Potomac Heritage Trail

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 710 miles (1,140 km) of existing and planned sections,[1] 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. The trail is managed by the National Park Service.[2]

Potomac Heritage Trail
Length710 mi (1143 km)
LocationVirginia / Maryland / Pennsylvania / District of Columbia
DesignationNational Scenic Trail
UseHiking, Bicycling
Hiking details
SurfaceGravel, Asphalt, and Natural Surfaces

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[3] is a guidebook addressing the PHT's various sections, and some intervening or adjacent areas. The C&O Companion guidebook[4] is useful for this major section of the PHT.

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.

Initial sections

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:

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 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.

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, Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts (MORE), Fairfax Trails and Streams, Southern Prince George's Trails Coalition, and the Oxon Hill Bicycle Club.

The PHTA regularly features progress and challenges in building/advocating for the trail, at website and on facebook.


  1. Lillard, David; Talone, Ed. "Hiking". Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail - DC, MD, PA, VA. National Park Service. Retrieved October 24, 2016.
  2. "Basic Information". Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail - DC, MD, PA, VA. National Park Service. Retrieved October 24, 2016.
  3. 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.
  4. 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


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