Despite its foreboding name, the Difficult Run trail offers a more relaxed, scenic experience than the title suggests. The trail, which stretches through Northern Virginia suburbia, gains its name from the Difficult Run stream it parallels. However, the trail's conditions can vary considerably, presenting an uneven experience for riders of all levels.
While the western portions are in better shape, the eastern ends leave much to be desired. The trail includes narrow passes, climbs, downhills, and water crossings that add some character. With stretches of wide paths featuring rocks and stream crossings, transitioning to narrow, genuine singletrack parts, it offers a bit of everything. A notable section is the climb leading into Great Falls Park, a rewarding segment that opens up to some splendid views. Riders looking for a technical challenge can also find jumps and rocky downhill sections.
Accessing the trail is a breeze, given its multiple entry points. For those starting at Great Falls National Park, prepare for a park fee unless opting for the Difficult Run Stream Valley Park parking area located a little south of the park entrance on Route 193. Riding south from this point gets you into the park fairly quickly. Going north will take you along the full length of the trail.
Cyclists have noted that the trail has improved over the years, gaining features like climbs and technical areas. One common suggestion is combining this trail with the Colvin Run trail for a more extensive riding experience. Those familiar with the trail recommend it for early morning rides to avoid the crowds and dog walkers who frequent the area as the day progresses. Newbies to mountain biking find this a great introduction, offering enough challenges to keep things interesting without becoming overwhelming.
While not a hardcore singletrack, Difficult Run provides a good mix of terrains and features suitable for beginners and families. However, be warned that the trail lacks consistent maintenance, which becomes evident in its boggy and eroded patches. A beautiful ride with a scenic payoff, it's definitely worth a visit, but don't expect a high-octane mountain biking experience.