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Hiker Comments for the Difficult Run Hike - 1 to 45 of 45   
Average Rating:

By: Cate Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, January 21, 2019
The Difficult Run Trail (at least where it meets the parking lot for this hike) is closed for repair. I wasn't sure what or where the issue was so I just reversed the directions for the above hike, crossed Georgetown Pike and started on the unmarked, but easy to spot trail that starts right across the street from the parking lot (Google Maps has it labeled as Wolfpack Trail). I went left where Wolfpack Trail dumps out onto Ridge Trail, right onto Swamp Trail, and left onto Old Carriage Road which took me to the overlooks. This shortens the hike to about 3 miles round trip, but the overlooks are amazing and totally worth it. Saw a few people, but was alone most of the time, probably thanks to the weather (16 degrees when I started out at 10:30am!!)

While not blazed, the trails are easy to follow in most places. There are several parts where the trail is iced over so watch your step!

By: cmg Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 3, 2017
We started at 9am at the Georgetown Pike parking lot. There's actually 3 trails that meet there, take the farthest east trail entrance that has a small sign post (not the trail with the large cross county map and not the trail across Georgetown Pike. Get to the parking lot early it was almost full at 9am on Saturday when we started.

This hike took us about 5 hours but we stopped for lunch at the picnic area near the bathrooms and checked out most of the overlooks and small paths by the river. Everything is well signed but the blaze is now green instead of blue.

Definitely take the Swamp Trail since we saw maybe two people on that trail and it was quite beautiful. I'll try this hike again in Fall/Winter to see the views without the leaves- perhaps in the reverse.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, May 26, 2017
Hiked this trail today (Friday) after work. Start about 6:30 or so, and was practically the only one one the trail, until I got to the main part of the park. I was expecting crowds after reading the previous reviews, but that just didn't materialize. The hike is beautiful, with tremendous water views along most of the hike. The River Trail is green blazed,not blue. And it is indeed hard to pick up after the steep descent. Just keep walking towards the park, and you will eventually cross the paved road and know that you are on track. 

Once I got to the park, and passed the second overlook, I had a little bit of trouble finding Carriage Road. The bathrooms and parking lot referred to in the right up are not the bathrooms and parking lot by the Visitor's Center. Once I realized that, I was back on track.

All in all a great hike. Got back to my car at about 8.  Would have taken more time but was walking fast so as to not run out of daylight. 

By: NT Rating: Date of Hike: Tuesday, May 9, 2017
News flash: there are millions of people who live in the DC area, and many of them (us), enjoy a nice hike, especially on the weekends. Giving this hike a low rating because it is in a heavily populated area seems unfair at best you knew where it was when you ventured out, no?

In fact, since I live in DC, the location of this hike is a 5-star aspect of it! (See, it's all about your perspective.) The vistas and water views are spectacular, especially when the Potomac is rushing as it has been. All this and only a few miles outside of the beltway? I'll take it.

I like this hike so much I did it twice in the last few days. Once with friends on Sunday - yep, it was crowded, but only around the main overlooks and visitor center. The rest of the time was what you'd expect for a beautiful 65-degree Sunday on any popular hike within an hour or two drive from DC, and we had our choice of spectacular and solitary lunch spots overlooking the Potomac. I did the hike again Tuesday, and didn't see a single person on the Swamp Trail, and saw fewer than a dozen people - and two giant horses - on the River Trail - on another cloudless 65-degree day.

Some tips: If you want to follow the route on the map linked to above, start your hike at the opposite end of the parking lot from the entrance to the lot. There is a sign/map right at the entrance to the parking lot that practically begs you to start out on the trail that leads directly from there, but this trail is not park of this hike. You know you're on the right path (literally) if the water is on your right as you start the hike.

I actually prefer to reverse this loop, doing the Swamp Trail first and then heading to the River Trail, because I like to torture myself with that big uphill part. To do it this way, start the hike by starting on the Swamp Trail by crossing the road where you turned into the parking lot.

