Stratford Hall’s nature trails are as varied as they are scenic, providing leisurely strolls for the amateur hiker and challenging treks for veterans. Most trails are navigable by most intermediate hikers. Trail maps are available upon request in the Visitor Center. Trails are marked, thanks to students from Forest Bluff Montessori School in Illinois who traveled all the way to Virginia to participate in this service project.
Hikers have six trails from which to choose:
- Vault Trail – Easy walk with gentle hills and little underbrush – approximately four tenths of a mile – begins near Burial Vault at the end of the East Garden and divides mid-way into two directions: the south fork ending at the main plantation road just beyond the Directors’ Cabins by the gate to the mill road, and the north fork ending at the main plantation road at the upper end of the open field past the mill road gate.
- Spring House Trail – Short, easy hike with gradual slopes having slightly more underbrush than Vault Trail – approximately a quarter-mile loop – passes by a natural spring flowing past two reconstructed brick springhouses
- Little Meadow Trail – More difficult, with nearly a mile of trail with steeper grades and greater frequency of hills and valleys – young trees and ferns predominate on valley floors, with a mixed pine stand in the higher elevation about two-thirds of the way towards the Potomac River – hikers can retrace their steps back to the historic area or continue to the Overlook via the Silver Beech Trail.
- Silver Beech Trail – More difficult half-mile trek, with lots of hills, steep grades and thick underbrush – steps and handrails are present to aid hikers – worth the effort to see breathtaking views of the river from the top of the cliffs – hikers should use caution where trail approaches the edge of the cliffs – trail ends at the Overlook where picnic tables afford a place to rest and enjoy a picnic lunch.
- Mill Overlook Trail – Short, two-tenths of a mile hike of moderate difficulty – fewer hills, but narrow pathways with thinner underbrush of young trees – plenty of steps leading down to the beach area.
- Mill Pond Trail – Over a half-mile of trail that skirts along the edge of the Mill Pond and ends at the main plantation road close to the Vault Trail – not difficult to navigate – possible sightings of waterfowl and turtles sunning on half-submerged logs.
Sturdy bridges and handrails are in place to assist hikers on a few tricky slopes. Whitetail deer, squirrels and other wildlife–in particular, the American Bald Eagle–can be spotted regularly. In rare instances, hikers might see a pileated woodpecker – impressive for its large size. Measuring 15 to 19 inches in length, the pileated woodpecker is a powerful bird and the only woodpecker that can carve out a nest cavity in a living tree, although it usually chooses a partially decayed tree for its home.