Enjoy a Scenic Hike in Colonial Beach at George Washington Birthplace National Monument

If you’ve not yet been to the George Washington Birthplace National Monument in Colonial Beach, it’s worth the drive. For one, there are two hiking trails.

This national monument is set on 550 acres of the Popes Creek Plantation, which was once home to the Washington Family. Of course, it’s also where George Washington was born.

Here you’ll find a Memorial House Museum, a delightful garden from the Colonial Revival era (1860-1940), a farm building, even cows, hogs and sheep.

There are also two trails: the Nature Trail and the Dancing Marsh Trail. I recently cobbled these two trails together to create a scenic 1.9-mile loop around the property.

Trail Stats 
Length1.9 miles
DifficultyEasy
Trail TypeLoop
Elevation Gain72 feet
Duration1-1.5 hours
TerrainMostly grass, dirt & gravel trails
Dog-FriendlyYes
FeeFree
Driving DirectionsClick Here

Arriving at the Trailhead

Park in front of the visitor center for the George Washington Birthplace National Monument. There are lots and lots of parking spaces.

When facing the building, walk to the left. There are restrooms on the left side of the visitor center. From here, the trailhead is just a few steps closer to the Potomac River.

The trailhead is not marked, at least not with a name. It also doesn’t totally match up with park’s map, but this hike is all on trails and it’s well worth your time here.

The First Steps

Begin just behind the visitor center. You’ll see a path made of gravel and crushed oyster shells. You’ll walk out to a wide-open area with very tall trees.

At the .2-mile mark, a wooden bench turns up on the left. It’s the perfect spot to stop and savor the water views across Popes Creek.

As you continue along, you’ll arrive at a second wooden bench at the peninsula. This spot at the .3-mile mark is another nice place to take a break and enjoy the scenery.

The trail meanders alongside Popes Creek. At the .4-mile mark, you’ll be in front of the Memorial House Museum and Colonial Revival Garden. Take time to explore.

Guess what, there’s another wooden bench here, too. Walk around the manicured grounds, then take a seat for a sip of water or a light snack.

In a few more steps, you’ll see a placard titled “Artery of Commerce,” which outlines the role of sailing ships to tidewater plantations in Virginia and Maryland.

At the .5-mile mark, you will reach a wooden pedestrian footbridge that crosses over Popes Creek. The views along this stretch are first-rate.

Once you cross the creek, you’ll reach a sign indicating that the Nature Trail spans left and right, and that the picnic area is to the right.

I proceeded to the right for more views across Popes Creek. At the .7-mile mark, I reached the picnic area as well as wooden steps that lead to a small fishing area.

Re-trace your steps from the picnic area and continue on into the picnic area. You will see a parking lot, too. On the other side of the lot, you will see a Nature Trail placard.

The placard suggests that you imagine you are a young George Washington exploring the wooded plantation more than 250 years ago as you hike along the leafy trail.

From here, the trail goes inland into the woods. You’ll cross over the park road at the 1.2-mile mark. Then, a short stretch of boardwalk trail in a few more steps.

At the 1.4-mile mark, you will walk over a wooden footbridge that crosses over Dancing Marsh. At the 1.6-mile mark, turn left to walk up a small grassy hill.

There is snake rail fencing on both sides of the trail. Keep your eyes open for cows grazing in the pasture. At the top of the hill is Rockefeller Barn.

In a few more steps, turn right to proceed on a mostly gravel and crushed oyster shell trail. The trail ends at the 1.9-mile mark when you return to the visitor center.

Wrap-Up Notes

From the parking area, this Coastal Virginia hike took me 45 minutes, including time spent stopping to enjoy the scenic views from the benches.

Plan to bring a picnic lunch and learn more about the life of the Washington Family. Bring your bike as you can also explore George Washington’s birthplace on two wheels.

Kids can earn a virtual Junior Ranger badge by completing several activities, including an online scavenger hunt, de-coding a secret letter and coloring in waterways.