Scott's Run Nature Preserve
7400 Georgetown Pike, McLean, VA 22102
Open year-round daylight to dark
Happyly is better in app
Get the Happyly app to discover more activities like this one, plus get curated adveture plans, build lists of activities to try and more!
Enter your phone number to receive a download link
Don't Miss this Gorgeous Nature Preserve
Scotts Run Nature Preserve is a beautiful park with unbelievable trees and flora. The Potomac runs alongside the park, adding the soothing sound of rushing water to the outdoor adventure. There are meandering trails that run throughout the park, making it an option for a quick nature walk that isn't necessarily challenging.
However, if you’re looking for the longest possible loop, you should expect one of the more difficult hikes near the Potomac in the DC area. You can begin a hike of the outer rim of the park from either parking lot. There are plenty of turn-offs to make the loop smaller, and avoid the most challenging parts, but the views down by the river are the best no matter the season, so if you are up for it, make sure you make the trek. There is a beautiful waterfall by the river on the northwest side that is not to be missed.
While we took the trail counterclockwise on our first visit, we would suggest going clockwise for a few reasons. First, if you fork right when you get to the split in the road, your descent to the river will be very steep and it requires sure footing. Especially when there has been recent rain, this can be nervewracking with little ones, who don't take as much care in choosing their steps and are more likely to get tripped up by some wet leaves, exposed roots or a muddy rock. It is a sharp descent, and while our four and five-year-olds did well, younger kiddos or older adults may struggle a bit. Alternatively, they could attack it as an upward climb with more confidence. Also, since it will be on the latter end of the hike, children will be less distracted by their fatigue when they are focused on the fun of climbing, rather than just the more gradual, but still somewhat challenging walk up from the river on the waterfall side.
Additionally, clockwise seems like the way to go since right before the most challenging part of your hike after seeing the waterfall and walking east along the river, you will come across a rocky outcrop perfect for a rest. You can kick back on the rocks with a picnic or a snack and bask in the sun beside the rushing water. This is a truly magnificent place to refuel before trekking up the steep river's edge.
After ascending, the thrill-seekers will want to go out on the rock cliff above where you just sat to take in the views, and if you're lucky a low flying helicopter will go by when you're up there - the park police helicopters come by multiple times while we were riverside. Be careful though, and have your child close at your side. The drop is severe, and there is nothing to catch you if you slip so make sure you hold on tight to your little ones. On a bright note, I was very pleased with how people were calmly waiting and not crowding or hurrying visitors as they took in the cliff view. It would have been far less pleasant if people weren't as deliberately respectful and maintaining an unobtrusive distance while taking turns.
En route back to the parking lots, there is a fallen tree trunk perfect for walking like a balance beam, which my kids did probably half a dozen times each. On another part of the trail, there is also a huge old stone fireplace and chimney from a home that must have stood long ago mixing a dose of history into the experience.
There are no restrooms in the park.
Dogs are welcome if they are leashed.
Tips: The park can be really busy on weekends, so while we picked a good one and were comfortable on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in November, to avoid crowds we suggest going on weekend mornings or weekdays.