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Interested in hiking Great Falls Park? I’ve visited this gorgeous park solo and with others, and I’ve always had a fantastic time.

Great Falls Park is a 800 acre National Park located less than 30 minutes from Washington,DC. It’s accessible via Virginia or Maryland. Visitors come all across the world to see the River Falls, a waterfall that flows into the Mather Gorge.

There’s a lot of history in this park. You can find indigenous petroglyphs, ancient ruins, and historic homes.

Where is Great Falls, Virginia?

Great Falls is located in Fairfax County. Great Falls is the 2nd wealthiest residential area in the United States. If you’re anything like me, you’ll love watching the beautiful homes and estates on your way to the waterfall. Great Falls is 15 miles from Washington, DC, and a quick getaway on the weekend.

How Much Does it Cost to go to Great Falls Park?

The entrance fee for Great Falls Park is $20 per vehicle, allowing entry for seven consecutive days. If arriving on foot, bicycle, or motorcycle, the cost is $10 per person.

I have the America the Beautiful Annual Pass. It provides access to more than 2,000 federal parks across the United States for a year. The annual pass costs around $80, but veterans, seniors, disabled citizens, and 4th graders can apply online for special discounts.

The Visitor Center at Great Falls Park

Food sign at the Welcome Center at Great Falls park

The visitor center at Great Falls Park is currently under construction, but the facilities are clean and wheelchair accessible. The rangers are super helpful and kind. Before construction began, they offered a fun ten-minute video on the park’s history.

But my favorite part of the visitor center? The snacks! They sell pizza, coffee, and even ice cream! It’s truly one of my favorite trails near DC and extremely child-friendly.

Great Falls Overlook: How to See the Falls Up Close

There are three different overlooks to see the Great Falls. All three are less than ten minutes from the Visitor Center.

Overlook #1

Overlook 1 at Great Falls Park in Virginia is the most popular overlook within the park. It offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Great Falls of the Potomac River. From this vantage point, visitors can witness the powerfulfalls and rapids as the Potomac River rushes through Mather Gorge, a narrow canyon carved by the river’s flow.

waterfall views from overlook 2

The overlook is easily accessible via a short walk from the parking area, making it a must-visit destination for park visitors of all ages and abilities.

During peak seasons, Overlook 1 can get crowded, especially on weekends.

Overlook 2

Overlook 2 at Great Falls Park in Virginia is another scenic viewpoint that offers impressive views of the Potomac River and its cascading waterfalls. Located along the Patowmack Canal Trail, this overlook provides visitors with a different perspective of the Great Falls compared to Overlook 1. While Overlook 1 offers panoramic views of the main cascades, Overlook 2 allows visitors to appreciate the river’s beauty from a slightly different angle.

Visitors can reach Overlook 2 by taking a leisurely stroll along the Patowmack Canal Trail, which runs parallel to the Potomac River. This overlook provides an excellent opportunity for nature enthusiasts and photographers to capture stunning images of the river, the falls, and the surrounding lush landscape. While it may not be as crowded as Overlook 1, Overlook 2 still offers a captivating glimpse into the natural splendor of Great Falls Park.

Overlook 3

Great Falls gorge

Overlook 3 at Great Falls Park in Virginia offers visitors a closer view of the Potomac River and its rapids, It’s located along the River Trail, Accessible via a hike along the River Trail, Overlook 3 is a popular stop for visitors seeking a quieter and more secluded spot to admire the natural surroundings.

Hiking Great Falls Park: Hike Options

a sign with different trail names at Great Falls Park

There are six different hiking trails at Great Falls Park spanning fiften miles. With so many options, there’s a trail for all different hiking levels.

Matildaville Trail

Matildaville Trail is about 2.2 miles. It’s a great kid-friendly trail. Enjoy views of the Potomac river.

People are shocked to realize that there are aancient ruins at this trail. Matilaville was originally built to serve as a home based for those working to build the canal. George Washington wanted to build a canal to link the Potomac and Ohio river sytems. His goal was toincrease trade between the 13 colonies, and to increase he and his neighbors wealth by making Northern Virginia an economic powerhouse.

Swamp Trail

black woman holding a tree branch filled with small red looking fruit

Swamp Trail is the shortest trail, with a quick 1.8 mile hike out and back. This trail is pretty flat and great for bird-watching. It’s a great place to see the wildflowers during the spring.

It’s a great trail for walking your dog, just make sure to wear waterproof shoes.

River Trail

River Trail is the most popular trail at Great Falls Park. Most visitors choose to do the River Trail because of its view. It’s a 3 mile hike that will fly by because of the gorgeous views of Mather Gorger.

We loved seeing the kayakers battling their way upstream.

Old Carriage Road

Old Carriage Trail is a historical trail that spans 3.2 miles. Hundreds of years ago, it was used by settlers to trade. Nowadays, it’s a gorgeous trail often used by cyclists. I would rate this trail as moderate.

Ridge Trail

Ridge Trail is 3 miles. It starts at the lower parking lot and follows Old Carriage road to Ridge Trail junction. This trail is bound to have your calfs on fire because of all of the hills.

Patowmack Canal Trail

Patowmack Canal Trail is 2.5 miles and starts at the upper parking lot. It runs parallel to the canal. The canal was bult between 1785 and 1802 and promoted by George Washington. I love how beautiful this trail looks during the fall folliage.

trees and Potomac river at Great Falls
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