The Potomac River in Great Falls Park
The Greatest Day Hiker Of Them All at the point where the Potomac River gets all squeezed and tumbly before it flattens out, calms down and gets real wide.
As a part of four days of lots of fun and walking on a trip that based us in Old Town Alexandria, the one real hike hike was along these trails near the Potomac River where it gets scrunched up by big rocks and has to tumble over them through a gorge so narrow that at floods, the river just can't fit through.
This loop, highlighted on the trail map out by visitor-center guy and called the best in the park, was fun for its views of the river, wooded areas, easy terrain and fast pace. It was noteworthy for us for not having a lunch stop, a genuine rarity.
The big feature comes right at the start, with three overlooks – all three looking at pretty much the same thing – of the Potomac River, crashing along and looking like someplace out west. Things gentle out right much after that, with some views of a calmer river, some thick forest, and then a walk along Difficult Run, a feeder stream that was running strong and muddy on this day.
After that, it's up and away from the water, down through a low swampy area and then back toward the visitor center.
The Potomac was there on several other of our walks and excursions on the trip: at the lower end of King Street in Alexandria; not far from the National Mall and D.C. ballyard where we watched the Nats beat the O's; and then at its widest, looking out from the back yard at Mount Vernon.
One place we didn't walk and didn't see the river: the Birchmere, where we saw the great Fred Eaglesmith and his terrific band perform far too few of his wonderful songs.
River Trail, Ridge Trail, Difficult Run Trail, a couple of connecting trails to Old Carriage Road loop. About 5 miles (though the map says more like 6.5).
How to get there: From Old Town Alexandria, north on Washington Avenue as it turns into the pretty George Washington Parkway.