Riverbend—Great Falls Loop
ElevationAscent: 444' 135 m
Descent: -434' -132 m
High: 316' 96 m
Low: 117' 36 m
GradeAvg Grade: 2% (1°)
Max Grade: 33% (19°)
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“This is the best way to see Riverbend and Great Falls Parks.”— Shadow Runner
Features Birding · Fall Colors · Historical Significance · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildlife
This trail follows the Potomac River downstream. It passes an aqueduct/dam as it crosses into Great Falls Park. Just after you pass the visitor center in Great Falls Park, you'll see the majestic view of Great Falls. At this point the name of the trail changes to the River Trail. Follow this trail (green blaze) through a few technical sections. Be very careful on the rock scramble as the ledge has a big drop down to the bank.
You'll know when you reach the half-way point when you climb your way to Cow Hoof Rock. This is a super long, super steep climb. The River Trail connects to the Ridge Trail. Turn right onto the Ridge Trail and follow that to the beginning of the Matildaville Trail.
The Matildaville Trail begins with three rapid descents. They are awesome. I would do the entire distance for just the beginning half mile of this trail. Once it bottoms out it climbs into a dried up oxbow lake. Take a deep breath when you enter this bowl. It is really nice. The trail descends into the ruins of Matildaville.
Follow this trail until it connects back in to the Potomac Heritage Trail. You'll only follow your own tracks for a short bit. Turn left onto the Mine Run Trail. Follow this picturesque trail as it climbs through the woods with the only sound of the brook splashing down with you. The Mine Run connects to the Riverbend Trail. Turn left onto it and follow as the red blaze joins it.
The red blaze Bootlegger Trail turns right and then a quick left, and you are going to follow. It is followed by a fun windy descent. It spills out onto the Riverbend Trail again, but only for 150 feet or so before you turn left to continue on the red blaze Bootlegger Trail. It climbs up to Jeffery Road as you run in the bright sunshine until you see Madison's Escape Trail near the park entrance. This trail descends all the way down to the parking lot where we began.
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Land Manager: National Park Service - Great Falls National Park