This 2.5-mile roundtrip hike features sections of the Potomac Heritage Trail in Riverbend Park and adjacent Great Falls Park and brings you up close to a scenic portion of the Potomac River. Riverbend Park, a Fairfax County park, is a popular place for fishing, kayaking, and hiking with over 10 miles of trails. Trails vary in difficulty, and some are available for horseback riding and mountain biking.
Start your day at the Riverbend Park Visitor Center for a relatively easy hike along the Potomac River to the Great Falls Park Visitor Center, managed by the National Park Service. Along the route, you will likely see a variety of wildlife and rock outcroppings, evidence that the area was under water thousands of years ago. Across the river, you will see a lock house nestled against the historic Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath, which follows the Potomac River on the Maryland side.
After 1.25 miles, you will reach the Great Falls Visitor Center, on your right, and the Falls viewing area shortly afterward on your left. At this point, you can return to Riverbend or take advantage of the 15 miles of hiking trails, rock climbing, and other activities within Great Falls.
Once back at Riverbend, grab a bite to eat in the picnic area and explore the River by kayak. Be careful, though, not to drift too far downstream and into the falls that serve as the namesake for the area. Kayak rentals are available outside of the Visitor Center at a cost of five dollars for a single or tandem kayak.
For more information on this region and other parks in Fairfax County, visit the Fairfax County Park Authority.