Whichever way you do this hike, be VERY careful crossing the road (and also when entering/exiting the lot in your car), because where you do so is flanked by a sharp turn in one direction and a blind hill on the other. We witnessed a couple very close calls this weekend.

Last thing: My Garmin put this hike at 4.71 miles, with a couple little extra jaunts thrown in, so the 5.1 miles listed for this hike, while close enough, is slightly high, FWIW.

By: Long Beard Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, June 19, 2016
My son ,wife and I hiked this trail for fathers day. If you enjoy obnoxious drivers on the crowded roads of northern va and a 45 minute line leading into the park and crowds of sweaty smelly people this hike is for you. I did enjoy the views of the river, always wanted to see it. Other than the nice river views it was a nice easy walk in the woods, nothing spectacular. Now that I have seen it I will mark this one off my list as well as anything else in the vicinity of northern Va.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, November 11, 2015
First time hiking Difficult Run. I've been to Great Falls on the VA and MD side before but never done this trail. Overall it was a very pleasant hike. I'd recommend it if you don't have a lot of time and really need to get out there for a quick one. The only negative would be the crowds around the main falls area, but other than that it is very nice.

By: Matt Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, January 25, 2015
Needed a quick afternoon hike.  This is one of my favorite quick hikes.  Trail was clear of snow and ice and in good repair. 

By: Dawn Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, January 17, 2015
The washed out part of the trail has been completely fixed and it is an easy passage from Old Georgetown Road/Difficult Run to the Ridge trail. The park service and VDOT did a fabulous job with the path.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, November 2, 2014
Returned to this wonderful, close-in, loop hike with several novices early Sunday morning. Arrived at Rt 197 parking lot 9:30am and got one of a few spots left there were more hikers there than I expected for a Sunday, but was not terrible. We went further along Difficult Run leg and slightly north along Potomac River then my previous visits, granting us more great views! Within easily 10 minutes we were at the top of Ridge Trail providing another whole perspective of the river. There were climbers and kayakers to really impress the 11 yr old (new Scout) and plenty of outcroppings just off the trail for great views, snack and lunch spots little ones must be sure-footed for some or Mom may get nervous. We encountered people on every leg, even holding us up to allow them passage, but this is some of the best Great Falls as to offer, so this must be expected. The overlooks are certainly a major highlight and for first timers, not to be missed (well get crowded on beautiful days and after major storms).

Hiking upwards map was very helpful in providing plenty of detail for our older scout to not get lost,... at least when he consulted the map :-). The new NPS trail signs, together with the map, make this a full-proof, all-around wonderful afternoon from which you will return to car right on time!

Hike rates 5-stars, if not for amount of other people along single-track paths.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, October 19, 2014
I took two nephews on this hike (ages 8 and 13) and we had a great time. We did not run in to many people on the Difficult Run stretch of this hike, but the River Trail portion was crowded.  It was a great day out, a nice cool fall day. There were a few kayakers attracting some looks around the falls/picnic area.  You can take any combination of the River, Ridge, Carriage trails to keep this area fresh and different every time you go.  There were more people on the Swamp trail (heading opposite our group) than I have seen in the past, however I dont think many people use the 0.2 stretch from the Ridge Trail back thru the woods to the Difficult Run parking area.  This is a nice short cut back if you start at Difficult Run so that you can explore more of the trails around the river.  (side note, I previously asked a Park Ranger about the Swamp trail back to D.R. parking area and she did not know about this path-so great job Hiking Upward in giving awesome directions---the single split rail post is easy to miss but dead on for directions!)

By: Jackie K. Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, July 27, 2014
This is awesome. I have nothing new to add other than....

*WARNING* About 50 to 100-ish feet of the trail was washed out from a flood. This part is on the Difficult Run part (or the first component) of the mapped route. There are two ways to get around this -- one is to scramble up a hill and series of tree roots, the other is to climb down on the rocks by the water, then climb back up.

