With Scott's Run Nature Preserve and Difficult Run, Riverbend Park along the banks of the Potomac River and just outside the beltway, is the least well known of the three. With only a small amount total elevation gain, the interconnecting trails are suitable for just about any skill and fitness level.
The hiking trails at Riverbend Park can be done in a number of different combinations to suit the abilities of any hiker. Here we have marked out the longest possible circuit route of 4.5 miles.
From the parking area, directly behind the main visitors center, walk through the picnic area, and head upstream on the Potomac Heritage Trail that follows the banks of the Potomac River.
In 0.5 miles pass the Follow The Hollows Trail, and in another 0.2 miles cross another small footbridge then arrive at the intersection of the Bootleger Trail.
The directions are sorely in need of updating, it's been 2 or 3 years since the trail names have changed, and I unfortunately didn't pay close attention to the comments before setting out. I spent more time being frustrated with my map and less time actually enjoying the hike. :\
HikingUpward Note: Athryn, thanks for the notes about the new trail names. The map has been updated as well as the hike directions to now include the longer loop hike on the Bootlegger Trail.
Date of Hike: Sunday, January 29, 2012
My two boys, 9 and 12, the dog and I hiked from River Bend down into Great Falls and back again. They could scramble up and down the cliffs and rocks while I strolled along. The path is straight and usually dry (although when the river floods it gets muddy) and not at all strenuous. The Great Falls section is crowed with people while the River Rend section isn't. Nice views as well. Overall a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon with kids.
Date of Hike: Saturday, January 21, 2012
We hiked this on a Saturday with about an inch of snow on the ground. The visitor center is very well maintained with friendly and helpful staff. They were shoveling all the sidewalks when we arrived at 11:20. The visitor center had some really cool items that you should stop in and take a look at. About this hike, well it took us 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete adding 5.36 miles to this hike. Before we got to Carpers pond we kept going straight along the Potomac passing some really cool stuff a bridge, a huge house, Watkins Island Overlook and a washed out road that has a make shift waterfall. After the washed out road we kept going straight for a little longer. Adding this really adds some excitement to this trail and also a great workout. So in the end we did 3.5 hrs of hiking covering 8.36 miles of trails running into about 6 other people in an inch of snow it was a great day for a hike.
Date of Hike: Sunday, August 14, 2011
The trails in Riverbend have been re-named and re-blazed. The former "Paw Paw Trail" is now part of the "Bootlegger Trail". The "Upland Trail" is now blazed gold and is called the "Follows the Hollows Trail". There are still some posts marked as "Upland", but I'm guessing they will be removed or re-branded at some point. Here is a link to the latest trail names and blazes: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/riverbend/trails.htm
Date of Hike: Wednesday, July 20, 2011
We did this hike early in the morning during the weekday and were the only ones on the trail. The trails were generally narrow and there were many cross trail spider webs (every few feet) so we eventually used a stick to clear the the path. A hiking hazard, I know, but this was excessive. The hike itself was not too scenic (although we did enjoy the meadow) and all of the other potomac river hikes we've done have had much better river views. A nice, easy hike, but our least favorite that we have done.