Burke Lake Park is an 888-acre public park located in Fairfax County, Northern Virginia. It’s one of our favorite local, healthy-living hangouts, offering a convenient escape from busy city life. Whether you have an hour or a full day to play, this park offers a wide variety of amenities for adults, children and families. It’s also a wonderful space to meet with friends or for family gatherings. Located in the suburbs, it is an ideal spot for local residents to break in first-timers that want to try hiking, camping, golfing, boating or fishing. There’s no entrance fee for Fairfax County residents. Non-resident fees are here.
Activities and amenities include the lake, marina, boating, fishing, hiking, camping, picnicking, golfing, Frisbee golf, volleyball, orienteering, geocaching, open fields and a fitness course. For the little ones, there’s a mini-golf course, an old-fashioned train, antique carousel, playgrounds, amphitheater and ice cream parlor. Classes, camps, field trips, events and scouting programs are offered regularly. Check the website for details. Picnic shelters are also available for rent. Leashed pets are welcome. Find out more here. Stop by the Information Center near the park entrance for additional assistance.
Opened in 1963, Burke Lake Park is owned by the Fairfax County Park Authority. Burke Lake, however, is owned by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF). Learn more about the fishing rules, regulations and fish stock here. A fishing license is required for patrons 16 and older, which you can obtain here.
The central feature of the Burke Lake Park is the 218-acre lake and marina. Visitors can enjoy boating, fishing, hiking around the lake or a waterfront picnic. Swimming in the lake is prohibited. The lake is mostly bounded by forest, with deciduous trees and puffy clouds mirroring the season in the lake below. The crisp, clean air on bright, sunny days are a welcome respite from the urban jungle.
The marina is equipped with a bait and boat rental shop, boat launch, an accessible fishing pier, picnic tables, restrooms, and vending machines. Check online here for marina hours.
Enjoy fishing throughout the park. The lake is stocked with largemouth bass, walleye, muskie, channel catfish, black crappie, and bluegill and other sunfish. You can fish from a boat, from the pier, along the shoreline of the lake, or from four fishing bulkheads. See the Virginia Department of Game & Island Fisheries’ rules and regulations here. A fishing license required for patrons 16 and older can be obtained online here. For the younger ones, Burke Lake is a perfect place to learn the basics of fishing. The pier at the Marina is a popular spot for families to fish with their children and have lunch at the nearby, waterfront picnic tables.
You can either bring your own boat or rent a canoe, rowboat, electric motor boat or fishing kayak. Rates and restrictions are here.
?TIP: if you don’t have a lot of muscle power (like me!) and are choosing between the canoe and rowboat, go for the canoe. It’s lighter and easier to paddle. The current can be tough to row against even when the water is calm.
For many years, my son and I have enjoyed renting a boat and gently floating along the peaceful, scenic lake. Its calm, open waters make it an ideal spot to teach kids (and adults) how to row a boat for the first time, and take the intimidation out of boating. We particularly enjoy coming in the spring when the baby ducks and geese are learning the ways of the water from their attentive parents. Friendly staff at the boat rental shop will help you choose a boat, fit you with a life preserver, give basic instructions and launch you into the water.
Not far from the park entrance is a space dedicated to kid-friendly activities with a conveniently located parking lot right in front. There’s a mini golf course, an ice cream parlor, train, carousel, playground and amphitheater. Kids and parents love it!
The mini golf course is nothing fancy, but its small water features and pretty landscape make it just challenging enough for kids. When there’s nobody in line behind us, we let the kids aimlessly tap the ball around the green, watching it zig zag and overshoot the hole 10 to 20 times before finally going in, if ever. I don’t think we’ve ever kept score, but we’ve had many enjoyable afternoons. There’s a ticket and golf club rental booth at the entrance of the course. More information here.
