Turkey Run Park
Turkey Run Loop Rd., McLean, VA 22101
Open year-round from 6:00 AM - 10:00 PM
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Great Hiking just Minutes from the City!
Turkey Run Park is the perfect place to spend an afternoon with the family. We love the McLean location just off George Washington Parkway a short drive out of the city. Despite its proximity, you get the feeling you are deep in nature with an abundance of wildlife and variety of environmental features, from streams and waterfalls to huge boulders and rock walls bordering the Potomac River.
The Turkey Run and Potomac Heritage Trail, which is a little less than four miles long, is great with kids and is beautiful year-round. At parts, the trail follows a passable stream, with nice views and lots of shady tree areas. You may need to carry your younger kids on the trail occasionally, especially over the stream crossing portion if they don't want to get wet. You may prefer to avoid this trail right after (or during) rain because the rocks can be slippery. There are multiple waterfalls along this portion of the trail, with great photo ops.
The trail has a few different sized loops, as pictured on the map. There are four parking lots, and we parked in the third lot from the entrance and headed counter-clockwise. While this worked well for our first jaunt, we had tired little legs at the end and had to climb up the steep steps and make our way back to the parking lot on the pavement at the end. We also began by going downstream, which can be a little less desirable when the rocks are especially slippery.
On our next visit, we plan to park in lot C-1 and descend the natural and constructed stairs to the Potomac Heritage Trail along the river at the outset of our hike. Head to the right and follow the trail all the way to where the stream and waterfall meet the river. There is a small beach that has formed. In addition to that natural rest stop, there are a series of places to stop and take in the views on the way, with beaches and rocky outcrops to scramble over.
It is a good long walk, but there is so much to see and do along the way that the kids were engaged throughout! My four and five-year-old managed so well. This is a commitment, nearly two hours with stops to explore and potentially more with a picnic or little legs that require rest stops, so plan accordingly. That said, there are shorter loop options if you don't want to do the whole length of the Turkey Run portion of the Potomac Heritage Trail and you can park in one of the two top lots and head up or down the bank at another point to take the shorter loops.
Be advised, there are very narrow points along the Turkey Run portion of the Potomac Heritage Trail, so be prepared to have your mask on or handy if there are other hikers around. Alternatively, if it's a busy day, you might prefer just taking the trail through the woods past the ranger administrative offices and following the stream down and back up again, avoiding the Potomac Heritage Trail leg all together - it's much easier to socially distance, quicker and still quite fun, especially if you have the proper footwear. Traversing the stream was one of the highlights for us all, and those of us that wore rain boots (we also brought sneakers in a backpack for the little ones in case their boots got too heavy over the course of the hike) especially enjoyed splashing in the water and crossing the stream. Waterproof or open-air hiking shoes with hard soles should suffice when the weather is warm!
I definitely suggest packing a picnic, because there are so many awesome places you can stop along the way for lunch, whether along the river, at the beach where the stream meets the Potomac, or on the various socially distanced picnic tables tucked around the park closer to the parking lots. There is a huge field where a family began to build a fort against a tree with large sticks found in the area and we would have loved to explore if time allowed.
We also love that this park offers bike riding lessons for kids over the age of five! If you’re nervous to get your kids off their training wheels, this is a great place to take them to get some help. The rangers are super nice and will guide both you and your child through the process. Sign up on their website!
The park also has lots of wildlife, absolutely beautiful wildflowers in the spring, and the fall leaves are spectacular so it’s a great place to visit in any season. There is also a great picnic area, so pack a lunch if the weather is good! Lost Dog Café is only a ten-minute drive from the park and has great picnic options, including sandwiches and pizza! We recommend stopping there before your hike to pick up some lunch.