Take a Hike at Scott’s Run Nature Preserve


We love Great Falls Park, but we also know from experience that on a nice weekend day, chances are it’s going to be pretty crowded. So, we often seek out alternatives in that area if we want a similar hiking experience — trails that meander through lush woods, leading to lovely hang out spots and great views of the Potomac, all within a not-too-far drive from home.



This is what led us to Scott’s Run Nature Preserve a couple of weekends ago. The locale in McLean is just a couple of miles away from Great Falls. And while it doesn’t have the spectacular vistas that its larger, better known neighbor does, Scott’s Run is peaceful and pretty and makes for a nice hiking experience with kids.



There are two places to park and start a trip there. Both are right off Georgetown Pike, just past the Beltway. We opted for the second lot adjacent to the main creek (the actual Scott’s Run) that flows through the park, eventually into the Potomac. We walked along the creek a bit on a wide gravel path that also leads to the river, crossing offshoots of the creek en route. Along the way, we spotted several chipmunks and caterpillar eggs, and enjoyed the shade of the leafy canopy above.



It was probably a little less than a mile to the river from our parking lot. There’s a great waterfall and pool of water surrounded by boulders and a small sandy area, which would have been an ideal place to stop for a picnic had it not been occupied already. We opted for a nearby area, sitting on a fallen tree to eat lunch and hang out before exploring a grassy area stretching along the water.




On the way back, we chose a different route along a trail that snaked through the woods and took us by what looked like remnants of an old fireplace and chimney. This way was longer and deeper in the woods, but generally a flat, easy hike. Though we only encountered it near the waterfall, I hear there are many areas with rocky cliffs in the park — something to keep in mind if you’re with little ones who tend to wander. All in all, we probably hiked about three miles total that day, but you can easily extend or shorten that depending on what your family is up for when you go.




Scott’s Run Nature Preserve is located in McLean, VA, just off Georgetown Pike. It’s open from just before sunrise to just after sunset. Admission is free.


Filed under All ages, Free, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Virginia, Volunteer, Weekdays

5 Responses to Take a Hike at Scott’s Run Nature Preserve

  1. Ariel Hughes


    This is a wonderful and informative website. I was wondering, are you able to set up a blanket and have a picnic at Scott’s Run?

    • Linda @ KidFriendly DC

      You probably can, but you’d have to seek out a spot to do that. There are sandy beach areas by the river, but they may not be ideal for a picnic. Your best bet is a small inlet area that you climb down to, but it could be occupied. You may be able to find a flat area elsewhere in the woods. Otherwise, you kind of have to wing a picnic. It’s a really pretty place for a hike, though!

  2. We LOVE Scott’s Run! We have gone many, many times, but never went up the stairs! We will have to try that way.
    (btw, McLean is spelled like this.. just so people don’t get confused when putting it in the gps.. 😉

  3. Jocelyn

    After reading your post, we came to Scott’s Run to explore the lovely creek you had pictured. We were disappointed to learn that there is no swimming anywhere in Scott’s Run Park.

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