• Paddling on the Potomac River

    Potomac Heritage

    National Scenic Trail DC,MD,PA,VA

Northern Virginia Hike 5

Scott's Run to Great Falls Park

This description is provided for hikers who are intent on walking the entire Potomac Heritage Trail in Virginia today. It is not recommended for novice road walkers. In fact, it is not really recommended for anyone. Over several stretches, the road is winding, the sight-lines limited and a shoulder non-existent. However, this roadside walk offers the only imaginable currently-available continuous route between Scott's Run and Great Falls. On the other hand, about half of the route along Old Dominion Drive does follow a hard-surfaced walking trail, and the half-mile on Difficult Run is a terrific hike. Truth be told, you would have more fun hiking Difficult Run from Route 7 into Great Falls, then volunteering with local PHT proponents to help make the connection with Scott's Run.

 

Trip Planner

Start: Scott's Run Nature Preserve
End: Great Falls Park at Difficult Run
Miles: 4.8
Points of Interest: Scott's Run Nature Preserve, Difficult Run Trail, Great Falls Park
Parking: Scott's Run Nature Preserve, Swinks Mill Road trailhead, Difficult Run trailhead—both are on Georgetown Pike
Water, Restrooms: Great Falls Park, Riverbend Park
Provisions: None
Camping: None

 

Hike Data

Mile Navigation
0 From Scott's Run parking area, cross Georgetown Pike and follow Swinks Mill Road. This is a winding road, with little to no shoulder. Go with caution.
0.8 Turn right on Old Dominion Drive. Sight lines are better than on Swinks Mill Road, but traffic is heavier and traveling at higher speeds. There is an intermittent footpath on the right side of the road - not enough of it to depend on.
2.2 Cross with Spring Hill Road.
4.1 Cross Towlston Road.
4.4 Bridge over Difficult Run. To reach the path below, you will need to scamper down the steep hill - remember, no one recommends that you do this! At the bottom of the hill you will see the Difficult Run Trail, a lovely stream valley path that is the result of years of volunteer work. Follow the trail downstream.
4.8 Difficult Run trailhead parking. To enter Great Falls Park, continue downstream another hundred yards to the access trail under Georgetown Pike. Or better still, follow Difficult Run all the way to the Potomac River.
 

Explore the PHT

Difficult Run Trail
This natural surface trail offers views of Difficult Run gorge and close contact with the stream. With several bridgeless stream crossings, the contact is downright intimate. There are moderate ascents, but few that are sustained. A bigger challenge might be finding your way along unmarked sections near Colvin Run. A truly fine hike!

Did You Know?

fancy calligraphy signature of John Washington on greyish wine bottle

George Washington Birthplace National Monument includes the site of the second farm of George Washington’s great-grandfather, John Washington, who immigrated to America in 1656.