Great Falls Park

About ten miles northwest of Washington, the Potomac has a series of cascades as it drops about 80 feet. These cascades are called the Great Falls of the Potomac. There are parks overlooking the falls and Mather Gorge below them on both sides of the river, in Virginia and Maryland. The C&O Canal, which is featured elsewhere on my site, traverses the Maryland side, and there are several attractions there such as a restored tavern, a small visitor center, and canal boat rides during the warm weather months. The Maryland side provides excellent viewpoints of the falls, and hikers up to a moderate challenge can get down to the river level on the appropriately named Billy Goat Trail.

The park on the Virginia side has a larger visitor center with exhibits and films, picnic areas, several miles of hiking trails, and the ruins of the locks and adjacent village of a canal around the falls built at the end of the 18th Century by George Washington's Patowmack Company. Serious rock climbers can go down into the gorge from this side, and kayakers like the challenge of the whitewater below the falls. The highlights of the park on the Virginia side for most visitors are the outstanding overlooks of the falls and gorge. One view of the falls (note the kayakers at the base) is shown below.

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