There’s nothing like watching the sunrise in a beautiful spot. And although Northern Virginia is heavily developed, there are still plenty of places with natural beauty that are perfect for early morning. Let’s have a closer look at the nine best places where you can see the sunrise in Northern Virginia:
Table of contents
- 1. The Best Summer Place For Sunrises: Leesylvania State Park
- 2. The Sunrise In Shenandoah National Park
- 3. Best Winter Sunrise: Alexandria Waterfront
- 4. Belle Haven Marina
- 5. Marine Corps War Memorial
- 6. Henry House Hill At Manassas National Battlefield Park
- 7. Jones Point Lighthouse And Woodrow Wilson Bridge, Alexandria
- 8. Netherlands Carillon- Arlington
- 9. Mason Neck State Park
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1. The Best Summer Place For Sunrises: Leesylvania State Park
An impressive list of highly-rated National Parks in Northern Virginia offers outstanding views of the Sunrise. Unfortunately, not all these parks are open and accessible to the public early enough to position yourself to enjoy a sunrise comfortably.
Leesylvania State Park is a great spot to watch the Sunrise as it is easily accessible in the mornings from Monday through to Sunday. The Park opens at 6 am, which is early enough for you to travel to in the summer.
The best place to enjoy the Sunrise is the fishing pier. This is also a great spot to take some fantastic pictures. Pack an early morning breakfast and something soft to sit on for a romantic surprise date with your favorite person.
The sun’s rays rise over the water, displaying a breathtaking array of colors, making the early morning trip worthwhile. Afterward, you can enjoy a hike through this beautiful State Park, fish, or go canoeing in the river.
If you are not a local and would like to make the most of the trip, there are camping facilities available; this will save you from the early morning drive and allow you to pick the perfect spot on the pier just before the sun peeks over the horizon.
The camping facilities are for groups, and you check the pricing for this facility here. An early sunrise trip is a great group activity for a family or group of friends and makes the early morning start much more fun.
Because the Park opens at 6 am, you need to plan the dates well to be prepared for the exact time the sun will come up. You do not want to be entering the Park and only settling down by the time the sun comes up. It would be such a waste.
For this reason, I suggest you pick a date from early August when sunrises start to get slightly later (from around 6:15 am in early August, progressing to around 6:30 am in late August). Check the exact time for Sunrise to make sure you can plan adequately.
What’s So Special About Leesylvania State Park Sunrises?
Leesylvania State Park is reminiscent of America’s earliest history, as Native Americans inhabited this land thousands of years ago. Its cultural significance is noted as it is listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks.
So, when you witness the beautiful Sunrise, you will experience what native Americans woke up to every day thousands of years ago, a sight that surely captivated Captain John Smith when he first discovered the area in 1608.
The historic Potomac River is the fourth largest river along the Atlantic Coast of the USA. Running through Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, and Columbia, it is 652 000 miles long.
This river is known as ‘The Nations’ River’ as it was along its shores that the American Revolution took place. So, if you want you are feeling particularly patriotic (or just looking for some romance), Sunrise here is an excellent place for gratitude and contemplation.
Locals wanting to drive to Leesylvania State Park are approximately a half-hour drive from Prince William County and roughly a 25-mile trip from Washington, D.C.
2. The Sunrise In Shenandoah National Park
There are a few ways to witness a glorious sunrise in Shenandoah National Park. This location is unique because there is a public road running straight through the park, which is open and accessible to the public all through the year, except when it gets closed because of bad weather.
The Skyline Drive offers many stop-off points where you can park and wait for the sun to appear over a truly scenic horizon. The trick is that you need to know which spots are best.
For a Sunrise Skyline Drive, enter via the Thornton Gap entrance and look out for any of the following stop-off points:
- Tunnel Parking Overlook (mile 32.5)
- Buck Hollow Overlook (mile 32.8)
- Hazel Mountain Overlook (mile 33)
- Thorofare Mountain Overlook (mile 40.5)
You can choose to spend time at your favorite lookout point or decide to travel along to more than one point. There are over 72 different lookout points to enjoy along Skyline Drive.
There are also many hiking trails in this National Park that can be accessed by foot before the park officially opens. This gives it an advantage over many other parks, whose opening hours are too late for you to catch the best place to enjoy a sunrise.
