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Riverbend—Great Falls Loop



7.7 mile 12.5 kilometer loop
98% Runnable


Ascent: 444' 135 m
Descent: -434' -132 m
High: 316' 96 m
Low: 117' 36 m


Avg Grade: 2% (1°)
Max Grade: 33% (19°)


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Trail shared by Shadow Runner

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 run takes you on a tour of all the best of Riverbend and Great Falls Parks.

Runner Notes

I have never been able to run up Cow Hoof Rock. That's okay, victory is in making it to the top without stopping.


Parking at Riverbend Park (8700 Potomac Hills St, Great Falls, VA 22066) is free. Follow the Potomac Heritage Trail (formerly green blaze, now sky blue blaze).

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.

Flora & Fauna

deer, birds, snakes

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in Virginia


165 Views Last Month
417 Since Oct 27, 2019



Great Falls panorama
Dec 28, 2014 near Great F…, VA
Great Falls is truly a magnificent place to hike or run.
Dec 28, 2014 near Great F…, VA
Beautiful views of the Potomac can be had from River Trail.
Dec 28, 2014 near Great F…, VA
The rocky, cliff-top nature of River Trail.
Dec 28, 2014 near Great F…, VA
Great Falls Park Visitor Center
Dec 28, 2014 near Great F…, VA
View across the aqueduct dam from Riverbend Park towards the falls.
Apr 30, 2016 near Great F…, VA


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