Kids love the old-fashioned, bright-red miniature train. It’s a 10-minute ride over 1.75 miles of track that loops back to the same train station where you boarded. The little ones squeal with delight when the driver blows the train whistle under the tunnel. Next to the train is the antique carousel, another family favorite. Tickets for the train and carousel can be purchased at the little train station. Prices and schedules are here.
Stop by the ice cream parlor for a cool treat on a hot day. There’s seating inside and on the back deck. Be sure to check hours here, which change seasonally. On a couple occasions, I promised my son an ice cream after a full day of activities, only to find the parlor closed! Luckily, he’s a good sport.
There are four playgrounds in the park, including one located next to the carousel and train station. Kids like to play here while waiting for the train to arrive.
The amphitheater is a venue for the free summer children’s entertainment series, which features singers, musicians, magicians and puppeteers. Check Fairfax County Park Authority’s Arts in the Parks for the schedule. This venue is also available for rent.
?TIP: Wear adequate hiking or walking shoes, not open-toed or open-backed shoes. After a heavy rain, parts of the trail flood, turning the dusty dirt into to thick, squishy mud that can suck the shoes right off your feet.
Another family favorite activity is the 4.7 mile Burke Lake Hike Loop around the perimeter of the lake, starting at the marina parking lot. Mile markers help you keep pace. The trail is relatively flat, suitable for walkers, joggers, bikes or strollers. The path is mostly dirt and gravel, though some sections are paved. The majority of the trail is shaded by a canopy of forest trees. Park benches are located throughout the trail. Those situated on the waterfront offer a pleasant lake view while resting weary feet.
If you’re walking the Burke Lake Hike Loop, try the fitness course. It starts near the Ice Cream Parlor. The course has a series of fitness stations, each containing a piece of exercise equipment like the one shown here. Signs at each station give the name of the exercise, instructions on how to do the exercise, and suggested number of repetitions for three levels of difficulty. Stations include a balance beam, log hop, sit-up, chin-up, and body curl.
There’s a nice campground in the woods near the lake. Family camping, group camping and wilderness camping are available. Check here for details. If you’re a local and want to introduce your family to camping in a low-cost, low-risk way, this is ideal. It’s quiet, uncomplicated, easily accessible, has bathroom facilities and a camp store. If your family suddenly decides that camping is not for them, it’s easy to pack up and go home. Here’s the campground map.
On any given visit to Burke Lake Park, you can expect to see wildlife. The lake and forest offer a diverse habitat where animals thrive. We most commonly see geese and ducks swimming in the lake, honking and waddling to the shoreline to see if any picnickers dropped some crumbs. In the spring, they teach their flocks of adorable babies how to swim and find food. Birds of prey circle over the lake and perch on the forest trees high above the forest floor. Squirrels scamper through the woods, rustling through the fallen leaves. Insects creep, crawl and flutter. Check out the Fairfax County Park Authority Plant and Animal page and blog for detailed articles. Most of the articles are not specific to a park, but apply to the general area. Or, keep an eye out for events geared specifically toward learning and watching wildlife.
At the newly-renovated golf center, you’ll find:
Classes, camps, clinics and private lessons are available. Check here for details.
Watch the video below to see the new renovations.
There are ample locations for picnicking at the park. You can throw a blanket on the ground at any of the open fields or grab an available picnic table scattered throughout the park. If you have a larger group, you can reserve a picnic area or shelter here. We like sitting at the picnic tables at the marina. It’s fun to watch the geese glide off the lake and inspect picnicker provisions. Here’s the picnic area map.
There are several open fields in the park, perfect for having a picnic on a blanket, letting the kids run around, flying a kite, playing games or sports, exercising, or walking the dog.
Check the park here for additional activities, such as Frisbee golf, volleyball, orienteering and geocaching.
The park offers classes, camps, field trips, Scout programs, and events. Check the website for details.
Fairfax County Parks & Recreation’s
Subscribe to the Fairfax County Park Authority e-newsletter
Check the schedule for the
Summer Entertainment Series