Great Falls Park is a stunning national park site located just outside of Washington D.C. along the Potomac River. The park is relatively small, but offers incredible views and hiking trails.
Here’s how to see the best of Great Falls in one day.
In short, you need to do the Falls Overlook Trail and Section A of the Billy Goat Trail.
Start at the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center, in Potomac, Maryland. There is lots of parking, and a visitor center with information, restrooms, and water. I’ve heard that the park gets crowded during the summer and on weekends, so plan to go early or on a weekday. There is a $15/vehicle entry fee. Stop in the visitor center for a map and to refill your water bottle. The Billy Goat Trail is strenuous, so take more water than you think you will need.
From the visitor center, cross the footbridge over the canal, turn left, and continue walking down the canal’s towpath. Continue until you see the start of the Great Falls Overlook trail. This easy, quarter-mile footpath takes you to the best views of the falls themselves. You won’t actually see the falls from the Billy Goat Trail, so make sure you take the time to walk this short trail! The trail ends at a magnificent overlook of the river and rapids.
The Overlook trail is out and back, so once you’ve finished gazing at the falls, continue back on the tow path in the same direction. After about 15 minutes, you’ll reach a covered bridge. The Billy Goat trailhead is on your right just before the bridge. The trailhead is marked with lots of signs warning you of danger, so you really can’t miss it.
Now it’s time to hike the trail! This trail is wild, with sheer cliffs, amazing views, and lots of rock scrambling. Be prepared with excellent footwear, snacks, and water. About halfway through, you have the option to take a shortcut back to the tow path and visitor’s center. I recommend taking the extra hour to go the long way around. Yo’ll be rewarded with more rock scrambles and views.
The trail will eventually loop back to the tow path, which will take you back to the parking lot.
This park is definitely worth a visit!
Looking for other hiking trips? Check out 6 weekend trips within 4 hours of Dover, Delaware!
I'm Abby, a traveling photographer and writer, and I'm most passionate about connecting people with the outdoors, and I started this blog because I believe in the power of visual communication to move people from awareness of the outdoors all the way to stewardship of natural resources.