Hike the scenic falls and explore the lock system of the Patowmack Canal.
Most people think Great Falls Park is in Virginia, but some of the most popular trails and attractions are actually in Maryland. The Great Falls National Park spans two states as well as the District of Columbia. Situated on the edge of the Potomac River, the 800-acre park features hiking and biking trails, viewing platforms, picnic areas, and the Patowmack Canal. This one-mile canal utilized locks to move barges around the treacherous falls of the Potomac River.
Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center
The Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center is housed in the original tavern built in 1830. From here guests can buy tickets for the canal boat, a towboat that is pulled through the locks and canals by mules. The one-hour boat ride costs $8 for adults, $6 for seniors, and $5 for kids under 15. Children under 4 are free. The area around the visitor’s center also has restrooms and picnic areas. This area of the park is also home to the Billy Goat Trail, one of the busiest, most popular hiking trails in the region.
The Billy Goat Trail A
Billy Goat is separated into three different trails, all varying in degree of difficulty. Billy Goat Trail A is the most popular, and it’s also the most difficult. It has some steep terrain and rocks, and it takes about two hours to complete. The payoff is great views, a visit to a secluded little beach, and a great workout. Be aware: dogs are not allowed on this 1.7-mile trail.
The Beach at Great Falls Park
Billy Goat Trail B
Trail B is a gentler hike with just a few rocks and views of Hermit Island, a favorite of paddle boarders and kayakers. The hike is shorter, about 1.4 miles, and leads to the C&O Canal. Dogs are allowed, and you can access the trail via Anglers parking lot.
Billy Goat Trail C
This is the easiest trail in the park, a leisurely 1.6 miles. Billy Goat C wraps around through the Overlook Trail and leads hikers back to the beginning of Great Falls Park and the Visitors Center. Dogs are also allowed on this trail.
Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center, courtesy National Park Service
How to Get There
The Great Falls Visitor Center is located at 11710 MacArthur Blvd. in Potomac. Entrance fees are $15 per car, $7 per hiker or biker, or $30 for an annual pass. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes and clothing, lather up on sunscreen, and bring plenty of water. Sections of the park are under construction, so check the website for closures before you go.
Have hiked the trails at Great Falls? Which one is your favorite? Tell us in the comments!