My husband and I chose the top route. We had a young pup that didn't need our help. I am not in the best of the shape, but I was able to do it. Another couple was doing the bottom route with a dog at the same time and didn't have issues either. I would say that under the current conditions, this makes the trail at least a 3, if not a 4 in difficulty.

There is a National Park office you can call to ask about the condition of the trail OR you can try your hand if it is too much, you can turn back and take one of the by pass routes.

By: Dawn Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, February 17, 2014
Even with the recent snow, there is a packed snow footpath and the hike is very doable just use common sense on the icy parts. I love this hike - it is a great workout and absolutely gorgeous. I hike it more frequently in the winter than in the summer.

By: Craig Poyner Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, November 29, 2013
This is a very pleasant trail with a decent amount of variety. There used to be a section of the trail that ran next to a rock face right by the edge of Difficult Run. This section is almost totally collapsed and washed out now. With care it is possible to scramble down to the river and along the rocks. My wife and I found it much safer to go up-and-over the rise to the left of the original trail. It's only a short scramble but definitely better than risking a tumble or an unwanted dip in the river.

By: Brynner Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, November 3, 2013
Hiked this trail for the first time in early November. Make sure to read the signs and check out the map before you get there, because there are two different trails that stem from the parking lot that is described in the trail overview. As the reviewers before me mentioned, there is a section of the path that may appear to be impassable, though this is not necessarily true. We were able to climb along the crumbled path and make it across safely and rather easily. Also, when the water is low enough you can climb down, across, and back up in order to continue along the trail. I saw an older couple go up and around it through the hill/trees above the path. Basically, it is far from impassable in its current state. Within the first mile or so (before you reach the Potomac), there are a number of smaller trails off the main path that allow you to get a closer look at the rock formations and flowing water. My girlfriend and I are mid-twenties and in relatively good shape, but even so, this trail did not appear to be over-strenuous. Overall, we found the trail to be relaxing and enjoyable with a number of good picture ops.

By: Shannon Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, June 9, 2013
I agree with the previous two posters. The trail was not washed out and was easily passable. Both dogs we had with us were able to go everywhere with no problems. We had a great time and will be back!

By: Riper Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, June 2, 2013
Difficult Run part of the trail is great.  The washed out section is plenty easy to get past.  Go all the way to the end for great views up, down and across the Potomac.  The Ridge Trail is a short fairly steep ascent to the top then rolling- it will get your heart pumping in a good way.  Rather than taking the Ridge Trail to the Old Carriage Road which is kind of a boring walk in the woods on a wide almost road, turn right onto the River Trail (you can't miss it) and take that all the way back to the visitor's center.  This trail has some technical sections, incredible views of Mather Gorge (stop and look from Cow Hoof Rock), and you'll probably see some ropes tied up and hanging over the side for the rockclimbers.  On the way back definitely take the Swamp Trail- very nice trail.  You'll hear lots of birds and probably see some too.  We saw 3 Wood Thrushes on the way and they serenaded us the whole way.  Also, after you turn left onto the Ridge trail, there will be another trail (I'm not sure it's officially marked but is apparent if looking for it ) to your right about 1/4 mile from where the SwampTrail and Ridge Trail meet.  Take it.  It drops you off right across the road from the parking lot, whereas the Old Carriage Road comes in down the road a few hundred feet.  This is a nice 5 miler that pretty much anyone should be able to do.  Do where appropriate footwear though and watch for snakes.  I think I've encountered one every time I have hiked in Great Falls.  Lots of water snakes, but have also come across a copperhead 2x.  Never have they been aggressive though and usually they are slithering to get away from me.

By: Ubikwity Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, March 11, 2013
I hike this trail about twice or three times/month, and encourage everyone I know who loves to hike to check it out.

