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Scott's Run Nature Preserve Loop

McLean, Virginia

based on 6 reviews



2.51 miles

Elevation Gain

397 ft

Route Type



Added by Jayce Christine

In the middle of the suburban sprawl that is McLean lies a small nature oasis of 300+ acres in Scott's Run Nature Preserve, bordering the Potomac River. 

This nature preserve can be hiked year-round and is a sanctuary for rare wildflowers, birds, and other wildlife including deer and fox. There are six main interconnecting trails that run through the preserve; winding their way around matured hardwood forest, sheer bluffs, and rocky cliffs overlooking the Potomac River.

There are two parking lots with trailheads linked by a connector trail. To start this loop, park at the larger western parking area just past the intersection of Georgetown Pike and Swinks Mill Rd. Start down the path from the trailhead entrance, where in 0.3 miles you will turn right to cross over the river at the cement pillar stepping stones. Head uphill for 0.1 mile until you reach the junction of the wooden stairs, where you will turn left and continue downhill for 0.1 miles. At the bottom of the hill is the waterfall, which converges with the Potomac River. 

For a short hike, you can return back the way you came, or to continue the loop, turn right at the waterfall and continue hiking 0.5 miles along the riverbank on the Potomac Heritage Trail, until you reach Stubblefield Falls Overlook on your left-- a rocky outcropping that looks out over the Potomac. From the intersection of the Potomac Heritage Trail with the overlook, turn right onto the yellow blazed Stubblefield Falls Overlook Trail. Continue on this trail for about a mile to the smaller eastern parking lot. Once you reach the lot, turn right to return to your starting point via the purple parking lot connector trail.

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Dog Friendly
Family Friendly
Swimming Hole

Scott's Run Nature Preserve Loop Reviews

You go to any local gear shop and ask for a recommendation of a nearby hike, they'll most likely tell you Scotts Run. Its accessible, easygoing, and family friendly. Bring along your pup, too!

The beginning of the trail is quiet pungent, I would honestly consider renaming this sewage run. There are at least a half a dozen spots in the first half mile that reek of sewage, past that the river and waterfall are beautiful and amazing. I’m just disappointed at the sewage exhaust and manhole covers in a nature preserve.

The Hike to the falls was easy, as you are following an access road most of the way. Once you get to the falls it's a bit of a letdown. Lots of people were there and lots of trash everywhere. Seriously people, clean up after yourself. Teach your kids to clean up after themselves. From there we took another path around. Which was actually quite enjoyable. Some steep hills to climb on the way to the cabin, and some Steep downhills on the way back. I would do it again, for a short hike it wasn't bad at all, and the setup is nice. There were walkways to help you cross the streams and it was relatively easy. You could go swimming too, as many people were. Water has a slight smell to it though.

If you live in the DC area this is a place you definitely should checkout. I wouldn't make a special trip to see this trail and waterfall however. It's proximity to DC and being in the middle of the suburbs, it gets very crowded on a nice day. It is nice however that it is nature in a fairly urban/suburban area when you have to drive out into Maryland or Virginia to immerse yourself in it usually.

Once we got here we hiked directly to Scott's Run Falls thinking it would be the highlight of the hike. However, there was trash and litter everywhere as well as Tina of people and noise. The real beauty is in the rest of the park. My favorite 2 places are the Potomac Heritage Trail running along the river and the overlook trail. The Potomac heritage trail traverses some steep cliffs and goes through lush greens. Truly beautiful. The overlook at the end of the overlook trail is also very nice. Don't come for the Falls though.

I love this spot. I like to go first thing in the morning and beat the crowds. It is truly one of the most beautiful parks in Northern Virginia.

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


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