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Appalachian Trail

Washington, DC: G.R. Thompson Loop

Pick a sport: fish, bird watch, or hike. Next: tour parts or all of this 5.8-mile loop for a quick getaway from the noisy Capitol City.

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You’ve toured the Smithsonian, walked the Mall, and photographed Capitol Hill. Now, tour the wilder side of D.C. on this 5.8-mile loop. This hike strings together a small lake (fine fishing), several overlooks, (views to a local vineyard), and a segment of the Appalachian Trail (America’s classic long trail).Begin by heading west just south of the lake. The first mile quickly ramps up, climbing a hillside overlooking nearby valleys. The trail follows an old dirt road and joins up with the Appalachian Trail. Head north on the AT for about a mile then swing east for a quick descent back to the lake. Grab lunch at one of the few lakeside benches. Return to trailhead.Warning: Hunting is open along parts of this trail. Wear hunter orange or avoid the fall hunting seasons.
Mapped by Fletcher Caldwell


Trail Facts

  • Distance: 9.4



Location: 38.9573784, -77.9887924

Trailhead: The parking lot is approximately 100 yards north of the lake (where the trail starts), but there is a park map and info board here. Several trails start and end at the lake: for this trip, head up the road and follow the trail straight ahead, passing the lake on your right as you start the hike on an old dirt road.


Location: 38.9550095, -77.9987946

Go left @ 4-way intersection. Turning right here offers the option for a significantly shorter bail-out route.


Location: 38.9534683, -77.9978333

The trail turns right onto an old dirt road bed at the fence. Most of this trail is on a dirt road of some kind, but in the summer, grass and weeds seem to fill in the road bed and turn the trail into singletrack.


Location: 38.9525108, -77.9994812

The trail continues straight passing a vineyard on the left.


Location: 38.9503136, -78.0104675

Continue straight @ 3-way junction as the trail continues on a steady uphill stretch. The climbing ends at the Appalachian Trail junction up ahead.


Location: 38.9489784, -78.012146

The trail passes old tin shack on the left. This is a nice spot to appreciate the the valley views to the south/southeast.


Location: 38.9532967, -78.021431

Turn right onto the Appalachian Trail (marked with white blazes). In the winter, enjoy views of the lake. In the summer, heavy tree cover blocks scenics to lake.


Location: 38.9634552, -78.0160599

Turn right @ 4-way junction to head east down the hill. The descent is steep and a little rocky in parts. The dirt road beds on this loop act as drainages during and after rainfall, making for potentially sloppier conditions. To explore the AT a bit more before heading back to the car, continue straight at this junction.


Location: 38.9640503, -77.9966583

Turn right @ trail junction to continue down towards the lake. Take a break at one of the lakeside benches before returning to the trailhead.

The trailhead

Location: 38.9573402, -77.9885101

© Fletcher Caldwell

The valley

Location: 38.9522667, -78.0013809

© Fletcher Caldwell

The Lake

Location: 38.9576759, -77.9920425