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When the weather forecast shows a run of warm fall days, it’s the perfect time to explore Turkey Run Park in Fairfax County, Virginia. Turkey Run Park is part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, and it offers nice hiking through woodlands and along the river, including a segment of the Potomac Heritage Trail.
Enter the park from the George Washington Memorial Parkway and head to parking area C-1. This lot is a good starting point for the 2 to 2.5 mile loop hike we describe here.
You might want to bring a printed copy of the trail map along, as the sign at the park is extremely faded. Sections of the trail are steep and rocky, so wear good hiking boots and use extra caution where leaves are covering the path.
From the C-1 parking area, head down the path to the left of the trail sign until you reach a fork. The left path takes you on the half-mile Turkey Run Trail, through upland forests and along a stretch of Turkey Run. This trail is a longer, but less steep option.
The right path follows a steep series of switchbacks down to the river, and this is the route we followed. The switchbacks are a mix of dirt path and rugged steps which can be difficult if the trail is wet or covered in leaves. Take your time and choose your footing carefully.
At the bottom of the hill you’ll reach the Potomac Heritage Trail, which follows the Potomac for many miles in either direction (including 10 miles within the GW Memorial Parkway lands). To make a loop back to your car, turn right on the PHT, heading southeast along the river.
The trail along the river is narrow and somewhat rugged, but mostly level. You’ll enjoy continuous views of the Potomac River and the birds that frequent it. We watched sunning cormorants, great blue herons, turkey vultures and hawks on the hunt, and many songbirds in flight.
We also spied many paw paws on the ground and in the trees along the river, but we didn’t put a paw paw in our pocket.
In a little less than a mile, you’ll see the concrete River Flood Gauge and a trail entrance on your right. This is the return trail back up the hill and through the park to your car. The climb is more open and less steep than the one you followed down to the river.
Follow the Woods Trail past the GW Parkway headquarters, picnic areas A, B, and C, and back to your car. You’ll pass restrooms near the picnic areas, but they may be closed out of season.
We enjoyed this hike a lot and were happy to see several couples and families on the trails. We also crossed paths with several off-leash dogs. We had seen some old reviews (from 2010) that complained of cruising men, but we didn’t encounter anything like that during our visit.
If you’re looking for an all-day adventure, you could combine this hike with a visit to nearby Claude Moore Colonial Farm.
Location Tip: Turkey Run Park is east of the American Legion Bridge (495) and is accessed from the George Washington Memorial Parkway. If you are northbound on the GW Parkway, you’ll find a well-marked entrance just past the CIA turn-off. If you’re heading southbound you’ll need to take the CIA exit to reverse direction.
George Washington Memorial Parkway Headquarters
McLean, VA 22101