The Cross County Trail follows Difficult Run in Great Falls Virginia

Scenic Drive: Georgetown Pike & George Washington Memorial Parkway

Long-suffering DC commuters may think of George Washington Memorial Parkway (aka, the GW Parkway) as a route to avoid or endure, but it can be a lovely drive on a weekend, offering lots of scenic views and stops along the way. Combine it with the historic Georgetown Pike, and you’ll have quick access to beautiful parks, interesting history, and nice hikes along the Potomac River.

Historic Georgetown Pike and the George Washington Memorial Parkway offer beautiful scenery, interesting parks, and great hikes along the Potomac River.

Georgetown Pike (SR 193): Dranesville to McLean

Georgetown Pike, Virginia Scenic Byway

Georgetown Pike is less than 12 miles long, but the road offers easy access to several of our favorite Fairfax County hikes. Named to the National Register of Historic Places, and designated as the first Virginia Byway, the old Georgetown Pike was built in the early 1800s with hand tools and horse drawn equipment.

Most of the road passes through the lovely town of Great Falls, where you can stop for a bite or a pint. Past the town center, the two-lane road passes extravagant homes and fields, then twists and turns as it skirts Great Falls Park.

Things to do from Georgetown Pike:

George Washington Memorial Parkway: Langley to Mount Vernon

 

George Washington Memorial Parkway

Get onto Route 495 northbound then take the first exit, and you’ll transition from the scenic state road to a national roadway—George Washington Memorial Parkway. The GW Parkway was designed to link sites that commemorate important episodes in American history, and to preserve habitat for local wildlife. Originally conceived as a route along the Potomac River’s edge from Arlington to Mount Vernon, Congress authorized its extension to include Great Falls Park in 1929.

Now the roadway offers panoramic views above the Potomac in the north, and of the monuments of DC alongside the river in the south. There are so many stops on the 25-mile parkway that you’ll need multiple trips to see them all, and you should really allow a separate day to visit the gem at the end of the parkway, George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

Things to do from George Washington Memorial Parkway:

Scenic Drive Route and Loop Option

To drive the full length of Georgetown Pike and the George Washington Memorial Parkway, begin at the western end of Georgetown Pike where it intersects with route 7 in Great Falls, and end at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

If you want to make it a loop drive, considering avoiding the highways and returning on route 123 through Fairfax then north on Hunter Mill Road. It’s not all scenic, but there are some nice, historic sections on this route and it’s much more relaxing than driving the 495 beltway.

Georgetown Pike GW Parkway loop

Georgetown Pike GW Parkway loop

 

How many of the parks and hikes have you tackled on these scenic and historic Virginia roads?

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29 Responses to “Scenic Drive: Georgetown Pike & George Washington Memorial Parkway”

  1. Kari @The He Said She Said Experience November 6, 2015 at 2:54 pm #

    Wow, these are some great ideas for drives! My husband was just telling me that I would love some scenic drives (I get homesick for my TN mountains sometimes) but I didn’t know where to start. I’ve got some good ideas now.

    • Fun in Fairfax VA November 14, 2015 at 4:49 pm #

      Thanks Kari. Tennessee has beautiful fall foliage like Virginia; I can understand why you miss it sometimes.

  2. jamporter November 14, 2015 at 2:01 pm #

    Looks like a great drive, especially during the fall!

  3. Arnie Jacobsen November 14, 2015 at 3:02 pm #

    We have yet to make it to Virginia, but your article may just be the inspiration we need to make our way there. Thanks.

    • Fun in Fairfax VA November 14, 2015 at 4:51 pm #

      Thanks Arnie, Virginia is beautiful and has a lot of interesting history. Perfect to combine with a DC visit.

  4. Traveling Bytes November 15, 2015 at 4:16 pm #

    I lived in Virginia for many years and drove on Georgetown Pike and GW Parkway countless times. When you are in a hurry or have some important business to take care of, you do not pay attention to surroundings. Now, that I no longer live in that area, it is interesting to read about oh-so-familiar places from a visitor’s perspective. Thanks!

    • Fun in Fairfax VA November 15, 2015 at 7:37 pm #

      It is hard to notice the cool things in your own backyard when you’re trying to get to work or an event. There is so much to see along these roads if you can just drive them during when the pressure is off. Thanks for your comment Traveling Bytes!

  5. Michelle November 15, 2015 at 8:57 pm #

    OOH this looks like fun. I’m not too terribly far away and I’m always looking for a good road trip.

    • Fun in Fairfax VA November 16, 2015 at 8:51 am #

      Thanks Michelle; I hope you get a chance to try this scenic drive, and that you enjoy it.

  6. Sophie November 16, 2015 at 6:19 am #

    Great post. I love driving around the U.S. And finding gems like this.

    • Fun in Fairfax VA November 16, 2015 at 8:51 am #

      Thanks Sophie. It’s a great drive to combine with a trip to Washington DC.

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