Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail


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Background

The National Trail System (NTS) was established through enactment of the National Trail System Act of 1968 (82 Stat. 919, Public Law 90-543) (the Act). The legislation also authorized "feasibility studies" for additional components of the National Trails System, including the Potomac Heritage Trail; such a study was completed in 1974 by the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Outdoor Recreation (this later was incorporated into the National Park Service). A 1983 amendment to the Act (77 Stat. 43, Public Law 90-543) designated the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail (’’the Trail") as a component of the National Trails System, recognized a corridor for the Trail, and assigned administration of the federal interest in the Trail to the Secretary of the Interior, which role is delegated to the National Park Service (NPS) to "enter into such agreements with landowners, States, local governments, private organizations, and individuals for the use of lands for trail purposes".

The Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail spans close to 900 miles and is a braided trail network from the Laurel Hills Highlands Trail in western Pennsylvania to the mouth of the Potomac River. The trail spans five physiographic provinces and the Nation’s capital.

Today, the evolving Trail network is an enterprise of many partners, including government agencies at all levels, non-profit organizations, volunteers and commercial interests. The growing network provides opportunities for outdoor recreation, education and exploration between the mouth of the Potomac River and the Allegheny Highlands. Partnerships are at the heart of the Trail concept, creating a locally-managed, non-motorized trail network for outdoor recreation, education, transportation, health and heritage tourism.

It blends outdoor recreational opportunities with rich ecological, historical and cultural environments. The trail network is intended for non-motorized modes of travel including, variously, foot, bicycle, boat, horse and cross-country skis.

Northern Virginia Section of Trail

The Trail network in Northern Virginia includes various hiking, hiking/equestrian and hiking/equestrian/bicycling facilities.  Today the trail runs through Northern Virginia from southern Prince William County to the Town of Leesburg, which some smaller sections not complete.  Existing segments include the 18-mile Mount Vernon Trail and the George Washington Memorial Parkway trail.  Existing segments also run along the Potomac River through much of Fairfax County and Prince William County, as well as part of Loudoun County.

Based on concept plans completed approximately 10 years ago, NVRC member jurisdictions have recognized the trail in local comprehensive plans and the Commonwealth has recognized the trail in the Virginia Outdoors Plan, with the goal of planning and developing a completed trail in Northern Virginia.

  • NVRC coordinates regular meetings among staff of member jurisdictions and other stakeholders provide means for coordination through the PHNST Land Managers quarterly meetings.
  • More specifically, local PHNST advocates in Northern Virginia are bringing into focus a continuous footpath from Locust Shade Park in southern Prince William County all the way to the northwest corner of Loudoun County at the border of Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia proximate to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

Alerts and Current Conditions

Know before you go! Sections of the trail may be closed or have other special conditions in effect, including COVID-19 protocols.  See alerts and conditions for current conditions.

Subscribe to News Releases

For project updates subscribe to the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail E-News Releases.  Your e-mail address will be kept confidential and it will not be sold, disclosed to others, or used for unsolicited mass mailings (spam).

Video: Enjoy the Trail

In celebration of the continued coordination between parties managing, completing, and hosting the Potomac Heritage Trail in Northern Virginia, partners created this video to promote this amazing resource in the region.View other videos here: POHE Photos and Multimedia

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