Great Falls Things to Do

  • Passengers board the canal boat
    Passengers board the canal boat
    by Tom_Fields
  • The canal boat passing through a lock
    The canal boat passing through a lock
    by Tom_Fields
  • The view of a lock from inside the boat
    The view of a lock from inside the boat
    by Tom_Fields

Most Recent Things to Do in Great Falls

  • jmpncsu's Profile Photo

    Great Falls of the Potomac

    by jmpncsu Written Apr 16, 2015

    Great Falls of the Potomac is a 76-foot cascading waterfall along the Fall Line, where the Piedmont transitions to coastal plain. Surprisingly, this beautiful waterfall is just 15 miles outside Washington, DC. The waterfall can be viewed from both the Virginia and Maryland sides, though the waterfall itself is in Maryland. Access from the Maryland side is from the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park. From the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center, walk down the towpath for a short ways and turn right onto the Olmsted Island Bridges. This trail is right after Lock 18 on the canal. There are a series of bridges and boardwalks that lead from the towpath out to Olmsted Island. At the end of the trail is a wooden viewing platform to see the waterfall. Although you can't see the waterfall up close, you have great panoramic views of Great Falls, the Potomac River, and Mather Gorge. Across the river, you can see Great Falls Park in Virginia. Visitors are not allowed to leave the trail or platform due to the environmentally-sensitive Olmsted Island. This is definitely a great place to visit if you're in the Washington, DC area. And besides the waterfall, there are a lot of other great activities in C&O Canal National Historic Park, including mule-drawn canal boat rides, the 185-mile towpath, and the Billy Goat Trail.

    Great Falls of the Potomac Great Falls of the Potomac Cascade along Potomac River
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    • Hiking and Walking
    • Photography
    • National/State Park

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    Great Falls Tavern

    by Tom_Fields Written Jun 5, 2008

    In addition to your tickets for the boat ride, you can see the small museum, buy postcards, and other small items, and get information. During the early days, this was a busy tavern frequented by boatmen and travellers along the roads.

    Great Falls Tavern, now the Visitors Center Inside the museum Model of the canal under construction An organ grinder outside the tavern
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    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits

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    C&O Canal Boat Ride

    by Tom_Fields Updated Jun 5, 2008

    In the 19th century, generations of people made their living plying these inland waterways. The canals were arteries of transportation, very important in the days before the railroads. Boats hauled all kinds of cargo.

    At the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal National Historic Park, one can still ride on an authentic canal boat, like the ones they had in those old days. Get your ticket at the Visitors Center (the old Great Falls Tavern), and head to the dock just outside. It's $5.00. The trip is only an hour. The boat is hauled by a team of two mules, just like in the old days.

    Passengers board the canal boat The canal boat passing through a lock The view of a lock from inside the boat An organ grinder entertains passengers Mules hauling the boat
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    • Historical Travel
    • Cruise

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  • rafgys's Profile Photo

    Hiking and kayaking ...

    by rafgys Updated Nov 2, 2006

    Great Falls is a great sping and summer place. During the spring season, the Potomac River brings some nice white waters for kayaking... and during spring, summer and fall, there are many hiking trails. It's beautiful.

    Related to:
    • Family Travel
    • Kayaking
    • Hiking and Walking

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  • littlesam1's Profile Photo

    Listen to the water flow over the rocks

    by littlesam1 Updated Jul 14, 2006

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    The lands around Great Falls became a part of The National Parks Service in 1966. The parks service acquired 800 acres at Great Falls. Today its a beautiful location for picnics, hikes, and just a welcome escape from the politics and concrete of mid town Washington DC.

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    Great Falls Museum

    by littlesam1 Updated Jul 14, 2006

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    There is a visitors center on the Maryland side of Great Falls. It has some displays, rest rooms, and souvineers. The visitors center on the Virginia has a documentary on the park that plays every ten minutes.

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  • littlesam1's Profile Photo

    National Park Rangers on Horseback

    by littlesam1 Updated Jul 14, 2006

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    The park rangers are very friendly and have a difficult job. The falls are very dangerous and there are several deaths here year from the rapids and the rock climbing. The day I visited it was very hot but the rangers were patient and allowed visitors to meet their horses and ask questions.

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    Check out the canal boat

    by littlesam1 Updated Jul 14, 2006

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    At the present the National Park service is trying to build replicas of the canal boats. I took a few minutes to explore that boat that is on display. There is a box for donations for the process at the visitors center.

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  • littlesam1's Profile Photo

    View the locks

    by littlesam1 Updated Jul 14, 2006

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    George Washington had a plan to develope a series of locks and canals to allow navigation on the Potomac River north of the Washington DC area. Five bypasses and five canals were engineered. These included Little Falls, Great Falls, Seneca Falls, Shenadoah Falls, and House Falls. The Patowmack Canal at Great Falls was considered the largest and most difficult to build. At the time of its construction is was considerd to be the most important engineering feat of the 18th century in the United States. Pictured here are part of the remains of one of the locks on the canal.

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  • Tom_Fields's Profile Photo

    The Billy Goat Trail

    by Tom_Fields Written Jun 5, 2008

    This is a tough, potentially hazardous trail, with some spectacular views of Great Falls and the Potomac. Take your time; there's no need to rush. It's very difficult footing on this one.

    View of the Potomac from the trail Another view of the river
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    • Hiking and Walking

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    Hiking the C&O Canal

    by Tom_Fields Written Jun 5, 2008

    The trails along the old C&O Canal go on for miles. It's a scenic and pleasant hike, not too difficult. Along the way, keep an eye out for wildlife. Canada geese and turtles abound.

    The C&O Canal A footbridge Turtles sun themselves on a pond near the canal A lock on the canal View of Great Falls from the trail
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    • Historical Travel
    • Hiking and Walking

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  • littlesam1's Profile Photo

    Natural beauty and wildlife

    by littlesam1 Updated Jul 14, 2006

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    As you walk along the canal and the trails you will have the chance to see much wildlife. Its difficult to believe you are only about 18 miles from downtown Washington DC.

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Great Falls Things to Do

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