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Recon of Riverbend Park, Great Falls, VA

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This recon took place on Wednesday, June 8, 2022 at Riverbend Park in Great Falls, VA. It ended up being a 3.5 mile easy to moderate counterclockwise loop. Participants were Dina Alani and Mike Calabungle.

As usual we met at the rear parking lot of

Prince of Peace United Methodist Church

and departed right at 9:00 AM. Only two of us today. Traffic getting to Riverbend Park was a nightmare. There was heavy traffic on VA234, I66 and I495. When we got to the VA193 exit we thought that we were home free. Then we discovered that they were paving the road and we had to wait and go single file for about a mile. Because of all of these delays, we did not start this hike until close to 11:00 AM!

Parking was free, available and close to the visitors center. The park visitor center looked fairly new. However, it didn't open until 12 noon. But

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The C&O Canal Toepath is right across the Potomac. Use my C&O Canal Distance Calculator to plan your next hike there.

the restrooms were open so we used them, took a selfie at the Potomac River and then started the hike.

First we proceeded westbound on the blue blazed Potomac Heritage Trail for about .75 miles. This trail, when completed, will be about 800 miles long and go from Ohiopyle, PA to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Once we hiked over Witch Hazel Bluff, we switched to the red blazed Bootlegger Trail. We would be traveling on it south, then east for the next 1.5 miles. While the signing on the PHT was good, there were few signs once we left it. The side trails for the remainder of the trip were not blazed or signed. Also, there were some glaring map errors that would pop up just ahead.

This trail was mostly under tree canopy. However, we did traverse Conn's Farm Meadow at around mile 2.3. It was open but very scenic. We then crossed the park entrance road called Potomac Hills Street. We then made a right turn and would be traveling between the Park boundry and Jeffrey RD for about a half mile. The trail then turned left, went back into the woods and came to a four way intersection. Here is where we got lost.

At this four way intersection the red blazed bootlegger trail turned right, there was an unmarked trail straight ahead. And there was a yellow blazed trail to the left. We were going to cut the hike short as it was around 12:30 PM now. So, after some discussion we took the yellow blazed trail because we thought it was the trail pictured on the map. It wasn't. It curled around for about 500 feet and then came to the orange blazed trail. Now we were really confused.

According to the map the orange trail would take us to either the park entrance road or back to the blue blazed PHT. So we thought that either way, we would make it back to the vehicle somehow. Again, after some discussion we took the orange blazed Follow the Hollows Trail in a northeast direction. The reason was that we saw a break in the tree canopy ahead and guessed that was the Potomac River. We guessed correctly and made it back to the PHT. We were around the 3 mile mark now. But which way do we turn?

There was an elderly gentleman sitting on a bench at this intersection. So I asked him which way was it back to the visitors center. Which one?, he asked. I forgot that we were very close to the border between NPS run Great Falls Park and Fairfax County run Riverbend Park. So I said Riverbend. He said to go left, we did and were back at the vehicle within about 20 minutes. Waze then took us back to the church via VA193, some roads through the town of Great Falls, VA7->VA28->I66->VA234->Purcell->Token Forest in under an hour.

I will contact the visitors center and inform them of the map errors. With all of the issues that we encountered we agreed that this would make a good hike for the POPUMC Hiking Group. And, thanks to these Wednesday hikes, I have now lost 12 pounds in the last 4 months.


Group selfie at Potomac River
 Group selfie at Potomac River.
 By Dina Alani
Incorrect map
 Incorrect map.
 By FCPA
Correct map where we hiked
 Correct map where we hiked.
 By Google Maps



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