Great Falls Park
McLean, VA
Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network

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Brief Description: Located just 15 miles from the Nation's capital, the Great Falls of the Potomac (so named by the first European colonists) is considered the most spectacular natural landmark in the DC metropolitan area. Here, the Potomac River builds up speed and force as it falls over a series of steep, jagged rocks and flows through a narrow gorge.

Great Falls Park stretches along almost 2 miles of the Virginia side of the Potomac providing a series of trails and overlooks from which to view the falls and the gorge. Administered by the National Park Service, Great Falls Park also preserves the remains of the Potowmack Canal. The canal was initiated by George Washington as a way to link the upper Potomac and the Ohio River Valley to Washington and the Chesapeake. It was later surpassed by the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. Great Falls Park offers numerous recreational activities: bird watching, climbing, cross-country skiing, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, nature walks, and whitewater rafting.

Location / Directions:

FROM AREA AIRPORTS:

From Reagan National Airport: Take the George Washington Memorial Parkway north. Take I-495 South for Virginia. Take Exit 44 Route 193. Follow local area directions below. (approx. 20 minutes)

From Dulles International Airport: Take Dulles Toll Road (I-267) to I-495 North. Take Exit 44, Route 193. Follow local area directions below. (approx. 30 minutes)

From Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) Airport: Take I-95 South. Take I-495 West. Take Exit 44 Route 193. Follow local area directions below. (approx. 1 hour)

LOCAL AREA:

From I-495: Take Exit 44 Route 193, also named Georgetown Pike. Take 193 west. Turn right at Old Dominion Drive (approximately 4 1/2 miles). Straight 1 mile to entrance station. Parking, falls overlooks, and Visitor Center are all centrally located.

Public transportation is not available.

Driving Directions
Physical Address: Great Falls Park
9200 Old Dominion Drive
McLean, VA 22101
Mailing Address: Great Falls Park
George Washington Memorial Parkway
McLean, VA 22101
Phone: (703) 285-2965
Activities:

Great Falls Park Visitor Center:The Visitor Center is within walking distance of the falls overlooks.

Falls Overlooks:The Great Falls of the Potomac can be viewed within a short walk of the visitor center. The overlooks date to the early 20th century when the land was a private amusement park, and Washington, D.C., residents arrived by train.

Ranger-led programs:Join a National Park Ranger for a tour of the park. These include history and nature walks to points of interest, and Overlook talks at the scenic Overlook #2. Daily programs are always posted in the visitor center and outside bulletin boards, or call (703) 285-2966.

Park Trails:Great Falls Park has 15 miles of trails for hiking and exploring. Along the blue-blazed River Trail are places to view the rugged Potomac River and Mather Gorge. A park trail map and a self-guiding brochure for the Patowmack Canal Trail are available at the Visitor Center. Five miles of multiple use trails provide for horseback riding and bicycling.

Picnicking:Picnic tables and some grills are available but cannot be reserved. There are no picnic shelters. You may bring your own grill, but please use charcoal or artificial fuels. The picnic area is near the visitor center.

Birding and Wildlife Viewing Educational Programs Fishing Hiking Picnicking Tours / Walking Tours Canoeing / Kayaking

Operating Hours:

The park is open every day except December 25. The park opens at 7 a.m. and closes at dark. Visitor Center hours are: Summer - 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends; Winter - 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Fees:

An entrance fee is required:

  • Individual: $3.00 for 3 days
  • Vehicle: $5.00 for 3 days
  • Annual park pass: $20.00 (Great Falls Park Passes are valid for 1 year. Passes are also valid on the Maryland side of the falls at the C&O; Canal National Historical Park.)
Size: 800 acres
Accessibility: Handicap Parking is available. Visitor Center and falls overlook #2 (200 yards from Visitor Center) are handicap accessible.
Website: http://www.nps.gov/grfa/

Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network - Comments or Questions: Call: 1-800-YOUR-BAY