Dead Run, just west of Turkey Run Park, is arguably one of the prettiest streams with small waterfalls inside the D.C. Beltway. A short 3.8 mile loop along the Potomac Heritage Trail and Dead Run, this hike is a great walk in the woods if you don't have much time to get out.
In springtime Dead Run is at its peak with several small pools and waterfalls as it flows for the last 1/4 mile into the Potomac River. The Potomac Heritage Trail is also in bloom this time of year with Virginia Blue Bells.
Mile 0.0 – From the C1 Turkey Run parking area, head downhill towards the Potomac Heritage Trail on the yellow blazed trail shortly passing an intersection on your left. Stay straight, the trail becomes steep in 100 yards making several sharp switchbacks, then ends at the Potomac River and intersection of the Potomac Heritage Trail.
Mile 0.2 – Turn left upstream on the yellow and green blazed Potomac Heritage Trail for 0.1 miles.
Mile 0.3 - Cross Turkey Run and stay right on the green and yellow blazed Potomac Heritage Trail (PHT) as it follows the Potomac River. In the spring this section of the Potomac river is awash in Virginia Blue Bells (Mertensia virginica). The PHT winds along the banks of the Potomac River crossing several small streams before reaching the much larger Dead Run.
Mile 1.7 - The PHT crosses Dead Run at this point. Do Not cross Dead Run, but follow the yellow blazed trail along the left bank for 30 yards where it crosses over to the right bank. The yellow blazed trail is not very apparent as this section has been washed out in the last couple of years. Pass several small pools and waterfalls which are the highlight of the hike. In the summer these make great swimming holes as the water is much warmer than the colder mountain fed streams.
Mile 1.8 - Pass under the George Washington Parkway then immediately cross Dead Run back to the left bank. This area is part of Langley Oaks Park and has many interconnecting unmarked trails. Follow the yellow blazed trail markings and you shouldn't get lost. Pass a flatter area and small trail on the right. After passing the first trail reach the next intersection at a small rise. Stay right and pass along a fence marking private property in the Langley Oaks sub-division. Descend through another steep gully and rise to the next intersection. Turn right for 100 yards, then turn left downhill to the next intersection and arrive at Turkey Run.
Mile 3.1 - Turn left downstream on Turkey Run, then where Turkey Run passes under the George Washington Parkway cross Turkey Run, then in 25 yards take the trail right uphill.
Mile 3.3 - Follow the yellow blazed trail uphill and back over to the first intersection you passed at the beginning of the hike.
Mile 3.5 - Turn right uphill for the remaining 0.1 miles to the parking area
Mile 3.6 - Return to the Turkey Run C1 parking area.
Dead Run Hike Comments
Date of Hike: Sunday, April 28, 2019
First, this is not a 2 for difficulty - I would rate it *mostly* a 2 with some spots that rate a 4. Still an enjoyable hike, though. This is not a hike for people with mobility issues, but if you and your friends are looking for a trail with less people and some minor scrambling, then you might like this one. The section along Dead Run requires a bit of scrambling, and for those who are wondering if the two dangerously eroded spots on the loop south of the parkway have been fixed, the answer is not exactly - but you do have a rope to hold onto now.
Just don't ever do this hike on a muddy day. Not only might you not be able to climb out of that one gully, but you'll probably do more damage to those two spots.
Date of Hike: Saturday, January 27, 2018
LOL - this is not a level 2 hike! Was more like an obstacle course! If you're going to go - do NOT bring your child (walking or not). The hike is treacherous and tricky - more so with a child carrier. Took us 3 hours today without a break for lunch. Not an easy hike, especially with the occasional muddy patch. Might have been better without the carrier I'll admit, but I legitimately believe it deserves a higher difficulty rating. If you want a challenge - this is the one for you. Happy to answer any questions regarding.
Date of Hike: Sunday, January 29, 2017
VERY poorly marked, and maintained, the sections off the river, especially the clear cut power line sections south of GW Parkway near Turkey Run.
