If you find yourself in the Washington, D.C. area on a pleasant day, I recommend taking a drive to Great Falls National Park in McLean, Virginia (a town about 17 miles west of Washington, D.C.). Great Falls National Park is a destination offering plenty for nature and history lovers alike, without requiring a far drive away from the metropolitan area.
What is Great Falls National Park?
Great Falls National Park is an 800 acre park along the banks of the Potomac River in Northern Virginia, about 20 minutes outside Washington, D.C. With spectacular falls, rushing white water, hiking trails, and historical remains in the park, it is a popular destination with both locals and visitors alike.
What is worth seeing in Great Falls National Park?
See the Great Falls of the Potomac: There are three overlook points, all within a five minute walk of each other, where you can take in the rushing waters of Great Falls.
Enjoy a hike along the Potomac’s dramatic clifftops: Great Falls Park has over fifteen miles of hiking trails. For a map showing the various trails available, click here.
Explore one of the nation’s first canals: The remains of the Potowmack Canal, the first canal in the United States that used locks to raise and lower boats, are within the park grounds.
View the ruins of Matildaville: Matildaville was a town along the Potowmack Canal that was chartered in the 1790s but had already declined by the mid-19th century. Currently all that remains are a series of ruins.
What should I bring with me to Great Falls National Park?
Water, sturdy walking shoes, sunscreen, and a picnic!
If you don’t want to bring your own food, Great Falls National Park has a snack bar open from March to November (Wed-Sun, 10am-4pm) that offers light snacks, hot dogs, pizza, french fries, and drinks.
How much does it cost to enter Great Falls National Park?
The cost to enter Great Falls National Park is $10 per vehicle or $5 per person if you enter on foot, bicycle, or equestrian. Admission to Great Falls Park is valid for three consecutive days.
Cash or credit card is accepted.
There are a number of fee free holidays, and entry is free during National Park Week. For more information on these specific days, click here.
Where is Great Falls National Park?
Great Falls Park is located 17 miles outside of Washington, D.C. in McLean, Virginia.
From Washington, D.C., take the George Washington Memorial Parkway until you see the exit for I-495 S. Continue on Georgetown Pike until you see Old Dominion Drive.
From Northern Virginia and Maryland, drive along Georgetown Pike until you see Old Dominion Drive.
Have you been to Great Falls National Park? What’s your favorite U.S. National Park?