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Potomac Heritage Trail

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Potomac River, small waterfalls along route
Near:Mc Lean, VA
Distance:10 miles
Elevation Gain:300 ft
Hike Time:4.5 hours
Trail Condition:OK, but a few difficult spots
HikeType:Point to Point

Summary:  The Potomac Heritage Trail winds for 10 miles along the Potomac River, through steep, rocky hill sides, forested stream valleys and years of history. For centuries, Native Americans lived and traded along this route. Captain John Smith explored the area in 1608. George Washington envisioned this part of the Potomac as the beginning of a "great avenue into the Western Country." The river was the dividing line between the North and South during the Civil War. Quarries, mills, and farms along the Potomac helped create a strong local economy and provided material for the development of Washington, D.C. Today, the area serves as a haven for wildlife and outdoor recreation, preserved within the George Washington Memorial Parkway.
Trailhead: 395 N to exit 10C. Follow George Washington Parkway pas the Pentagon, and exits for Key Bridge. Parking for Theodore Roosevelt Island is on your left, and only accesible from the northbound side of the highway.

There are several access points along the way, if one doesn't want to hike end to end. (Lat:38.8959 Lon:-77.0665)

Trail Guides for Potomac Heritage Trail:
Best Seasons: Year-Round
User Groups: Hikers, Dogs,
Ranger Contact: National Park Service 703-289-2500
Localhikes Reporter: This hike was submitted by Joe Cross, who has posted  56 other hikes on this site
Trail Reviews  Page 1 of 3   Submit your own review
Reviewed by Mike on 8/18/2014
Yesterday we started from Roosevelt Island and went 2/3 of the way to Chain Bridge before we turned around. We found the hike to be very enjoyable and overall not too difficult. I didn't wear my hiking boots on and there were a few times I wish I had them. Also, there were spots that obviously had flooded during storms so watch the River Gauge mentioned below and have a great time. You will enjoy it.

Reviewed by Tom B on 3/4/2012
This trail can involve a lot of rock scrambling and rock climbing if the river is high and you must climb around where the trail is flooded. Be forewarned! You can check the Potomac River Little Falls river gauge when planning this hike. If the river level is above 5 feet several parts of the trail will likely be underwater and you must rock climb to get around it. You can get the river level at 703-996-2200 ext. 1-3, usually with 1 or days days of prediction. Or on the internet go to

Reviewed by Steve on 6/10/2011
Took the day off from work today and used this trail from Roosevelt Island to Chain bridge. I'm not in the best of shape these days, hence why I was doing this. I didn't notice any trash, but there were plenty of dead animals. I would say this was a tough trail, though I think the close to 90 degree weather didn't help. Lots of climbing around rocks. I was the only person on it. Great exercise. I think I'll be sore for days. Just wish I was in better shape.

Reviewed by gt on 2/5/2011
I live near this trail and walk along it regularly. It's a beautiful hike where you can experience a natural environment within the confines of the city. As for trash buildup, take a trash bag and pick up some along your way. That's what I do and it make it a little nicer for everyone.

Reviewed by hs on 10/25/2010
good job cleaning and blazing some of the offbeaten trails.

Reviewed by FR on 8/8/2010
Waled the traile from Roosevelt Island to Chain Bridge. Views are nice, but garbage was terrible. Had to carry our dog at some points for fear of cut paws. My elementary-age son loved the terrain but was sad to see all the trash. Huge bags. Very disappointing. Probably won't go again.

Reviewed by SS on 5/5/2010
The directions given for access are clear, but clicking MapQuest, which pops up with the coordinates given in the text description, shows the location to be Chantilly!

Reviewed by Tim B on 3/15/2010
This is a fantastic trail along the VA side of the Potomac. Some easy parts, some hard, views are great, plenty of wildlife.

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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