Windy Run is an Arlington County Park. The entrance to the park is at the end of Kenmore Street in North Arlington, turning north from the intersection of Lorcom Lane. Park in the cul-de-sac at the end of Kenmore or, if there’s no space, at the Woodmont YMCA off Fillmore Street, one street east of Kenmore (walk down behind the building to get to Kenmore Street).
The trail starts, like so many of them, at a utility substation. Walk around the substation either way, and you’ll find yourself on a trail overlooking the run, with a handrail on your left. Except not for long – much of the handrail and supporting masonry has washed away, and was replaced with plastic fencing or nothing at all.
This is the hallmark of the Windy Run hike – an unsuccessful attempt to tame the wilds of Arlington!
The challenging part of a hike along Windy Run is right up front – the four-tenths of a mile from Kenmore Street to the Potomac River. It’s four crossings of the run, each wide and slippery enough that pre-K hikers are likely to need a hand. Older kids (and some adults!) might also need guidance if there’s been a lot of rain or their balance is sub-par.
It’s a shady trail, but the path along here offers good drainage and was pretty dry even just four days after a big rainstorm.
The last crossing is at the top of the waterfall which drops the run into the Potomac River. To get down to the river and the Heritage Trail, cross the run and make your way down the decaying, uneven staircase. There is a handrail, although at times it is just a few inches above the rocks that form the steps.
This part can be slippery, and the handrail is hard to grip in the winter (it’s metal and VERY cold!). That said, your efforts are rewarded when you come to the bottom. Here the waterfall meets the Potomac surrounded by a broad sand and stone area, with paths and rocks leading down to the edge of the river.
The paths along the river here are mostly flat and uneventful. The most recent time, we walked six-tenths of a mile towards Rosslyn along the trail (to the right when your back is to the waterfall).
Unlike the Windy Run part of the trail, parts of the trail here were muddy, although mostly avoidable by walking in the brush on the edges of the trail. Several small streams crossed our path, requiring one or two adult strides to get to the other side. There were also several wood bridges – planks anchored into each side of a small divide.
I stood on the bolts anchoring the board into the earth on one side or the other – the weight of an adult lessens the movement of the bridge while the child is crossing.
Windy Run has a little something for everyone who like a challenge in a hike. There are no bathrooms at the trail, and strollers are not recommended. Bring water and a snack, as the views along the Potomac are made for taking a break!
Photos by Jill Rabach.