The Potomac Heritage Trail consists of a large network of interconnected systems spanning large portions of the mid-Atlantic region. This trail system is maintained by the National Park Service, and a detailed overview of the entirety of the Potomac Heritage Trail is available on their website.
The Kiprunning Route Report takes as its focus the section of the Potomac Heritage Trail that extends north- and southwest between the Chain Bridge viaduct and the parking lot at Theodore Roosevelt Island. At just over 4 miles (one way), this segment of the Potomac Heritage Trail offers runners a very rugged trail experience. Proceed with caution, and be prepared for steep rock scrambling. Wear good footwear, and do not push the pace on this trail. It is best reserved for experienced trail runners or recreational cross country jogging—or hiking.
Beginning at the Theodore Roosevelt Island parking lot, runners can find the Potomac Heritage trailhead right beside the concrete ramp and walkway that guides pedestrians upward to the Key Bridge (at the northernmost end of the parking lot). From there, the Potomac Heritage Trail crosses under the Key Bridge and runs directly beside The George Washington Memorial Parkway. As runners approach the 2-mile mark, the trail will pass by Windy Run. At this point, the terrain will become more consistently rocky and rugged, and the trail will make its way into relatively deep woods.
Runners should continue past Donaldson Run (remain on the trail, and do not take the left fork toward Donaldson Run itself). This last segment of the trail is about 1 mile in distance, and it is extremely rugged, at one point containing a steep guide rail assisted rock scramble up a precipitous rock wall. Slow your pace, and proceed with deliberate caution.
After scaling the rock wall, the Potomac Heritage Trail swoops southward, under the GW Parkway, before descending a somewhat steep hill toward the Chain Bridge viaduct. There is easy pedestrian access to Chain Bridge Road at this point.