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Difficult Run

View this trail on the brand new


variety, wooded trails, swampy areas, rock scramble, scenic views
Near:Mc Lean, VA
Distance:4.8 miles round trip
Elevation Gain:200 ft
Hike Time:2.5 hours
Trail Condition:Well maintained trail

Summary:  Variety is the word to describe this hike. Descend to Difficult Run and follow it as it winds to the Potomac River. After a short, steep climb to the ridge, follow the rim of Mather Gorge towards Great Falls - a channel believed to be 180 million years old. Pass by remains of Matildaville, named by Lighthourse Harry Lee in honor of his wife, and the Potowmack Canal, planned by George Washington and operated for 26 years before being bought out by the Chesapeake and Ohio Co. and abandoned. Follow the trail as it winds along to Great Falls Park, with overlooks of the falls, and then within a few minutes the Swamp Trail where wild flowers and wildlife abound. Please remember that swimming is not allowed.
**Horses are allowed on some of the park trails, but not the entire length of this circuit listed here**

Trailhead: I-495 to VA 193 (exit 13); west on VA 193 for approx. 3 miles. Look for parking lot on left hand side of road. Large sign: "Difficult Run" posted there. (Lat:38.9778 Lon:-77.2492)
Trail Guides for Difficult Run:
Circuit Hikes in VA WVA MD and PA
by Potomac Appalachain Trail Club (PATC)

Map D
by Potomac Appalachain Trail Club  (PATC)

Best Seasons: Year-Round
User Groups: Hikers, Dogs, Bikes, Horses,
Ranger Contact: Great Falls Visitors Center 703-285-2965
Localhikes Reporter: This hike was submitted by Joe Cross, who has posted  56 other hikes on this site
Trail Reviews  Submit your own review
Reviewed by Wespennest on 2/2/2013
The trail has been washed out at 38.97699 -77.24078. There is no way to pass this point as what remains is a fifteen-foot wide, twenty foot high drop directly into Difficult Run. I do not know when this portion will be fixed. You cannot reach the Potomac River from this trail anymore, I am sad to say.

Reviewed by M on 2/1/2013
Error: Reserved Word Found: update

Reviewed by Dave M on 7/29/2012
Good hike. Completed in about 70 minutes with my 13 year old son this afternoon. Trail was not terribly crowded and views were great. Nice break midway at the visitor's center and snack bar.

Reviewed by M on 8/19/2005
A decent walk with some amazing oppurtunities for large-format photographers. Pack lots of insect repellant, though-- there are a lot of stagnant pools where mosquitos congregate. Currently, the parking lot is occupied by lots of heavy machinery-- I believe they're rebuilding the bank upstream and I don't know when they'll be done.

Reviewed by Rebecca on 2/21/2005
This is a great running trail...just be careful and keep your eyes on the ground. I've sprained my ankles several times. Don't go on the weekend..too crowded. My dog and I are often alone on this trail during the week. Great exercise and peaceful!

Reviewed by Viewer on 10/10/2004
Too many dogs and people. There are some nice views but always people, dogs, then people. For someone coming from the Northern Michigan area it is just too much. Best in DC area so far on the brightside. Looks like some good fishing in the Great Falls area. Saw some big carp, small-mouth bass.

Reviewed by KBob on 9/9/2004
Nice view of the Potomac at the end of the trail, as well as views of rock strewn Difficult Run. Saw lots of deer towards evening along the Swamp Trail. Not as scenic as the Billy Goat Trail on the other side, but still rather pleasant.

Reviewed by BAD on 7/8/2004
The parking lot is on the LEFT, not right side of VA 193. If you see the entrance for Great Falls you've gone too far.

Notice: Traveling in the backcountry can be hazardous. You are responsible for informing yourself about these hazards and taking necessary precautions. Information on this web site comes from volunteer reporters and may contain errors or omissions. A current guidebook and proper equipment are essential for safe enjoyment of the hikes posted on this site.
Keys: Virginia Hiking, Virginia Trails, Virginia Hikes, Fairfax County Hiking, Fairfax County Trails, Fairfax County Hikes

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