Yes, there is a section of the trail along Difficult run that's been washed out so the going is tricky. However, I have been able to navigate this section by carefully scooting down the rocks and back up the embankment. The rocks look like they may have been cut for this purpose. It's maybe 12 or so feet down and it's right by the water's edge. The water seems pretty calm at the foot, but I've never been there after a very heavy rain. I'm fairly fit but I've passed this with a 70 year old man and his 62 year old wife(both quite active, but they probably wouldn't describe themselves as athletic). You must be very cautious and aware off what you're capable of. Wear sensible shoes. *Don't risk it if you're not sure you can do it.* I would not take a young child.

If you are able to get past this area, you'll be rewarded by some of the best scenery imaginable just outside of the Washington beltway or really anywhere. I make a left onto the Ridge trail (off of Difficult Run) then a right on to River Trail and follow that up to Great Falls. *Sections of the River Trail can be dangerous too* as you'll surely be tempted to get a good look at he rushing river below. So beautiful. Use your head. Don't take your three year old or a gooofy tween. There are also some rock scrambles along this section. You will have to be at least a little agile and strong.

Once in Great Falls Park stop for a drink and to use the facilities if needed. there are various ways of getting back but if you'd rather not navigate the washed out section of the Difficult Run Trail, head up Old Carriage Road (kind of boring but okay you're still in the woods) to the end, Cross Georgetown Pike, go over the guardrail to pick up the trail again and turn RIGHT to get to the parking lot.

Have fun! kb~

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Friday, February 1, 2013
I started out from the parking lot and headed downstream towards the river. I've hiked this trail many times before in all seasons and have always found something new every time. I particularly enjoy the solitude during the wintertime, and being mobbed by butterflies in the warmer months-- but I have some very bad news:

The trail is washed out below the second set of rapids/falls (38.97699 -77.24078). It is wholly impassable at this point. The rains that hit the area on 1/30/13 tore out a twenty foot high, fifteen foot wide chunk of the cliff supporting the trail, and it is impossible to pass this point as to your right are the rapids and to your left is the sheer, muddy side of the hill that may not be stable. There are signs up that state the trail may be narrow or obscured, but they do nothing to convey the fact that the trail is completely gone. I do not know when this is planned to be repaired, but be advised that you will be physically unable to reach the Potomac River from the Difficult Run parking lot for the time being.

This is the only time I've ever given a one-star review for a hike, and it's because of some clear and present safety issues.

By: blacklabhiker Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, December 15, 2012
It's been awhile since I've hiked here. I was surprised that a portion of the trail is now hard to pass. There is an area where it is single file between a rock wall and the river. The dogs would not go that way. If you go down to the rocks below you can pass that way. Of course the dogs ended up swimming around it.

This area is between the crossing under Georgetown Pike and the Potomac.

By: Marty Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, October 31, 2012
I've hiked through this area many times (Riverbend/GF/Difficult Run).  It's a beautiful hike considering the location.  The visitors area at Great Falls Park can be pretty crowded. The trails become less populated as you get further from the parking areas, but you will always see a few people while you are out... and usually a few pets too.

"Difficult Run Hike" is really just a name for the best loop to hike, although there are other loops, and a few other side trails.  You can get a map from the guard hut at GFNP or in the visitors center.  It costs 5$ to get into GFNP but there's a good parking area just east of the park on georgetown pike that is free.  It's not as secluded as the Shenandoah or other parts of the AT, but it beats any other scenery nearby!

By: Swamp Fox Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 9, 2012
I parked in the long parking lot adjacent Georgetown Pike and walked downstream along Difficult Run (DR). There was a section of the trail that was washed out. I did not see any signs that the trail was closed. There was a path up the hill which looked slick and a path that went towards DR that I took. It was possible to go down if you were careful but climbing up was difficult.

I reached a section of the trail that had a series of steps down toward DR. I took that and thought that there was another trail along DR. Once I was at the bottom, there were nice rocks to sit down and watch a small waterfall. However, since I didn't want to climb back up the same way, I followed a very small trail that required some rock climbing. Eventually, this let back to the main trail.
There was a side trail down to the beach at the mouth of DR. I thought that trail along the Potomac may lead back to the main trail but it took me up VERY steep rocks. It was a challenge and was very dangerous and was not marked. When I went up, I could see places to step and hand holds but you can't see places to step when you go back down. I finally made it but please don't go that way, it was real dangerous.

