Turkey Run Park: The Most Incredible Loop Hike in Northern Virginia

The 3.9-mile loop hike at Turkey Run Park in McLean, Virginia pairs the yellow-blazed Turkey Run Trail with the blue-blazed Potomac Heritage Trail.

This wooded 700-acre park sits adjacent to the George Washington Memorial Parkway and is managed by the National Park Service. It’s such a gem, too.

The Turkey Run Loop boasts views across the Potomac River, a small stone beach, rock scrambles and a gorge with waterfalls and natural water slides. 

The hike can be noisy when you walk under the George Washington Memorial Parkway, but otherwise you will feel worlds away at Turkey Run Park.

Trail Stats
Length3.9 miles
Trail TypeLollipop
Elevation Gain404 feet
Duration2-3 hours
TerrainMostly dirt & rock trails, some stairs
Driving DirectionsClick Here

Turkey Run Park Parking

Turkey Run Park is literally just off the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Once you exit onto Turkey Run Loop Road, park your car in parking area C-1.

The Turkey Run Park trail map notes that there are restrooms and water available in the parking area, but I did not see either one. Not even porta-potties.

The trailhead is located in the northwest corner of the parking area. You will see a large trail kiosk with a map of the Potomac Heritage Trail for the local area.

Turkey Run Park Trails 

Walk past the trail kiosk and you will see a sign for the Turkey Run Loop. Then, the descent begins. First down a few steps, then down a massive wooden staircase.

You will descend nearly 170 feet, down at least 100 steps, in the first 0.2-mile. I was thankful for the steps. Imagine a descent like that, only minus steps. 

There are two benches on the way down, likely for those on the way up. At the bottom, you’ll see a brown trail sign. Turn left here for the Turkey Run Loop.

Potomac Heritage Trail

You are now on the blue-blazed Potomac Heritage Trail, on the way to the loop. First, an exit to a small stone beach on the Potomac River at the 0.3-mile mark.

Enjoy the views, maybe even spy a fisherman or two, but wading and swimming are not allowed. The currents are quite strong and can easily pull you downriver.

Continue on to start the Turkey Run Loop at the 0.4-mile mark. Step down a half dozen steps, cross Turkey Run, then step up a half dozen steps.

Turkey Run Trail 

Turn left here for the yellow-blazed Turkey Run Trail. In a few steps, you will cross over a small bridge. In a few more steps, you’ll find yourself under a large bridge.

After crossing Turkey Run a second time, you will be under the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Stay to the right and follow the yellow blazes to stay on track.

This hike got a bit confusing at times, so I was glad I had downloaded the map ahead of time from AllTrails. All you need to know is follow the yellow blazes.

From here, you will begin to ascend again, until the 0.9-mile mark. At this point, you will be at starting elevation. Then, there’s a little up, a little down.

As you proceed, there are a couple of spots where the trail veers off to the left toward Langley Oaks Park. So keep it simple, just follow the yellow blazes

At least until you reach the blue-blazed Potomac Heritage Trail, but that isn’t until you cross back under the George Washington Memorial Parkway (GW Parkway).

Things get interesting at the 1.1-mile mark. Here you’ll reach a short, steep section with a rope to hold onto to keep you from falling on the way down.

At the 1.3-mile mark, things get interesting when you cross a ravine on a three-inch-wide wooden board, then climb up the other side holding onto a rope.

Dead Run 

You’ll cross over Dead Run and under the GW Parkway a second time at the 1.9-mile mark. Then, a fun rock scramble as you make your way alongside Dead Run.

You’ll see cascades, waterfalls, even natural water slides (if there was more water). Cross over Dead Run again at the 2.3-mile mark to get back on the dirt hiking trail.

You’re now on the blue-blazed Potomac Heritage Trail. You may also see sea foam green blazes, but not to worry, you are still on the Potomac Heritage Trail.

From here, the rest of the hike is mostly flat and easy-peasy. Well, until you reach the staircase again and need to climb back up to the parking area.

Until then, walk through woods and alongside the Potomac River. The water views are exceptionally nice. At the 3.5-mile mark, you will close the loop.

Turn left to cross back over Turkey Run. From here, re-trace your steps, walking back up all those steps, until you reach the parking area.

Wrap-Up Notes

From the parking area, this hike took us nearly two hours. We really enjoyed these hiking trails in Fairfax County. Such a find so close to Washington, DC.

This hike is just downriver from a few other fun hikes, including hikes at Riverbend Park and Seneca Regional Park, as well as Scott’s Run Nature Preserve.

I also really like hiking the River Trail at Great Falls Park, as well as hiking Difficult Run to Great Falls Park. There are many hikes along the Potomac River.