Northern Virginia Hike 6

Great Falls Park to Algonkian Regional Park

Hiking north out of Riverbend in morning, it is possible to have the Potomac River entirely to yourself. There are few access points along the trail, which eliminates a lot of traffic, and makes this segment one of the quietest along the PHT in the Washington, D.C. area.

The hike begins at Great Falls visitor center. Or you can join the hike at a convenient place along the River Trail in the park (To begin this hike at the end point of the previous one, start at the boundary of Great Falls Park at Difficult Run). The hike follows the River Trail north into Riverbend Park, then bends west with the river on lands managed by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority and Fairfax County Park Authority. In places, the trail uses private lands on which property owners allow public access to provide a continuous route for hikers; the best way to show your appreciation is to stay on the trail! In Loudoun County the trail passes through a golf course on an easement managed by the Regional Park Authority, then enters Algonkian Regional Park.

The trail remains in intimate contact with the river in what is, by and large, a leisurely hike. There are a few modest climbs over knobs and around streams.

 

Trip Planner

Start: Great Falls Park visitor center
End: Boat launch at Algonkian Regional Park
Miles: ~10.2
Points of Interest: Great Falls Park, Riverbend Park, Algonkian Regional Park
Parking: Great Falls Park, Riverbend, Algonkian Regional Park
Water, Restrooms: Great Falls Park Visitor Center, Riverbend Park Visitor Center, Algonkian Park office
Provisions: Snacks are available at concession stands within Great Falls and Riverbend (ice cream and chips)
Camping: Cottages at Algonkian Regional Park

 

Explore the PHT

Great Falls Park
A park planner once referred to Great Falls as one of the great man-made wonders of the world. Not that the falls are of human construction, but the presence of the park and the absence of a large hotel or commercial operation here is one of our species’ major achievements. The park is best known to many visitors for the views of the falls and the great floods that have passed over them, but American history is as alive here as the waterfall.

Riverbend Park
Just north of Great Falls Park, Riverbend is often overlooked by the larger crowds seeking views of the water rushing over the fall line. This is fine with Riverbend’s devotees, especially birders who quietly ply the woods with binoculars and cameras. The park’s more than 400 acres is thickly forested, punctuated by meadows of native grasses. The setting, along with the park’s position on the river, attract an incredible variety of birds and wildlife—and a diverse array of people who enjoy watching them. The visitor center contains natural history exhibits, a library and guidebooks. After a morning of walking, fishing or birding, there are picnic tables for enjoying lunch by the river.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Potomac Heritage NST Office
P. O. Box B

Harpers Ferry, WV 25425

Phone:

(304) 535-4014

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