Best Hikes Near Washington D.C.
by Bill and Mary Burnham (Falcon Guides)
© Bill and Mary Burnham/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.
This trail is not for the weak of body or mind. Right from the parking lot you will ascent from about 585 ft. to 1720 ft. in under 2 miles. The blue marking here is clearly visible; not that you will have any difficulty following the wide path to the top of Bill’s overlook. Once on the ridge, the trail is mostly level, but very rocky. Fast forward past Cat Rock, and the descent to Rt. 77, this is where the real adventure starts. The guide is very vague about the fact that for the next two miles, you are on your own. It tells you to follow the fishermen path along the creek and rock hop over the creek where convenient. Our experience included scrambling up and down the valley ridge in an effort to follow the creek, with no marking or any resemblance of a footpath beyond the initial 100 yards. Thanks to our GPS, we were able to locate the place where to cross the creek in order to follow the trail, only to find out that there is no “convenient place to rock hop over it”. We ended up taking our shoes off and crossing the creek in the lowest point we were able to find (still knee deep freezing water). The next 1.4 mile to the falls follows the Cunningham Falls Trail. Once at the falls, again, the trail guide takes you through the stream right under the falls, only this time there are large, slippery boulders to deal with. Once at the top of the cliffs above the falls, make a left (even thought there is a large sign for Cunningham Trail leading to the right), following blue/yellow marking for about 0.2 miles downhill, and keep following only blue marking where the Cunningham Trail splits. The remainder of the trail is an unfair struggle of your own fatigue, elevation change (you will climb over the same mountain you started with), rocky/slippery footing, and lack of daylight (in the case of our winter attempt). Final stats: 14.5 miles, 6 hrs. of moving time, and over 3,000ft. of ascents and descents. Not bad for a Sunday afternoon!
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