I got back on the path and took the old carriage trail back to the parking lot.

By: Walter Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, May 13, 2012
This is just a hike put together and not a National Parks trail. The name is kind of deceptive,"Difficult Run Hike" is the combination of several trails.  Make sure you follow the instructions starting with where to park. There are many places to pick up the "Difficult Run Trail" and starting at a different location will probably send you in the wrong direction on Difficult Run Trail.  The scenic views are on the `Ridge Trail If you want to see the scenic overlooks of the Potomac, make sure to print these instructions or just hike the Ridge Trail.

If you follow markers for the Difficult Run Trail you will hike along the Difficult Run river and never see the the scenic views of the Potomac River. You will have a good hike along but it is out and back, not a loop.
I'd suggest renaming this to the Difficult Run and Ridge hike to separate it from the marked trail.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, January 14, 2012
We hiked Difficult Run and Scott's Run Nature Preserve on 01/14/12. Started on Difficult run at 9:00 Am and took about 3 hrs and 15 min with taking over 100 pictures. The Trail is Very easy with so much to look at on just about the entire hike. The Trail is still closed for just a very small area that it seemed everyone just walked past including us. I am sure it would have been an issue if it was raining or just rained that night. But it was very easy for us to cross the washed out area. We finished the hike at around 12:10 and went right over to Scott&rsquos Run. We arrived at the lower parking lot of Scott&rsquos Run at 12:25. Now Scotts run is a little more difficult to map. After crossing the first concrete posts we made our way to the 2nd set of concrete posts crossing the stream. We did not cross the stream we just kept going straight on the fading trail following along the left side of the stream. As they said in the review this may not be for kids or people with dogs. But we had a great time doing some climbing on the boulders. After getting to the waterfall and crossing the stream we hiked along the Potomac as the map directs then made a right going uphill to the flag post. We kept straight for a while until we made a right to follow the trail to get to the Burling House Ruins. After the Ruins we turned back to get to the main trail we just came from and followed the trail back to the parking area. Finished the hike at 2:20PM so just under 2 hours with GPS saying we hiked 3.33 miles.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, December 29, 2011
The Difficult Run trail is still washed out and officially "closed". You can either ignore the signs and climb down and around, bushwack up the hill and go around, or turn around. I ignored the signs. Be careful if you climb down...the river is very deep there and I wouldn't trust the rocks on the down river side, some of them look like they could easily come loose so test carefully. The River Trail is now blazed green. You can still see a few faded blue blazes here and there. Lots of traffic on the River Trail closer to the visitor center. Swamp Trail is appropriately named. :) Nice hike without having to drive far. I had to whack a loose husky on the head with a trekking pole when it came running up to my leashed dog. My dog will attack and defend against even "friendly" dogs, so the whack on the head was getting off lightly. Please keep your pets leashed people.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, October 23, 2011
I have hiked most, if not all, of the trails in and around Great Falls Park, but have never done the Difficult Run hike in it's entirety until this hike.  It's a great local hike, and as a previous reviewer posted, some areas are so remote that you forget you're right outside the Capital Beltway. I did this hike alone, walking briskly, and it took me about 2.5 hours.  This includes stopping several times for  photo opportunities.  I have also done a majority of these trails with my son starting as early as age 4.  Distance on this hike is the only thing to really consider as far as bringing children.  There are a couple climbs, but nothing too earth shatteringly difficult.

As a parking alternative (if you don't mind the $5 donation to the NPS) you can park in the first lot inside Great Falls Park (immediate sharp right-hand turn after the entrance station). From the end of the parking lot, proceed towards the bathrooms on the trail which leads to the right of the parking lot, then turn right onto the Old Carriage Road.  From there, follow the Difficult Run Hike in a counter-clockwise direction until returning to the Great Falls parking area you started in.

