PATC’s 90th Anniversary Hike #10A: Turkey Run - Dead Run
Distance: 6.0 miles with shorter options

Total ascents: 700 feet
Travel Directions: The hike begins at trailhead just inside entrance to parking lot C-1 in Turkey Run Park. From Capital Beltway (I-495) Exit 43, take the George Washington Memorial Parkway approximately 1.5 mi east (toward DC) to turnoff for Turkey Run Park on right (R). Follow the entrance road 0.5 mi, then take first left (L) turn 0.2 mi to first parking lot (also on L). Total distance: 2.2 mi. Alternate access: From points inside Beltway, take GW Memorial Parkway west 2 mi beyond overpass for Chain Bridge Rd (VA 123) to exit for Turkey Run Park (on R). Shortly, turn R off exit road into park, then L into lot C-1. Total travel distance from Chain Bridge overpass: 2.3 mi.

Turkey Run Park, a unit of the NPS-managed George Washington Memorial Parkway corridor between Mount Vernon and the Capital Beltway, and adjacent public landss offer several loops off the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail (PHT). Paths here have views over the Potomac, excellent wildflower blooms in spring, abundant bird life and interesting walks along streams.


The Trail
0.0 From sign at corner of parking lot near entrance on river side of lot, take yellow-blazed trail past sign for PHT and Turkey Run Loop, angling gently downhill toward river. Shortly, take right (R) fork of trail and descend steeply on fenced switchbacks. (For a very short stroll, take left (L) fork to Turkey Run, cross it just below parkway overpass, then follow yellow blazes downstream, back across run and up to the start.)
0.2 At sign for PHT (green blaze) and Turkey Run Loop (yellow blazes), turn L to head upstream along Potomac floodplain. (For the 2.4-mi option, turn R to follow PHT downstream, using directions from 3.8 milepoint below.)
0.3 Cross Turkey Run, then turn R to continue upstream on PHT. (Turkey Run Loop’s yellow blazes go L.) Look for nice stands of Virginia bluebells in early spring.
1.2 Cross two channels of a small tributary stream.
1.4 At mouth of Dead Run, go L past wooden sign for PHT and go up L bank to large pool. Cross rock formation at lower end of pool to yellow-blazed trail on west bank. Continue upstream, following faint blazes or bushwhacking close to scenic cascades and pools. (In spring, watch for speckled leaves and yellow blossoms of trout lilies.)
1.7 Just after passing under parkway, hop rocks back to east side of Dead Run and follow yellow-blazed trail that parallels the parkway.
1.8 Go R, away from parkway, to cross powerline clearing at edge of wetland, then go L up short, steep hill.
1.9 Shortly after passing side trail that goes R and end of chain-link fence on L, angle R as two arms of yellow-blazed trail join. In 50 yds, go L at faint intersection to follow yellow blazes, once again heading east and parallel to the parkway.
2.0 Trail runs along edge of property with high wooden fence.
2.1 Cross stream in ravine.
2.2 Cross another ravine (usually dry, but high, muddy bank might require detour uphill to shallower crossing point after rain).
2.3 Cross shallow stream at bottom of third ravine.
2.4 Atop ridge after climbing out of last ravine, turn R on broad but unblazed trail that follows ridgeline. (Yellow-blazed trail goes straight ahead for shorter path back to Turkey Run).
2.6 Go straight as another trail joins from L. Ahead 50 yds, turn L at tree with yellow arrow and flat stone with copper tag at its base. (Trail to R goes to nearby homes.)
2.8 Continue straight on unblazed trail as another arm of yellow-blazed loop trail goes L. Ahead, trail descends gently into Turkey Run valley.
3.0 Hop rivulet to bank of Turkey Run and turn L to follow path downstream.
3.1 Cross Turkey Run on stepping stones and continue downstream along path on east bank.
3.2 Cross back to west bank. Ahead 200 ft, go straight pass turnoff marked by painted yellow arrow (L).
3.4 Go straight past another arm of yellow-blazed loop on L, this one marked by wooden arrow nailed to tree.
3.5 Under parkway bridge, once again cross to east side of run and continue on path downstream. Ahead 250 ft, turn L at trail junction and cross back to yellow-blazed trail on west bank. (4-mile option: To do just this loop, turn R at this junction or at 3.8 mi and go uphill to starting point in parking lot C-1.)
3.7 Back at PHT sign first encountered at 0.3 mi, cross Turkey Run and retrace steps on green-blazed PHT.
3.8 Continue straight on PHT, following bank of Potomac River downstream past turnoff on R that ascends to parking lot C-1. (Signs here give distances to landmarks along PHT and warn against attempting to wade or swim the river.)
4.1 Cross rocky rivulet. Ahead, cross rocks beneath overlook that route will visit at 5.8 mi. PHT blazes, greenish to here, may have faded to pale blue.
4.4 Cross rocky streambed (usually dry).
4.8 After rock-hopping substantial tributary (Wisteria Run) and passing a tall, concrete structure that holds a flood gauge on riverbank, turn R off PHT at sign pointing to Park Headquarters. Go uphill along bank of Wisteria Run.
5.0 Now on gravel road, cross clearing. Pass restrooms and park office building by picnic area A. Take woodland path with occasional red blazes.
5.3 Park drive is nearby on L trail. Ahead, descend onto bridge over ravine.
5.6 Cross another bridge. Ahead, enter clearing and bear R near treeline, passing restrooms (L) and following dirt road toward picnic area C.
5.7 For view over Potomac, turn R off road onto path that passes to R of picnic tables, enters woods and descends toward river.
5.8 To reach overlook, scramble onto rocky crag or, more safely, skirt R of rocks to level spot at nose of ridge. Enjoy view across Potomac and straight down to PHT, then retrace steps back uphill.
5.9 Back at road by picnic tables, turn R and head toward parking lot.
6.0 Finish circuit in lot C-1.
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About this series. . .
Between 1927 and today, PATC’s founders and their successors built a 240-mile section of the Appalachian Trail, created the Tuscarora Trail, made dozens of cabins and shelters available to hikers, and took on maintenance responsibility for over 1000 miles of paths in the club’s 4-state service area. The hikes described in this series pass landmarks in PATC’s history and celebrate nine decades of remarkable evolution in our national trail network.