The Potomac Heritage Trail, also known as the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail or the PHT, is a designated National Scenic Trail corridor spanning parts of the mid-Atlantic and upper southeastern regions of the United States that will connect various trails and historic sites in the states of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia. The trail network includes 830 miles (1,340 km) of existing and planned sections, tracing the outstanding natural, historical, and cultural features of the Potomac River corridor, the upper Ohio River watershed in Pennsylvania and western Maryland, and a portion of the Rappahannock River watershed in Virginia.
Unlike many long-distance hiking trails such as the Appalachian Trail, the Potomac Heritage Trail is a general route with numerous side trails and alternatives, some in parallel on each side of the river. Currently, many of these are separate, connected to the others only by roads. Potomac Heritage Trail: A Hiker's Guide is a guidebook addressing the PHT's various sections, and some intervening or adjacent areas. The guidebook The C&O Companion is useful for this major section of the PHT. Also, Potomac Heritage Explorer (collected by an informal network of Trail advocates) suggests some ways to experience the PHT corridor.
The PHT crosses another National Scenic Trail, the Appalachian Trail, near Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. The PHT also coincides with the American Discovery Trail along the portion of the C&O Canal Towpath from Oldtown, Maryland to Washington, D.C.
Three substantial sections of the trail were in existence when the Potomac Heritage Trail officially became a National Scenic Trail in 1983:
These trails have different surfaces: gravel, asphalt, and natural surface, respectively – a fact that illustrates the general heterogeneity of the PHT, compared to other National Scenic Trails.
Completed and planned sections
The entire Potomac Heritage Trail consists of the following sections:
- the 70-mile (110 km) Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, within Laurel Ridge State Park in Pennsylvania.
- the 150-mile (240 km) Great Allegheny Passage, between Cumberland, Maryland, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This is a system of seven trails managed by an alliance of organizations and agencies.
- the 184.5-mile (296.9 km) Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath within Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, in Allegany, Washington, Frederick, and Montgomery counties in Maryland, and Washington, D.C.
- a 15-mile (24 km) linear park system in Loudoun County, Virginia.
- 7.7 miles (12.4 km) of trails within Riverbend Park, Great Falls Park, and Scott's Run Nature Preserve in northern Fairfax County, Virginia.
- two partially completed routes within the District of Columbia – the 23-mile (37 km) Fort Circle Parks Trail, part of the Civil War Defenses of Washington, and a multi-use route between Georgetown and Oxon Cove Park, including areas along the Anacostia River.
- the 18.5-mile (29.8 km) Mount Vernon Trail and the 10-mile (16 km) Potomac Heritage Trail within George Washington Memorial Parkway in Arlington and Fairfax counties, Virginia.
- a 27-mile (43 km) Potomac Heritage Trail On-Road Bicycling Route in Prince George's County, Maryland.
- a 1-mile (1.6 km) trail along the north shore of Piscataway Creek in Piscataway Park in Prince George's County, Maryland.
- a 2-mile (3.2 km) route within the Nanjemoy Natural Resource Management Area, in Charles County, Maryland.
- the Southern Maryland Potomac Heritage Trail Bicycling Route in Charles and St. Mary's counties in Maryland.
- two 4.5-mile (7.2 km) routes in Prince William Forest Park and a partially completed 8-mile (13 km) route, between Leesylvania State Park and Belmont Bay, in Prince William County, Virginia.
- the 23-mile (37 km) Alexandria Heritage Trail in Alexandria, Virginia.
- the Government Island Trail, the planned 5-mile (8.0 km) Historic Falmouth-Ferry Farm Trail, and the Aquia Creek Water Trail, all in Stafford County, Virginia.
- the Northern Neck Heritage Trail Bicycling Route Network in Westmoreland, Northumberland, Lancaster, and Richmond counties, all in Virginia.
Potomac Heritage Trail Association
The Potomac Heritage Trail Association (PHTA) is a membership-based organization dedicated to the development, construction, preservation, and interpretation of the trail.
The group, in cooperation with other trail advocacy groups, sponsors work trips to construct and maintain natural surface portions of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail. These organizations include the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club; the Sierra Club's Potomac Regional Outings Program; REI, Inc.; Great Falls Trail Blazers; the Appalachian Mountain Club; Fairfax Trails and Streams; Southern Prince George's Trails Coalition; and the Oxon Hill Bicycle Club.
The PHTA publishes a quarterly newsletter, the Potomac Heritage Trail News, featuring progress and challenges in building the trail.
The group works with local, state and federal government officials and park authorities to promote and develop new sections of trail along the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail corridor.
- ^ Lillard, David Edwin, and Ed Talone. 2006. Potomac Heritage Trail: A Hiker's Guide. Great Allegheny Press, West Newton, Pennsylvania. ISBN 0-9717475-5-5.
- ^ High, Mike. 2000. The C&O Canal Companion. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London. ISBN 978-0-8018-6602-9
Trails/Parks of PHNST
- Great Allegheny Passage
- C&O Canal Bicycling Guide
- Mt. Vernon Trail, Arlington/Alexandria/Mt Vernon, VA
- Great Falls Park, MD/VA
- Riverbend Park, Great Falls, VA
- Algonkian Park, VA
- Red Rock Wilderness Regional Park, VA
- Balls Bluff Regional Park, VA
- Occoquan Regional Park, VA
- Laurel Hill Greenway, Lorton, VA
- Prince William Forest Park, VA
- Leesylvania State Park, VA
- Piscataway Park/Trail, MD
- Fort Foote Park, MD