Description - The idea behind this trail is to connect the tidewater regions along the Potomac River to the Laurel highlands of Pennsylvania. The trail is a unit of the National Trails System.
- Even before the Declaration of Independence, a young George Washington was developing plans to improve opportunities for commerce between the Atlantic Seaboard and "the Western Country" by way of the Potomac River. The idea echoed the practices of native populations--the word "Potomac" is often said to derive from an Algonkian phrase meaning "place where things are brought," or "trading place."
Today, the designation of a Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail corridor, enacted and signed in 1983 as an amendment to the National Trails System Act, is being used by communities in Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia and Pennsylvania to develop and make connections among trails, historic sites and a range of recreational and educational opportunities. Three trails are currently recognized as "official" segments of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail: the 184.5 mile C & O Canal Towpath, managed by Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park; the 17-mile Mount Vernon Trail, managed by George Washington Memorial Parkway; and the 75-mile Laurel Highlands Trail, managed by Laurel Ridge State Park, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Existing trails are complemented by many local and regional trails, on land and water, with many more in the early stages of development. Local governments and citizens groups are using the corridor designation to support a variety of trail projects; to increase educational, conservation and development opportunities; and to realize benefits from the extensive growth in ecotourism.
In 1996, the National Park Service assigned staff in the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA) to explore interest in use of the designation and to assist local governments, citizen groups, state agencies and other federal agencies interested in developing trails and related resources. An ad hoc coordinating group has since been established.
Recreation - Hiking, bicycling and sight seeing are the two most popular forms of recreation along the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.
Climate - Virginia generally has mild winters and warm humid summers. The tidewater and eastern shore have winter temperatures averaging 34 to 36 degrees Fahrenheit (1 to 2 degrees Celsius). The state's summer temperatures have little variation. The tidewater and eastern shore generally experience temperatures ranging from 76 to above 78 degrees Fahrenheit (26 Celsius). High humidity along with warm temperatures can be uncomfortable.
The trail may be found in McLean, Virginia along the George Washington Memorial Parkway.