.

Boardwalk section of the Wolf Trap Trail elevates hikers above a muddy section of the marsh, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

Boardwalk section of the Wolf Trap Trail elevates hikers above a muddy section of the marsh, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

As you exit the marsh, the trail turns east and soon rejoins Wolf Trap Run, which it follows for the next .4 mile. You will eventually see blue and orange blazes painted on the tress. This indicates an overlap of the Wolf Trap Trail and the Wolf Trap Track Trail (say that three times fast!).

Wolf Trap Trail follows Wolf Trap Run, a small creek that flows through Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

Wolf Trap Trail follows Wolf Trap Run, a small creek that flows through Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

About a mile into the hike, the Wolf Trap Trail comes to Farm Pond (aka Turtle Pond) and follows the western shore before curving around the southern end and continuing along Wolf Trap Run.

A section of the Wolf Trap Trail follows the shore of Farm Pond at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

A section of the Wolf Trap Trail follows the shore of Farm Pond at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

The trail veers away from Wolf Trap Run not too long after passing the pond. Creeks are always located at the lowest point on the terrain, and heading away from one usually means an uphill climb, and that is exactly what you get. On top of that, the trail becomes very rocky, so watch your step.

Hilly and rocky section of Wolf Trap Trail near Farm Pond at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

Hilly and rocky section of Wolf Trap Trail near Farm Pond at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

At the 1.25-mile mark on the hike the trail comes to the intersection with a side trail that leads down to the Theatre-in-the-Woods. This is where children-oriented productions are held from late June through mid-August. Since I had not seen the theater, I decided to take the detour, which adds an extra .2 mile to the hike.

Theatre-in-the-Woods at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

Theatre-in-the-Woods at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

A tenth of a mile past the theater is the intersection with a trail that cuts to the right. This is a shortcut that enables you to lop off nearly a half mile from the hike. Continuing straight takes you south for another .3 mile before the Wolf Trap Trail makes an abrupt U-turn and heads back north. There’s nothing worth seeing by continuing south, but it is part of the trail, so that’s the way I went. Once the trail turns north it does rejoin Wolf Trap Run once again, this time following along the eastern side.

Once running along the creek, the Wolf Trap Trail levels out and eventually comes to an intersection with a gravel path, which is the walking trail from a nearby parking area to the Theatre-in-the-Woods. The hiking trail and the gravel path merge, so just keep walking until you come to a footbridge over Wolf Trap Run on your left. Turn here and cross the creek; staying straight takes you to the theater. At this point you are behind the Filene Center, the main theater at Wolf Trap.

Footbridge over Wolf Trap Run near the rear of the Filene Center at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

Footbridge over Wolf Trap Run near the rear of the Filene Center at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

Wolf Trap Run in Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

Wolf Trap Run in Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

Once across the bridge you will find yourself walking along the backside of an employee parking lot. The trail passes a small picnic area with a dozen tables, all situated along Wolf Trap Run.

Picnic area near the Filene Center's employee parking lot at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

Picnic area near the Filene Center’s employee parking lot at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

The Wolf Trap Trail once again heads south, exactly as it did earlier, only this time along the western side of Wolf Trap Run. You end up hiking as far south as you did before, so you have essentially made a one-mile S-shaped hike that puts you only a couple hundred yards west of where you were a half hour ago. However, when the trail reaches its southern apex this time it doesn’t head back north, but turns west and begins the final leg of the journey back to the parking Lot.

S-shape route at the southern end of Wolf Trap Trail

S-shape route at the southern end of Wolf Trap Trail

At this point the trail leaves Wolf Trap Run for good, so it’s back to hiking up very steep terrain. The only thing that keeps me from rating the Wolf Trap Trail as strenuous in difficulty is that most of the climbs are short—a half-minute walk at the longest—so it’s not like you are walking up a mountain.

Start of a hilly section of Wolf Trap Trail as it leaves Wolf Trap Run on the southern end of Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

Start of a hilly section of Wolf Trap Trail as it leaves Wolf Trap Run on the southern end of Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

Not long after making the turn west is Parking Lot 4, a lot for those who have handicap parking permits. While this is off limits during a show, anyone can park here when there is nothing going on, so you can pick up the trail at this location in addition to the access points at the West and East Parking Lots.

The Wolf Trap Trail can be accessed from the Filene Center's Parking Lot 4 at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

The Wolf Trap Trail can be accessed from the Filene Center’s Parking Lot 4 at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

The trail exits the park boundary once more just after passing Lot 4. You will find yourself sandwiched between the highway noise barrier and the park fence. However, this doesn’t last long and you soon reenter the park, this time at another picnic area. The box office to the Filene Center is off to the right.

Picnic area near the Filene Center box office, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

Picnic area near the Filene Center box office, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

Just past the picnic area is a round-about that leads up to the theater entrance. The trail curves around the western end of the loop and from here on out follows the road that leads to the East Parking Lot.

Last leg of the Wolf Trap Trail is along Trap Road, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

Last leg of the Wolf Trap Trail is along Trap Road, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

Continue up the road for about a tenth of a mile until you come to a pedestrian tunnel on your left. This passes underneath Trap Road and comes out at the West Parking Lot. If you parked in the East Lot, do not go through the tunnel. Instead, stay straight along the road. The East Parking Lot is just a hundred yards farther ahead.

Pedestrian tunnel under Trap Road at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

Pedestrian tunnel under Trap Road at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts

Despite the fact that I hiked the Wolf Trap Trail on a rainy day, I did see quite a few locals out walking the trail with their dogs. Neighborhoods surround the park on every side, so it’s the most convenient place to go for a walk if you live nearby. For a tourist, the trail has nothing to offer, and for all I know I am the only tourist to ever hike it. Wolf Trap is first and foremost for performances, so my advice for tourists is to just catch a show and forget the trails.

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Last updated on September 6, 2023
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