Northern Virginia Sights

Great Falls Park

  • 9200 Old Dominion Dr. Map It
  • McLean
  • Park (National/State/Provincial)
  • Fodor's Choice

Published 01/10/2017

Fodor's Review

Facing the C&O Canal National Historical Park across the Potomac River on the Virginia side, this is where the steep, jagged falls of the Potomac roar into the narrow Mather Gorge, the rocky narrows that make the Potomac churn. No matter the time of year, the views of the falls and river are spectacular, and more than 150 species of birds make their home in and around the 800-acre park.

Great Falls 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 first at the visitor center or lower

parking lot), 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.

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Sight Information


9200 Old Dominion Dr., McLean, Virginia, 22102, USA

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Sight Details:

  • $10 per vehicle; $5 for entry on foot, horse, or bicycle; admission good for 3 days

Published 01/10/2017


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