Shenandoah Park is worth enjoying for a few days, and you can book accommodation at one of the lodges there.
3. Best Winter Sunrise: Alexandria Waterfront
Brace yourself for freezing weather from December to February, where temperatures dip between 30 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, often accompanied by snow and ice.
If you tend to get up later and don’t mind the cold, you can catch a beautiful sunrise between 6:58 am to as late as 07:16 am in December.
Even though Northern Virginia has many amazing National Parks with breathtaking views, your best option for a Winter sunrise would be the Alexandria Waterfront in the historic Old Town.
This is because, on a frosty North Virginia morning, you may not wish to be out in the cold for much longer, even after the sun rises. The fresh air from the Potomac River and a gorgeous sunrise are a great start to the day.
After the Sunrise, you are just a short walk away from a warm coffee shop or a great breakfast place in this Old Town. The advantage of Alexandria Waterfront is that you can spend the better part of the day exploring.
Choose to browse the quaint shops on the waterfront or get out onto the river with a boat cruise. If you are a local, you can start your weekend with a beautiful sunrise, followed by a brisk morning jog and a great breakfast.
4. Belle Haven Marina
Belle Haven Marina is easily accessible via the Mount Vernon Trail and Belle Haven Park. Once you get to the Marina, there are cute little picnic tables to get comfortable on while you take in the gorgeous Sunrise over the Potomac River.
Belle Haven Marina was the location of a tobacco warehouse in the 1730s, where Scottish tradespeople and merchants used to frequent, but it has developed into a beautiful place for recreation. After taking in the Sunrise, you can opt to go sailing as there are various sailboats, canoes, catamarans, and kayaks available to rent.
5. Marine Corps War Memorial
The statues at this Memorial make for great photographs as the sun rises. As an American, Sunrise is a great way to commemorate the sacrifices of the brave soldiers lost at war. It can also be a beautiful way to remember an ancestor who gave their life for America.
If you are not a local, spending some time at this Memorial can give you a great dose of American history. This Memorial, also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial, was established in 1954 and pays homage to all marines who served their country since 1775.
6. Henry House Hill At Manassas National Battlefield Park
Manassas National Battlefield Park commemorates two historical battles of the American Civil War. It also makes for a great location to appreciate a beautiful sunrise. The best area here would be Henry House Hill, which can be reached via the backside of the visitor center.
From there, follow the line of black cannon, which points in the direction of Henry House Hill. After the Sunrise, you can take a walking tour of the grounds, explore the museum at the Visitor Center, or enjoy the orientation film Manassas: End of Innocence at the Park.
7. Jones Point Lighthouse And Woodrow Wilson Bridge, Alexandria
For a charming sunrise experience, head to the Jones Point Lighthouse, located close to the Wilson Bridge in Alexandria. You can choose to witness the Sunrise from the vantage point of the Lighthouse or take a walk to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.
The Woodrow Wilson Bridge is great for an early morning walk with a safe walking way across the bridge, away from traffic. The Potomac is the main attraction here, and this is an excellent location to catch the Sunrise for joggers or walkers.
8. Netherlands Carillon- Arlington
This landmark celebrates the friendship between the people of the Netherlands and the United States of America. It stands as a symbol of gratitude for the support the Netherlands received during the Second World War.
Find a place between the Iwo Jima Memorial and the Arlington National Cemetery to sit and enjoy the beautiful view of the area as the sun rises with the cityscape of Washington DC in the background.
9. Mason Neck State Park
You will likely spot great blue herons, bald eagles, and other wildlife while taking in the Sunrise at Mason Neck State Park. Located in southern Fairfax County on a peninsula formed by Pohick Bay on the northside, Belmont Bay in the south, and the Potomac River
Unfortunately, this State Park only opens its gates at 8 am, and no overnight facilities are available. To catch the Sunrise, you may want to rent a cabin in the nearby Pohick Bay Regional Park Campground, giving you access to the Mason Neck Peninsula.
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Whether you are an avid photographer looking for a fantastic landscape shot or a local nature lover looking to start the day full of inspiration, the Sunrise in Northern Virginia is worth the trip!