Here’s how you can get inside one of the hottest attractions in the DMV.
Great Falls Park is an 800-acre park located on the Potomac River with land in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. Packed with scenic trails and views of the river falls, the park is so popular the parking lots are routinely closed on nice days. Sections of the giant park that are accessible from Maryland are technically in the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal park and can be accessed by the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center and Trails in Montgomery County. Here are some tips and tricks to follow to ensure success on your next visit to the Maryland side of the falls and trails.
If you’re planning on visiting the park, don’t enjoy a late breakfast and take your time getting there. Great Falls Park is a big draw, especially since the pandemic started, and the lots fill up early. The park opens daily at 7 a.m. and closes 30 minutes after sunset. In the summer, it’s good to go in the morning to avoid the heat, especially if you bring your furry friends (Yes! Dogs are welcome in the park on leash except for a few trails).
There are three main parking lots just outside the park, the Anglers, Carderock, and Great Falls parking lot. The Anglers parking lot is located off MacArthur Blvd. and has access to Billy Goat Trails A and B. The Carderock North parking lot is located off Clara Barton Pkwy., near Billy Goat Trail C; the Great Falls parking lot is near the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center and Trails. The lots are free and bathrooms are available nearby.
Courtesy Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Park
Visiting the Park
The Billy Goat, Overlook, and Towpath are the main trails located near the visitor center. Billy Goat Trails A, B, and C vary in difficulty with restrictions. The Overlook includes a suspension bridge where you can view the falls and the Towpath is a 184-mile trail next to the C&O Canal that's great for walkers and cyclists. The Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center is currently closed but is expected to reopen in 2021, along with the refurbished canal boat rides. The C&O Canal Trust has created a free mobile app that helps you get around the park and find points of interest.
The entrance to the Great Falls Visitor Center is located at 11710 MacArthur Blvd. in Potomac, Maryland. Entrance fees are $20 per car, $10 per hiker and biker, or $35 for an annual pass. Due to COVID restrictions, the park is only accepting credit cards. You can buy your passes ahead of time by visiting Recreation.gov. Visitor centers in the park are closed but most restrooms are open. Be sure to bring toilet paper and soap as these supplies are not currently being replenished. Don’t forget water, sunscreen, and snacks, and don't forget to take all of your trash with you.
Which trail is your favorite? Let us know in the comments.