As the prior reviewer noted, there is a section of trail which was washed out during the storms associated with Hurricane Irene.  The extent of the trail damage is just that little section where the trail seemingly disappears into the hillside.  Depending on water levels, you may or may not be able to hike down into the creek bed to navigate past the missing trail section, not that I would advise in doing so.

The are some great views along Difficult Run, most notable are the views just upstream of the confluence with the Potomac where the Run carves through rock and giant boulders while making its way to the river.  Along the River Trail overlooking the Potomac and Mather Gorge there are more great views, especially since the leaves have started to fall.  Last but not least are the falls overlooks once you return to the Great Falls park visitor center area.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, October 2, 2011
First, thanks for all the great info and amazing detail in your guide. I headed down there on a cool Sunday morning and, as I have seen on many local trails since all the recent water and wind, I was disappointed to find that a very key 30-foot section of the Difficult Run trail was completely washed away, leaving a sheer vertical drop. I generally obey "trail closed" signs" but usually only after I poke ahead a few feet and see if it's just a little debris or a more serious issue. I thought about just running the entire route in reverse, but thought I might encounter similar obstacles. So, I instead hiked up to the ridge trail and then down to the confluence, which is what I wanted to see most anyhow. I was able to hike right to the opposite side of the "gap". For me, the most amazing spot was just before Difficult Run turns north and enters the Potomac. A magical little bend in the river that feels as remote as any spot I've hiked in the US (if you pretend the DC-bound jets roaring overhead are not there). Aside from the one gap, otherwise well marked and maintained trails and at 7am on a chilly 43-degree morning, surprisingly uncrowded. I did find the "no golfing" rule posted at the parking lot to be a bit humorous. Will definitely go back and explore the rest.

By: Dave Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, August 10, 2011
This is a really great trail. It includes almost every type of terrain in 5 miles. There are a couple of tough climbs, but not too bad. There are parts of the trail especially closer to the overlooks that are fairly crowded, but it thins out quick.

I got lost exactly where this says to be careful, but I eventually found my way back to the blue blazes.

Parking at the lot is limited (maybe 20 spots). It was totally full at 6:00 on a Wed. and it was 90 degrees.

By: TSD Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, May 15, 2011
This was a really fun hike. I've always loved that we have easy access to such great trials right here near busy old DC. I found this to be much preferable to Billy Goat. The Goat, in and of itself, is certainly a much more interesting trial. But the lack of crowds for the exact same views gives this hike the edge. The directions were very good, except for the part about finding the Old Carriage Road. I got confused as I thought the directions referred to the bathrooms at the visitor center. Not so. There's another set of bathrooms near the small parking lot. When you cross the foot bridge at the second overlook, turn left and head towards the small parking lot, where you'll find the other set of bathrooms and trail markers for the Old Carriage Trial. Also, the split rail fence has been reduced to a single fence post that can easily be missed. Once you get to the bottom of the hill, be on the lookout for the post, and the small trail off to the right. Very easily missed, if you go back up the hill you've gone too far! Hike on!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, April 25, 2011
As the name suggests I am rarely seen in the woods without at least one canine companion. I love this hike. It has always been one of my fall backs for a good trek in the woods when I don't have time for an all day event but still need to get away for a little bit.  The views are fantastic, especially love cow hoof rock off the river trail!

When hiking this trail with a dog, I would recommend going the opposite direction than what the trail suggests. The ridge trails and swamp trails heat up as the day goes on and are much nicer in the cooler morning for dogs or if starting in the middle of the day, much easier for them with fresh energy. Ending the hike on the canal and river trail offers cool down stops along the way at sandy point where they can splash around a bit in the cool water. Heat stroke can happen very quickly with dogs so plenty of water for drinking and pouring on them is a must. Always remember to keep your four legged friend on a leash and clean up after yourselves!

By: Kim Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, April 9, 2011
This was a great loop and the directions were perfect - thank you! Yes there were a few people at the beginning and end of the river trail part of this, but the last part (hiking back from Great Falls) on the Swamp Trail was nice and quiet. There were no markers but the trail was easy to follow. Great way to end it.

