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Exploring the Great Falls Washington DC: A Must-Do Adventure

Updated: Feb 27

Located in Potomac, Maryland, the Great Falls of the Potomac River is an amazing sight to see if you’re ever in the area! The falls are a series of rapids and cascades along the Potomac River.  You can hike and explore this gorgeous natural area year-round, though spring and fall tend to be the most excellent times to visit. Let’s take a look at what makes the Great Falls such a special destination and why you should visit Great Falls Park as soon as you get the chance!

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Great Falls of the Potomac near DC

Great Falls Washington DC: Getting there

There are two ways to access The Great Falls of the Potomac, each with its advantages. One way is from Virginia's side and the other is from Maryland's side. Getting there was pretty simple. We simply put the address for the Great Falls Visitors Center in Maryland into our car's navigation system. The drive was easy and scenic!

For more information on how to get to the Great Falls Washington DC visit the National Park Service website.

What you’ll experience

Visiting the falls is a must-see for any traveler to Maryland, but it's worth noting that you have to get there early in the day since parking spaces can fill up fast. I recommend getting there as close to opening time as possible so you're not left standing at the gate waiting to enter. Once inside, you'll find expansive views and plenty of space to enjoy nature on your own terms.

Do You Have to Pay to Get into Great Falls Park?

Visiting The Great Falls of the Potomac is free, but there are a few areas where an entrance fee might be charged. For example, if you want to kayak on the river or visit Billy Goat Island, you will have to pay a small fee. You can find more information about what costs money by checking out their website.

In our case, we visited the Great Falls Tavern area in Potomac, MD. We paid a $20 entrance fee per vehicle. The parking lot was close to the trail, bathroom, and picnic areas.

Great Fall of the Potomac

Where to park your car?

Parking is at a premium near The Great Falls, so visitors are encouraged to use public transportation. If you must drive, find a spot as far away from the park as possible, such as on Georgetown Pike or River Road. It will take longer to walk to The Great Falls than if you parked closer. But remember that there is limited parking and traffic can be heavy during peak hours.

As I mentioned above, we parked in the Great Falls Tavern area in Potomac, MD. We paid a $20 entrance fee per vehicle. The parking lot was close to the trail, bathroom, and picnic areas.

What to Wear to the Great Falls of the Potomac River?

The best way to prepare for a day trip to The Great Falls is to dress comfortably, with clothing that can take you from an outdoor walk along the river's edge and into a tour of the mill buildings. Wear comfortable shoes and bring water. You'll want to get out on the trails, so wear something you can move freely in. Pack sunscreen and don't forget your camera!

Are Dogs Allowed in Great Falls Park?

Dogs are not allowed on any trails, but they are allowed along the banks of the Potomac River and in picnic areas. Dogs must always be on a leash and owners must clean up after their pets at all times. There is a dog run at the C&O Canal Towpath, which is located across from Carderock Recreation Area on MacArthur Blvd.

Because our little pup was not allowed on the trails which had the best view of the river, we took turns taking in the view. There was a nice area with a bench to sit on just before the trail.

Is it fun for kids?

Yes, Great Falls Park is a fun place for kids. There are a few different things to do there such as fishing, walking on trails, and viewing the falls. Kids will enjoy the fresh air, climbing on rocks, seeing wildlife, and more. While we were there, we saw deer, foxes, ducks, spiders, and geese.

Visiting The Great Falls of The Potomac is an exciting way to experience nature. Not only is it a great way to get some exercise and fresh air, but it's also one of the most beautiful places on earth. If you live in or are visiting Maryland, this should be high on your list of things to do! We had a beautiful time, and cannot wait to visit again!

Happy Travels!

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