On a beautiful early winter day, members of the MCOMD club went to enjoy the Potomac River and its incredible scenery. Led by Marge Guinard, this figure-8 hike encompassed the narrow, rocky River Trail south from the Great Falls Visitor Center, and looped around. Lunch was held at the Riverbend Park Visitor’s center with comfortable deck seating and full view of the Potomac. The Terrain is mostly flat, and some rolling hills. One small rock scramble on the River Trail, as well as two to three steep hill climbs.
DIRECTIONS TO HIKE SITE: From the Washington Beltway (I-495) Take Exit 44 (also seen as exit 43-44) for Route 193 / Georgetown Pike. Head north on Route 193 / Georgetown Pike. Travel approximately 4 miles, and turn right at the light onto Old Dominion Drive. You will see a sign for the Great Falls Park. Old Dominion Drive will dead end at the entrance station, about one mile down the road. Cost for one car entry $5.00.
Great Falls Park, National Park Service Website: http://www.nps.gov/grfa/index.htm
Address 9200 Old Dominion Dr, McLean, VA 22102
HIKE DESCRIPTION: This figure-8 hike begins at the Great Falls Visitor’s Center. There are three overlooks located here, heading south. The first one has the closest view of Great Falls, but requires you to traverse rocks throughout for the vistas. The lower overlooks are decked and have easy access. See the marker for the high-water lines from previous times. Continue heading south on the River Trail. Pass Cow Hoof Rock, and turn right onto the Ridge Trail. Continue on Ridge Trail, pass the Old Carriage Road, and turn right, heading north on the trail that leads to Swamp Trail – turn left onto the Swamp Trail, then turn left again when you arrive to the Old Carriage Road. This will circle you back to the GF Visitor’s Center.
Continue on the tow path, heading north along the Potomac River and follow the blue markers. This trail will lead you into Riverbend Park. Continue to follow the river until you arrive at Riverbend Park’s visitors center. This is a perfect place for lunch. On seasonal days, the center is open, and snacks and ice cream can be purchased here. Mileage to this point is 5.35 miles.
*NOTE * From this point on, the loop back to the GF Visitors center is through the woods on marked and unmarked trails. So long as you keep the Potomac River to your left – and in the winter can see it periodically. You’ll be fine. If you’re concerned about this loop, just take the trail back along the river.
Take the Center Trail (yellow markers) south towards the Upland Trail. This will eventually connect to the Matildaville Trail in GFP, and then Mine Run Trail for one final loop to the parking lot.
COOKIES FOR THE HIKE: A special thanks goes to Jody for her Chocolate, Chocolate Chip cookies which were delicious. Alas, I don’t have her recipe.
Key Lime Meltaways http://smittenkitchen.com/2008/08/key-lime-meltaways/
COMMENTARY: Such a beautiful early winter day to enjoy a fantastic hike with wonderful friends. When driving up Georgetown Pike, take a peek at the incredibly huge mansions along the road. As I had an early start, I arrived by 8:15am to the park. While driving into the park, a red-tailed hawk flew right in front of my car, and landed in a tree. He moved faster than I could, and eluded my camera. Once parked, a quick walk took me to the overlook, where the early morning mist was lifting up from the fast moving water of the Potomac. While heading back to the car, I was able to see a Pileated Woodpecker, and a Nuthatch. GFP is a fantastic place for birding, and photography.
Since this was an easier hike for me, I volunteered to be the sweep for our group of 22 hikers. I soon learned that it was a great place to be, as I could stop and take pictures, then run to catch up with the group. This is a true pleasure of a hike, and provides many different alternatives for people of all abilities for hiking.