Go on a Hike in Arlington’s Backyard
The Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail is a little known trail found right in the heart of Rosslyn, easily accessible by Metro, car, walking, and biking. Learn how to escape into nature without ever really leaving Arlington’s backyard.
Mere minutes from Rosslyn, the Potomac Heritage National Scenic trail winds through wooded hills and valleys along the Potomac River. The full trail extends 830 miles from the Ohio River Basin to the Chesapeake Bay, but a 10 mile stretch connects Arlington and McLean. It’s easy to forget that I-66 is just on the other side of the woods as you become fully immersed in the greenery and blooming flowers.
Getting to the Trail
There are multiple options for getting to the trail entrance located near the Theodore Roosevelt Island, including the Rosslyn Metro a few blocks away, biking (bike racks are available), or by car.
Where to Access the Trail
To start, follow a wooden signpost just before the Roosevelt Island parking lot marking the trailhead then follow the green markers to stay on the path. Some of the markers are obscured by overgrowth, but in general the trail is well maintained and easy to navigate. There are a handful of technical spots to maneuver over the rocky hillside.
Since this trail is still a bit of a secret, it doesn’t see much foot traffic making it quite serene and isolated despite its proximity to the city.
If you’re looking for an afternoon adventure, opt for the loop starting around mile four when you hit Chain Bridge by ascending the hillside (with handrail assists) to cross over the river. Once on the other side, you’ll be able to finish the hike with a flat four mile walk on the C&O Canal trail. At this point you can either continue back to Rosslyn over the Key Bridge or continue up to Georgetown and reward yourself with a tasty post-hike treat.
Best Time to Hike the Trail
I recommend hiking this trail particularly in the springtime when you’ll pass through fields of vibrant flowers and in the fall to immerse yourself in the colorful leaves and ripening custard apples. For the summertime, this route would be a great option to be outdoors and stay active while escaping the direct sun, as it is almost entirely shaded.
The warm weather is finally here. Get out and explore this awesome, easily accessible trail smack dab in the middle of Arlington! For more information about the trail and planning a hike, visit National Park Service at nps.gov/pohe.