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Exploring The Beauty Of Great Falls National Park Virginia

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Great Falls National Park has been on our bucket list for many years. While planning a road trip for our family recently, the stars aligned as this area would be a perfect halfway point for us. When visiting, you can choose to spend the day exploring or just a couple of hours as the park has easy access to the overlooks from the parking area.

This National Park (NPS) in Virginia, USA spans 800 acres (3.2 km2) along the picturesque Potomac River in northern Fairfax County. The park’s beauty comes from the river that gains momentum and power, cascading over rugged rocks and traversing the narrow Mather Gorge, forming a captivating spectacle with numerous waterfalls.

The Great Falls of the Potomac River lies near the park’s northern boundary, along with the remnants of the Patowmack Canal—the inaugural canal in the United States utilizing locks for boat elevation and descent.

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To give you the best opportunity to see everything, three overlooks provide distinct vantage points of the falls. Overlook one, while offering the closest view, features a rocky trail unsuitable for wheelchairs or strollers, and perhaps challenging for young children.

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Overlooks two and three offer a broader perspective of the falls and are both stroller and handicap accessible.

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If you are looking to explore for the day the park offers fifteen miles (24 km) of hiking trails tracing the park. These paths follow the course of Difficult Run, a meandering stream. A scenic trail near the river leads upstream from a landing at the mouth of Difficult Run, ascends to the summit of Mather Gorge, and passes by the falls, a dam, and a reservoir before concluding at Fairfax County’s Riverbend Park.

Great Falls National Park Virginia

At first glance, it would seem difficult for anyone to navigate through the rocky channels with a watercraft. Great Falls are classified as Class 5-6 Whitewater on the International Scale of River Difficulty. In 1975 Tom McEwan made history as the first kayaker to conquer them. Since the early 1990s, the Falls have become a favored destination for whitewater enthusiasts in the DC area. Below the falls, through Mather Gorge, the river holds a Class 2-3 rating, attracting kayakers since the 1960s.

A visit to Great Falls Park is highly recommended if you find yourself in the area. The breathtaking views and abundant wildlife enhance the experience. While our visit was brief, the park’s beauty left us in awe.

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Entrance to the park incurs a $20 fee per car for visitors driving in. There are open spaces and tables you can use to enjoy lunch or dinner with your family.

We stayed at the Embassy Suites Tysons Corner during our stay. Here is a video review of our King Suite room.

Lisa Arneill
Lisa Arneill
Canadian mom of 2 busy boys (one with #ASD), photo addict, lover of adventure and wrinkly dogs. Also founder of Growing Your Baby - a parenting website.

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