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Scott's Run Nature Preserve - McLean, Virginia

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
2.2 mls N/A
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
1.5 hours
240 ft
Fairfax County Park Authority
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e.g. 12000 Government Center Parkway 22035 or Fairfax VA
Turn right into the Scott's Run Nature Preserve parking area. 38.95873, -77.20503

You won't find a closer waterfall hike to the Metro DC area. One mile from the beltway on Georgetown Pike, the Scott's Run Nature Preserve is a little piece of wilderness saved from urban sprawl. Originally the Burling Tract, it avoided development in the 1970's and was renamed the Dranesville District Park. Today it is known as the Scott's Run Nature Preserve.

We have outlined a loop of 2.2 miles here, however the preserve has many interconnecting trails on its 384 acres. The Fairfax County Park Authority doesn't blaze or name any of the trails, but there is little chance of getting lost. You can't go any further north than the Potomac, and Georgetown Pike borders the property to the south. This hike has trails that range from the very easy to quite difficult.

Start down the path, and shortly cross a ford over Scott's Run then in 0.3 miles turn right crossing Scott's Run over the concrete posts. The path that leads straight, and didn't cross the run, takes the direct route down to the falls and becomes very difficult requiring boulder hopping. DO NOT take this route with children or when the trail is wet.

After crossing Scott's Run head uphill for 0.1 miles and junction of the wooden stairs that lead up to the Burling House Ruins. Turn left downhill for 0.1 miles to the Potomac River bank and falls where Scott's Run meets the river.

Turn right following the trail along the river bank and in 0.2 miles pass a small trail that leads uphill to the Burling House Ruins. In another 0.1 miles pass another trail that leads uphill. Continue along the riverbank where the trail goes around a small point. The point jetties out into the river here for about sixty feet and is a great spot for lunch. Twenty feet past the point take the trail as it heads directly uphill between two small ridges. As you pass the steepest section come to a minor trail junction.

Turn right, then immediately left along the top of the ridge spur and in 0.1 miles pass an old flag pole. Continue straight for another 0.2 miles an arrive at the next major trail junction (the trail to the right passes the Burling House Ruins then descends the wooden stairs and goes down to Scott's Run falls in the earlier part of this loop). Turn left and pass a four way junction in 0.1 miles.

In another 0.2 miles turn right at the next trail junction (if you arrive at the upper parking area and Georgetown Pike you've gone too far). Continue down the trail passing a trail on your right in 0.3 miles, then arriving back at the main parking area in another 0.2 miles.

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Hiker Reviews For The Scott's Run Hike (5 Most Recent)
Review the Scott's Run hike here!   Average Rating:   Share Hike: 

By: Rook Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, September 22, 2013
we did an out and back because we went to the other side of scotts run. the rock scramble was really fun and the falls was amazing. and only 40 mins from home!

By: Fireg8tr Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 01, 2013
We went as a family hike. The park was easy to find. Despite its' close proximity to major roads, the sound of running water and the occasional plane were all you could hear. The western parking lot had plenty of room, but be careful getting back out. Most of the trails were crushed rock or compressed ground. My 4 and 6 year old had a great time. The kids liked the rough trail in the NW corner of the park. It ends at the waterfall with some rock climbing. You will either have to back track or climb across (getting wet) to get to the other trails. The internal trails themselves were not well marked. A compass and a pic of the park map taken as we entered helped. The kids loved the river crossings. Warning - The park is monitored by the US Park Police. They will ticket you for swimming.

By: Ubikwity Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, May 06, 2013
This was a nice hike, although not my favorite. The directions and map are accurate until you get to the waterfall at the Potomac but then things get murky as you go along the river. The area of the "little point" is not obvious. I'm actually not sure if the "little point" is supposed to be further east along the river - on the map you see the dotted trail and a more prominent point with three small islands in the river, but that doesn't seem to be part of the hike that's highlighted on the topo map. There are an awful lot of trees down in that area as well. Makeshift trails that go around them lead back up the hill. The trails are not well marked for the most part so if you're a map freak like I am it can be confusing and a little frustating. But you won't get lost - you're essentially just making a big square between the river and Georgetown Pike.

By: Bill D Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, September 30, 2012
This hike won't test the limits of human endurance or draw on your survival skills, but it is a great family outing, especially if you live in the DC/NoVA area.  I did this hike with my wife, three sons (ages 3, 7, and 9), and my dog, and everyone had a great time.

We parked in the west parking lot and hiked toward the river.  The first part of the loop follows a stream through the forest, and you have to cross the streams twice using a series of round concrete steps.  As they were making these crossings, the boys informed me that it was very treacherous.  I wholeheartedly agreed with them that they were indeed brave explorers, as I stood in a quarter-inch-deep section of the stream taking photos of them.  The trail follows the stream until it reaches the Potomac, at which there is a nice waterfall there as it empties into the river.  There are plenty of places to reach the waterfall for a good view. 

There trail then follows the Potomac river east and then rises slowly until you reach a very nice overlook with a great view of the river.  The trail then loops back through the forest with enough of a vertical climb to break a sweat, but not enough to prevent a high-energy three-year-old (are there any low-energy three year olds?) from completing it. 

Overall, this was a great way to spend a beautiful fall Sunday morning with your family.  Many people seem to agree, as the trail was busy with other families enjoying the trail and walking their dog, so you won't get much solitude on a nice day.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, May 05, 2012
We actually made this a 3.1 mile loop, Once you get a way from the waterfall, you will no longer be around a whole lot of people, if any.

Some of the loop needs maintenance, there are a few large trees that are blocking your path.  My 3 year old was able to scale the tress, it  was fun to watch him cross the concrete posts.

Parking = Free
Hike= Easy
Water Fall in NVA  = 4 stars

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