Does anyone know who maintains this section of the trail. PATC? Are there workdays? Could be a very nice fairly rigorous circuit.
Date of Hike: Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Fine hike considering how close to downtown it is. The portion with the stream is nice, but the rest is pretty plain. Decent hills up and down keep it a little interesting, but for most of it you're just walking through the woods. Def watch out for downed trees - I counted 3 that were basically on the trail, and all required taking 10-15 seconds to be sure which direction to go.
Date of Hike: Sunday, January 15, 2017
This was a robust hike that is close enough to DC to be undertaken last minute, but remote enough to make you feel like you are farther out from the city. Parts of this hike that require rock scrambling and ravine crossing are more 3 than 2, but overall, the trail has a little bit of everything. We started the hike at 8:30am and no on else was there yet. Finished it in 3 hours, but we also walked at a slower pace. There wasn't much birdwatching to be had, but we did see a beautiful Pileated Woodpecker! Strongly suggest hiking footwear and not running shoes.
Date of Hike: Saturday, December 10, 2016
Hiked this loop with a group as part of our expedition from Fort Marcy Park, through Turkey Run, and on to Dead Run (and back). This trail was surprisingly more challenging that the "2 rating" suggests. We walked up through the rock scrambles before finding yellow blazed on the right side. After walking under the GW Parkway, it became a little confusing as to which way to go next since we did not see the next yellow blaze until completely passing it and doubling-back to retrace our path. The trail also became muddy and slippery the closer we got back to Turkey Run.
Date of Hike: Friday, September 2, 2016
Nice little walk on a Friday afternoon. Didn't have much trouble following the blazes except where the tree fell hiding the marks and obstructing the trail. It was obvious from the disturbed brush that the trail was up a little steep slope.
Date of Hike: Sunday, February 7, 2016
The good news - as others have noted, is that this is a nice, short hike inside the beltway. A pleasant hike along the river, and the climb up Dead Run is surprisingly scenic, with several little falls and pools. The bad is the loop back once you cross Dead Run again after passing under the GW Parkway. I don't know if the trail is more obvious during the summer, but for much the return, it's a game of "where the heck is next blaze?" And to echo the review I wish I had read more closely before - there is a place where it seems like the blazes end, and we searched off trail for some time before finally hitting a recognizable path. Finally, be warned that the path crossing one gully is pretty sketchy, particularly when it's muddy.
Date of Hike: Sunday, September 20, 2015
We did this hike around 9am and the parking lot was empty. The weather was perfect since the trail was nice and dry. We were able to manage a majority of the hike until we got to the crossing of Dead Run. The trail isn't marked all that well during this point and it made for a bit more difficult crossing since we went up a bit too far then originally planned.
The rest of the hike we were on the correct path until we got around mile 1.8 and under the GW parkway. There were several other trails that took us in a bit of an additional loop but we did end up getting near the fence as mentioned in the directions. From there it was pretty simple and we were able to make it back to the parking lot with no issues.
Great hike. FYI: the elevation gain is WAY off. I had about 3.8 miles (with our additional loop) and then had around 500-600 ft of elevation total.
Date of Hike: Sunday, July 12, 2015
This is a nice, easy hike. There's some great water views, and the trail is shady in general. However, just a heads up that the yellow trail is basically entirely washed away around Dead Run (markers and trail alike). As I was hiking by myself and suffer from a severe case of klutziness, I opted to just double back instead of braving what looked like a slippery scramble up by the falls to go under the bridge. When I neared the trail head I decided to do the Turkey Run loop as well, following and eventually crossing the stream further up.
Some advice: wear boots and a good dose of insect repellent. There are many smaller pools of standing water (read: mosquito breeding ground) and and the trail is really muddy at the moment due to the rain we've experiences. Also, trail is very dog friendly. Would probably hike this again at another time.