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Fodor's Virginia and Maryland
Great Falls Park
Great Falls Park Review
Facing the C&O Canal National Historical Park across the Potomac River on the Maryland side is Great Falls Park, where the steep, jagged falls of the Potomac roar into the narrow Mather Gorge, the rocky narrows that make the Potomac churn.
The 800-acre park is a favorite for outings; here you can follow trails past the old Patowmack Canal and among the boulders and forests lining the edge of the falls. There are three overlooks in the park, two of which are handicap accessible. Horseback riding is permitted—maps are available at the visitor center—but you can't rent horses in the park. Swimming, wading, overnight camping, and alcoholic beverages are not allowed, but you can fish (a Virginia or Maryland license is required for anglers 16 and older), climb rocks (climbers must register at the visitor center or lower parking lot beforehand), or—if you're an experienced boater with your own equipment—go white-water kayaking (below the falls only). As is true all along this stretch of the river, the currents are deadly. Despite frequent signs and warnings, there are those who occasionally dare the water and drown.
A tour of the visitor center and museum takes 45 minutes. Staff members conduct special tours and walks year-round.
- Address: 9200 Old Dominion Dr., McLean, VA 22102 | Map It
- Phone: 703/285–2966
- Cost: $5 per vehicle; $3 for entry on foot, horse, or bicycle; admission good for 3 days
- Hours: Year-round, daily 7–dusk. Visitor center Apr.–Oct., daily 10–5; Nov.–Mar., daily 10–4
- Website: www.nps.gov/grfa
- Location: Great Falls Park
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