Difficult Run Trail

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Great Falls Park

Difficult Run Trail is a 9 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near McLean, Virginia that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs and horses are also able to use this trail.

Distance: 9.0 miles Elevation Gain: 564 feet Route Type: Loop

dog friendly

hiking

horseback riding

mountain biking

walking

running

river

views

waterfall

wildlife

rocky

Variety is the word to describe this hike. Descend to Difficult Run and follow it as it winds to the Potomac River. Enjoy the cool water in summer or view the unusual ice formations in winter. After a short, steep climb to the ridge, follow the rim of Mather Gorge towards Great Falls - a channel believed to be 180 million years old. Pass by remains of Matildaville, named by Lighthourse Harry Lee in honor of his wife, and the Potowmack Canal, planned by George Washington and operated for 26 years before being bought out by the Chesapeake and Ohio Co. and abandoned. Follow the trail as it winds along to Great Falls Park, with overlooks of the falls, and then within a few minutes the Swamp Trail where wild flowers and wildlife abound.

muddy
3 days ago

Great trail. The difficult run section can be a bit overgrow at times, but it's alot of fun and not to difficult. Saw some snakes by the river. The great falls portion is always a blast, beautiful scenery but a tad bit harder.

mountain biking
flooded
rocky
10 days ago

Great trail for mountain biking if you don’t mind super rocky/muddy trails.

11 days ago

lots of people when you got to the visitor center but trail is nice and marked very well. saw two snakes but neither were venomous.

hiking
off trail
rocky
18 days ago

Beautiful trail along the water. My foster pup, Cher, loved it too!

hiking
18 days ago

This is a fun easy hike. Mostly flat with a few quick hills. There is a variety of environments and two fun water crossings. I parked at the Difficult Run Pump Station near Colvin Run Mill (plenty of parking when I arrived early morning). We hiked to the Difficult Run Parking Lot (did not do the loop, which would have added some elevation) - a little over 5 miles.

hiking
muddy
21 days ago

This hike was a lot of fun, but we added on over 3 miles accidentally by taking the wrong trails early on without realizing it. I’ll consult the map more often next time. It was perfect to park at the Great Falls Pump Station since the lots at Great Falls were closed. Very muddy to start out but there were good alternate paths around most of the worst spots.

hiking
muddy
off trail
28 days ago

Lots of cute streams & rivers. Very muddy but fun! Great for pups!

hiking
bugs
muddy
off trail
rocky
1 month ago

Good trail here in the area. Today was very muddy because it rained two days ago. You need good shoes, hiking shoes recommended. We saw people with normal sport shoes too and one with flip flops though lol but that wasn’t the best idea. :)

hiking
muddy
1 month ago

Walk through some creeks and a bit rocky under the bridge, not bad though. A little muddy after rainy days.

recorded Difficult Run Trail

hiking
1 month ago

This is the best trail I’ve done so far

hiking
1 month ago

GC CCT from neighborhood, perfect weather, not too crowded, COVID hike, 5 miler.

hiking
muddy
1 month ago

hiking
muddy
scramble
2 months ago

hiking
muddy
3 months ago

hiking
muddy
rocky
4 months ago

hiking
icy
muddy
rocky
5 months ago

hiking
5 months ago

Not a trail meant for a rainy winter day! If you don’t want your feet wet, then probably skip the first half of the trail and start from the difficult run parking lot - which is a short trail to the Potomac River bend, and then you can enjoy the walk next to the river to the great falls visitor center. Definitely worth doing - rated moderate, which would be due to the few creek crossings and lots of muddy patches.

hiking
rocky
7 months ago

So much fun! Great day hike for the whole family.

hiking
bugs
over grown
7 months ago

LOOOONG!! We clocked in about 14 miles round trip instead of 9. It was an amazing hike, walking into Great Falls on a Saturday instead of dealing with parking was amazing. Certain parts of the trail were closed when we went (early June).

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