By: CT Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, January 8, 2011
I just discovered this hike based on this website, and I love it!  It's twisty, slightly rocky, hilly, and runs along the river for much of the way.  There's a great amount of variation in the terrain and I love the views of the falls and river.  I hiked it in Jan and we saw a handful of other people up near the Great Falls visitor center, but it was far from crowded.  I see this as an excellent alternative to the Billy Goat trail on the MD side, for days when you don't want to scramble over rocks quite so much or when there's snow or ice.   
I highly recommend giving this trail system a try.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, January 1, 2011
Did this as a close in to town hike as a way to get out after welcoming in the New Year the night before.  Winter is one of the few times of the year the water and air is fresh, so always do this area in the winter and it did not disappoint!  Pics are here:

The water was clear emerald green, the air and company fresh and wonderful!  As always the trail descriptions are accurate and easy to follow.  A great close in hike that will still make you feel great!  A friend told me about this hike years ago, but the trail descriptions on hikingupward make them a must do before hitting the trail, so thanks hikingupward for a job well done!

By: jcd Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, October 10, 2010
A very pleasant hike. When you pull in to the Difficult Run parking area, the creek is in front of you. With the creek in front of you, the trail starts on the left side of the lot. After that, the directions are absolutely perfect. The portion of the trail that follows the Potomac was quite crowded on a sunny Sunday, as can be expected I suppose. Don't go on this hike expecting solitude.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 28, 2010
I can't say they (HikingUpward) didn't warn me. There was an obnoxious amount of people out the Saturday morning I and my friends embarked on this walk (including two guys angrily, incessantly yelling at the top of their lungs at the most scenic part of the hike - awesome). I kept hoping the views would be worth it, but was disappointed. If you're looking for an easy walk and the chance to run into dozens of people, this one's for you. If you're just interested in seeing the falls, I'd simply google it. It's no Niagara.

By: Tracy Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, April 11, 2010
It was amazing... We went in spring and everything was blooming and it was magical!  Had lunch sitting by a stream, beautiful.  Saw all sorts of birds.  You'll walk past someone every couple minutes or so.  It was crowded near the falls, but that's to be expected. Really loved parking far away from the crowd.  If you go in the main entrance there's an hour wait for a spot.  The parking spot recommended in this guide was nice and quiet, maybe 3/4 full. 

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, April 8, 2010
Had a really great time on this trail.  The scenery and views of the river and falls I found just beautiful.  However, the map has you going the wrong direction.  From the parking lot you must take the trail facing your left.  I took the one to my right a week ago and it is not the correct trail and leads to Reston, VA.  The River Trail was rather rocky and so proper shoes I felt were in order, especially if you go and find muddy areas where you could slip and fall.  I did get side-tracked several times but was able to clarify my way once arriving at the Visitor Center at Great Falls.  My day was a lovely spring day and the hike was wonderful.  I took long than 2 1/2 hours because I got diverted so much on other trails but was great anyway.

By: Dog Is My Leader Rating: Date of Hike: Thursday, February 4, 2010
This was a nice hike. For the first half that follows the river is awesome. When I made it to the top of the first hill I was able to see a person kayaking and watched for a few minuets. The views from the trail and the overlooks you pass in the main picnic area are just great. The last section of the trial that you are too follow down the ravine is closed. If you continue past the trail you will run into Carrage Road again. If you turn right it will lead you back to Georgetown Pike. You can ether turn right and walk along the ridge beside the road to where you need to cross the road to the parking area or cross Georgetown Pike and walk along the road to the parking area. I would suggest to walk along the ridge because their isn't much room to walk beside the road.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Monday, January 18, 2010
As an easy hike, this is great.  Twelve of us had a grand time trying to figure out directions.  It seems those in front didn't have a map but did have some fascinating discussions going on.  There were several times we went off the beaten path.  But it was a gorgeous day and we were interested in enjoying ourselves, so it really didn't matter.  Do note that the last turn  -- off Swamp Trail -- is closed.

