Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Turkey Run Park

Dead Run, Turkey Run ParkI hate to admit it, but for several years, my main familiarity with Turkey Run was as a spot to turn around when I missed a turn-off on the GW Parkway. It's a shame, because it's a great park, with 700 acres and almost 3 miles of shoreline along the Potomac. We feature it this week in honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

Not surprisingly, since it's just down the river, the topography of Turkey Run is very similar to that of Scott's Run. You'll drop down from upland woods into the rich bottomland flood plain of the Potomac River. And when I say "drop," I mean drop...nearly 200 feet over about a quarter mile of trail. It makes for lovely streams tumbling down to the Potomac...and a tough climb back up.

In the spring, Turkey Run Park is full of wildflowers, especially bluebells along the Potomac. In the fall, it's time to catch the turning leaves. And, once leaves are down, to catch better views of the river.

Top of the switchbacks, Turkey Run ParkYou have three good options for loop hikes at Turkey Run. All start by heading down the steep switchback trail that leaves from Parking Lot C:
  1. The shortest option is to go left along the Potomac, then follow Turkey Run back uphill and cross over to the parking lot (see the yellow trail on this map). This can be extended by walking along the Potomac and then doubling back. Total hike is only about a mile, but it will feel like more since it's all up and down.
  2. At the bottom of the switchbacks, if you go to the left, it's about a mile to the next stream, which is called Dead Run. Follow Dead Run uphill and follow these directions to get back to the parking lot. Total hike is 3.9 miles.
  3. At the bottom of the switchbacks, go right, and hike along the Potomac until you reach the Woods Trail (see the green and pink trails on this map). This will take you up the hill, past Parking Lots A and B, and back to Parking Lot C. Total hike is about 3 miles.
Of course, parts of these options can be mixed and matched, as you'll see when you look at the maps. If you want to go even farther, you can follow the Potomac River all the way to Roosevelt Island on the Potomac Heritage Trail -- it's just over 8 miles.

Other info:

The entrance to Turkey Run is about 2 miles inside the Beltway (exit 43) on  the GW Parkway. It's not accessible by public transportation as far as we can tell.

The park is free and open sunrise to sunset, every day. There are picnic tables, restrooms, and water fountains near the parking lots.

Bikes are not allowed.
Dogs are allowed, but must remain on leash.

Turkey Run Park
McLean, VA, 22101

Like the photos in this post? Mouse over for credits; a click takes you to the photographer on Flickr.