Beautiful, wooded country with abundant wildlife
Can be very crowded in the summer.
Nature, Water, rocks, all near the Capital of the USA
That correct. Take off your hat, your blocking the view. The view is beautiful but in reality it is also a natural obstacle making a north bound trip on the Potomac impossible. Historically George Washington had a plan to develope a canal system to allow navigation northward on the Potomac River.more
For more Great Falls fun, you can drive 20 minutes back down to I-495, cross the Potomac and head up the Clara Barton Parkway and MacArthur Blvd to the Maryland side of the Great Falls, which is inside the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park. The Maryland side of the falls is equally as spectacular as the Virginia side, although there...more
Difficult Run is a beautiful tributary of the Potomac River. Much of the run lies outside Great Falls Park, though the run's final confluence with the river is within the boundaries of the park. Sections of this stream are protected in Fairfax County's Difficult Run Park. A trail runs from the Difficult Run parking area along the stream down to the...more
There are over 15 miles of hiking trails at Great Falls and many other ways to explore the park. So if you see some guy wearing a hat out on the trails, it might just be me. There are maps available online and at the visitors center. There is also a small museum that has brief documentary on the history of Great Falls.more
There are many rocks you can climb on to get different views of the falls. Here are several pictures that I took from different rock advantage points. Don't forget your camera. You will want to take pictures of the natural wonders all around you. I also took some video's with digital camera while I was here and they turned out beautiful on my PC.more
Relaxation is the key word here. Just sitting on a rock and listening to the river flow can make a relaxing afternoon away from the hustle of Washington DC. Also with all of the humdity here in the Baltimore Washington Metro area, the cool effects of the cascading water are a welcome relief on a hot summer afternoon.more
If your a lot braver than me you might want to try your hand at paddeling a kayak into the rapids. There were several men in kayaks the day I visited Great Falls. I enjoyed watching them splash around in the rapids, and although it looked like it would be a real rush to try it out myself, I found it safer and dryer just watching from a distance.more
This trail isn't particularly scenic, but it does lead to the Matildaville Ruins. The trail winds through forest, with occasional clearings on the trail. It's a very easy trail, with no steep grades anywhere. Still, it can be icy in winter, so watch out. The trail starts from the Visitor Center and leads south for about 1.5 miles until it...more
The River Trail parallels the Mather Gorge through the entire park, offering some of the best views on the Virginia side of the river. The trail starts near Cow Hoof Rock and follows the gorge upstream to the visitor center at the falls, about 1.5 miles long. You can make a loop of this hike by taking the trail for the first 1/2-mile, then taking...more
This road/trail runs from the Difficult Run parking area to the visitor center, and is about 2 miles long. It doesn't provide any good views, but it's a good trail to hike to get into the park. The road also allows access to the Matildaville and Ridge Trails. Watch out for horse waste.more
The Potomack Canal gave birth to the town of Matildaville, which was built on the canal and prospered shortly while the canal was in operation. Houses, storage buildings, and stores were once built here. But after the canal fell out of use in 1828, the town was abandoned in 1830. Today a few scant ruins of the town remains, but most of the area has...more
The Potowmack Canal runs through the center of the park. It was constructed by George Washington in the late 18th century to boost trade to the western territories by the Potomac River. Using a system of locks, the canal would raise ships heading upstream 70 feet to the river above the falls. However, the canal stopped operating in 1828 after...more
Cow Hoof Rock is accessible either by taking the River Trail south 1.5 miles from the Visitor Center or hiking .5 miles from the Difficult Run Trailhead. We tried to do a loop by heading to Cow Hoof Rock from Difficult Run and then taking the River Trail north to the Visitor Center, but as we found, there was a lot of snow left on the ground from a...more
This steep-walled gorge on the Potomac River is just as raw and rugged as Great Falls. It's not a landscape you expect to see in the east. Named after Stephen Mather, first director of the National Park Service. You can access the Gorge from the River Trail, which roughly follows the gorge for it's entire length. Be careful around here, though,...more
The Great Falls Visitor Center is very informative, with slide shows and exhibits on both the falls and the history of the area. The Great Falls area, according to the slide show, has been home to many canals and an amusement park. But those dreams obviously failed, and since then, Great Falls has been made into a unit of the National Park Service....more
Overlook 3 is the farthest of the overlooks from the falls itself, and the views aren't so great as the first two. You can't see Mather Gorge, either. Still, it is worth it to see the last of the chain of overlooks. From here, the falls are still very beautiful. Interpretive signs here explain the floods of the Potomac River, and shows the falls in...more
Out of the three overlooks, Overlook 2 perhaps affords the best view. From here, you get a full view of the falls, as well as the Potomac River plunging into Mather Gorge. With the Potomac dropping down giant rocks, this sight is pretty incredible. One disadvantage is now you're a bit farther from the falls. A sign here describes early tourism at...more
Heading downstream from the visitor center, the first overlook you meet is Overlook 1, where you get a close-up views of the falls. Here the falls appear the mightiest, plunging about 40 feet through a rocky gorge. An interpretive sign here describes the fish of the Potomac (shad, bass, etc). You can look across the Potomac and see the Falls...more
In case you forgot to bring any food there is a small food store near the visitor center, although the choices are very few. only hotdogs and super small pizza and overpriced.
However the park offers steel grills and picnic tables. One can purchase sandwiches, fruits and drinks from the grocery store before arriving to the park
Grill or BBQ at your own risk at the Park
Favorite Dish: the super small pizza is a bit better than the hotdog, although when you are hungry both taste good.
Still my recommendation is to bring your own food if you can and by the way bring a volleyball, a freezbe or simply a blanket to relax after eating
As Park Service Signs throughout the park state, the Potomac River and Great Falls are a potentially dangerous place, and it's not a good idea to get too close to the side of the gorge or climb over the railing. An average of seven deaths per year occur in Great Falls Park due to the river. Swimming and jumping into the Potomac River are also strictly prohibited for safety.
If you don't mind the drive there is an entrace to Great Falls park on the Maryland side with different views. I prefer the Virginia side as there are alot of the old canals that can be viewed along the walking path.
"Rock climbing is a challenging sport enjoyed here. Several good stretches of rock offer adventure for climbers and vantage points for those who wish to watch. "
don't forget ot register at visitor center before climbing
Equipment: there is no equipment rental so bring your own
if you only want to climb small rocks in the low area then make sure you have confortable clothing, and sneakers.
Do not wear high heels