We love Great Falls Park, but we also know from experience that on a nice weekend day, chances are it’s going to be pretty crowded. So, we often seek out alternatives in that area if we want a similar hiking experience — trails that meander through lush woods, leading to lovely hang out spots and great views of the Potomac, all within a not-too-far drive from home.
This is what led us to Scott’s Run Nature Preserve a couple of weekends ago. The locale in McLean is just a couple of miles away from Great Falls. And while it doesn’t have the spectacular vistas that its larger, better known neighbor does, Scott’s Run is peaceful and pretty and makes for a nice hiking experience with kids.
There are two places to park and start a trip there. Both are right off Georgetown Pike, just past the Beltway. We opted for the second lot adjacent to the main creek (the actual Scott’s Run) that flows through the park, eventually into the Potomac. We walked along the creek a bit on a wide gravel path that also leads to the river, crossing offshoots of the creek en route. Along the way, we spotted several chipmunks and caterpillar eggs, and enjoyed the shade of the leafy canopy above.
It was probably a little less than a mile to the river from our parking lot. There’s a great waterfall and pool of water surrounded by boulders and a small sandy area, which would have been an ideal place to stop for a picnic had it not been occupied already. We opted for a nearby area, sitting on a fallen tree to eat lunch and hang out before exploring a grassy area stretching along the water.
On the way back, we chose a different route along a trail that snaked through the woods and took us by what looked like remnants of an old fireplace and chimney. This way was longer and deeper in the woods, but generally a flat, easy hike. Though we only encountered it near the waterfall, I hear there are many areas with rocky cliffs in the park — something to keep in mind if you’re with little ones who tend to wander. All in all, we probably hiked about three miles total that day, but you can easily extend or shorten that depending on what your family is up for when you go.
Scott’s Run Nature Preserve is located in McLean, VA, just off Georgetown Pike. It’s open from just before sunrise to just after sunset. Admission is free.