Great Falls Hiking, Difficult Run Trail
Distance: 2.5-mile loop or 5-mile circuit
This hike is aptly named. Some sections can be steep and rocky, and rains can render them impassable. But all comers are rewarded with peaceful stretches and spectacular views from remote corners of Great Falls Park. The Great Falls hiking trail begins east of the main entrance on Georgetown Pike, from a parking area posted with a difficult run sign. After a narrow, slightly rocky start, the flat trail widens for an easy walk along the creek. A washed-out section calls for a bit of clambering, but forge ahead to a rugged little gorge with waterfalls and deep holes. Connecting trails at this junction lead either down to the Potomac or up along Ridge Trail, which provides a great view of kayakers taking on the rapids below. You can do a 2.5-mile Difficult Run/Ridge Trail loop by cutting back toward the parking lot at the Ridge Trail junction, or do the full five-mile circuit up the River Trail to the Great Falls overlook, then back down Swamp Trail. For more information, see www.hikingupward.com/ovh/difficultrun.