By: Darby Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, January 9, 2010
Hiked difficult run for the first time in years and the first time ever with snow on the ground.  I absolutely recommend this hike in the winter months, it is not difficult and the views are even better as you peak through the trees along the ridge trails and the snow on the ground provides a great landscape.  The trails had hard packed snow and ice but was not a problem to navigate (even with my friend in tennis shoes...) despite a few slippery spots.  The solitude was nice before you get closer to the park at Great Falls and the cold weather deterred even more.  FYI the last part of the trail back to the parking area says "trail closed" but i followed the numerous tracks in the snow down the trail anyway with no problems.  Great hike, very family friendly.

By: skm Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, October 4, 2009

Echoing the previous review, we also started in the wrong direction, but quickly figured out that we were headed in the wrong direction.  Note, the trailhead with the map of the trail takes you in the opposite direction.  The hike starts from the other end of the parking lot.  Overall the hike was beautiful, especially along the Potomac. 

Couple of things to note - the blazes marking the River Trail have been remarked recently in green paint.  Also, do not rely on the distances in the direction, as we found them to be off at different points.

We discovered a number of other trails within this area and are looking forward to hiking it again!


By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, September 12, 2009
I really enjoyed this hike.... Once we found out where the "actual Hike" started. Pay close attention upon arrival. We ended up going 3.5 miles down another trail that wasn't even in the right direction, but the directions were VERY similar to WRONG trail we were on. Just know that when you are in the parking lot, you don't go down the trail to the right when pulling in. There is really no header for the correct trail which is what confused us. On the up side, once we were on the correct trail, we loved the hike. It was absolutely beautiful, and not very challenging. There was a sign when we got to the end (where you are supposed to go to the split post and turn right) saying that the trail was closed. We just continued about another 70 yards and there was an open gravel road to the right, and we followed that down to the parking area. Had we not gotten off on the wrong foot with this hike, it would have been much better, but considering the circumstances, it was still a good time!

If you are looking for something really fun, and very challenging I would recommend OLD RAG MOUNTAIN. We completed that hike about a month ago, and it was very fun, but also very hard.

By: John Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, June 28, 2009
This is a terrific hike.  Did a modified version of this hike - out to the potomac and back - with a 6 and 9 year old and a 2 year old in a backpack.  The walk along the stream is beautiful, there are plenty of interesting spots to stop and explore, and the banks of the potomac is perfect for halfway snack.  This spot gets crowded in the late morning and afternoon, so go early.

By: Suz Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, May 10, 2009
One of my fave hikes in the area. Took my dog there yesterday for the beautiful weather- kept him on a leash at all times- and I was glad because there was a snake laying on the trail. Probably sluggish from hibernation, but he wouldn't move. Couldn't tell if he/she was poisonous- had waht looked like diamond shapes on him. Eventually he moved away, after some prodding, and I was glad the bikers and hikers would not have a run-in.

By: AlwaysHiking Rating: Date of Hike: Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Have done this loop more times than I can count. Used to jog it in high school for soccer conditioning and now I take my kid sister and dog there. Great trail for dog walking, great also for young kids. Very pretty scenery.
Word of advice though, in follow up to the other comment left here. Swimming is not allowed in this section of the Potomac within Great Falls park as well as within Difficult Run park. Also, pets must be kept on leash at all times. I have seen people on a number of occasions get ticketed for breaking either of those two restrictions. Trust me, I know it's tempting to wade or let the dog off leash for a swim, I'm speaking from experience, the $107 ticket isn't worth it.

By: Kat Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, August 26, 2006
We did this hike with three dogs and found that it is very heavily traveled so if you are planning on bringing pets be sure to bring your leashes. The confluence of the Potomac River is a great swimming spot and we spent close to an hour wading in the waters. Repellers and kyakers are seen throughout the hike and the waterfalls are magnificent.  I highly recommend this hike espically for the views and interactions with other outdoor activities.

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