This is a fun loop through Riverbend and Great Falls parks. The first third is flat along the river, then uphill, and ends with a descent.
Starting in the Riverbend parking lot, which is free, get on the Potomac Heritage Trail: Riverbend Park
, which is green blaze (old) or sky blue blaze (new). It follows the Potomac River and enters Great Falls Park. This trail is generally a dirt trail with some roots and tricky rocks making it interesting. You can't miss the aqueduct and dam which spans the river. Continue on and turn right onto the Mine Run Trail
The Mine Run Trail
is an under-appreciated gem in the park. It follows the Mine Run Branch stream for a while which is a beautiful Bob Ross type of brook. You'll take the entire Mine Run Trail
until it intersects with the Riverbend Trail.
Turning left onto the Riverbend Trail, you'll find that it continues to go uphill but is a wide gravel trail. Continue on this trail until you start seeing the red blaze.
Turn right and then a very quick left onto the red blaze Bootlegger Trail
. This trail begins with a very fast downhill section and spills into the Riverbend Park Trail again. Turn right, and you'll only be on this for very short distance before turning left to follow the red blaze Bootlegger Trail
The trail follows a shallow creek and goes uphill until it tops out alongside Jeffery Road. There you'll be out of the woods in bright sunshine until you reach Madison's Escape Trail
, which is near the park's main entrance.
In August of 1814 the British burned Washington DC to the ground. James and Dolly Madison escaped through this area and may have used this trail to do it. You'll find that it is basically three separate downhill sections, each progressively more steep than the one before. It will dump you into the same parking lot that started this trail.