Last time we visited Fort Ethan Allen Park we hiked north and west to explore Pimmit Run and Fort Marcy. Let’s visit again and use it as a departure point for an exploration of Donaldson Run, Gulf Branch, and a slice of the Potomac Heritage Trail!
The route: From the parking lot of Madison Community Center, we'll walk south along Old Glebe Road and through Glebe Road Park to Military Road, which we'll follow to Pollard Road; then follow Pollard Road on to Donaldson Run. After a brief pit stop at Potomac Overlook Regional Park, we'll descend Donaldson Run to the Potomac River and hike upstream along the Potomac Heritage Trail to Gulf Branch. From there we'll ascend Gulf Branch to Military Road and retrace our steps through Glebe Road Park to Madison Community Center.
The hike is a loop with an initial/ending out-and-back stretch between Fort Ethan Allen Park and Gulf Branch Nature Center. The total distance is about 4.5 miles of smiles and should take about 3 hours at a moderate pace.
The surface is mostly rock-strewn woodland trails along streambeds, with paved streets and sidewalks between Fort Ethan Allen and Glebe Road Parks and Glebe Road and Potomac Overlook Parks.
NB: There are significant elevation changes, inclines and strenuous rock scrambles, especially along the Potomac Heritage Trail and the initial ascent up Gulf Branch!
Google map here (https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zTy9tqTph5fw.k7z8LU2C6tHc)
How to get there: From the I-495 Capital Beltway (either direction), take exit 44 onto VA-193/Georgetown Pike towards Langley/Great Falls. Follow signs for Langley, merge onto VA-193 E/Georgetown Pike, and drive about 2.4 miles. Turn left onto Dolley Madison Blvd and drive 1 mile, continuing another 1.2 miles after it becomes Chain Bridge Road. Turn right onto N Glebe Road, followed by a slight right onto Military Road, then continue straight onto N Old Glebe Road. Turn left on to N Stafford Rd, and the parking lot will be on your left. There is room for about 50 cars in the parking lot, plus free parallel parking on nearby streets.
Weather: The forecast is sunny and clear, light breezes, and a high temperature of 44 degrees. Updates here (http://www.wunderground.com/q/zmw:22201.1.99999)
What to bring: Water, comfy shoes, and your furry friend if desired. The layered look is fashionable for changing temperatures, with gloves for the occasional rock scramble. A camera might be a handy accessory.
Advisory: As a reminder, this is an adult group, and you are ultimately responsible for your own safety and well-being during events. This group is a kids-free zone, no one under 18 years of age is permitted.
Administrative stuff: There are public restrooms and drinking fountains at the Madison Community Center, Gulf Branch Nature Center, and Potomac Overlook Regional Park.
• Fort Ethan Allen Park (http://parks.arlingtonva.us/locations/fort-ethan-allen-park/), 3829 N Stafford St, Arlington, VA
• Madison Community Center (http://parks.arlingtonva.us/locations/madison-community-center-park/), 3829 N Stafford St, Arlington, VA, (703)[masked]
• Gulf Branch Nature Center (http://parks.arlingtonva.us/locations/gulf-branch-nature-center/), 3608 N Military Rd, Arlington, VA, (703)[masked]
• Potomac Overlook Regional Park (http://www.nvrpa.org/park/potomac_overlook/), 2845 N Marcey Rd, Arlington, VA, (703)[masked]