foley remodeling hiking trails in great falls

Trails at Great Falls Park That Are Perfect for Exploring This Fall

What better time is there than fall to explore nature’s beauty? The cold months are coming, which means it is time to break out the hiking boots and enjoy the last hurrahs of autumn. It’s cool enough out for sweaters, but the sun is still warming the ground, so get out there and enjoy it while you still can!

If you live in Great Falls, Virginia, you are probably already aware of the state’s crown jewel, Great Falls Park. The park is an 800-acre natural haven, featuring a stunning landscape enjoyed by tourists and locals alike.

The park is perhaps best known for its stellar view of the Great Falls of the Potomac, where an enchanting series of 20-foot waterfalls and cascading rapids spray down to travel the Mather Gorge below. 

Four Best Hiking Trails in Great Falls Park

With over 15 miles of hikeable terrain, Great Falls Park has plenty of scenic trails and locales that make the price of entry worthwhile. Today, we’re sharing a list of our favorite walking, hiking, biking, and riding trails at Great Falls Park so you can enjoy them as well.

North River Trail

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: 1.5 miles one way, three miles round-trip

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The North River Trail brings you from the Great Falls visitor center to the Riverbend Park visitor center. This trail is only for hiking, but because a small portion of the trail crosses the Aqueduct Dam, it is not accessible for strollers or wheelchairs. Except for a short climb up the dam’s rocky hillside, this trail is gentle and straightforward, perfect for all hikers. Although the wildflowers aren’t in season during fall, avid bird watchers are sure to enjoy the view. Eagle-eyed hikers may even spy beaver activity along the way!

River Trail

Difficulty: Hard

Length: 1.5 miles one way, three miles round-trip

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The River Trail is for those with a true adventurer’s spirit. Another 1.5-mile one-way trek, this hike is more difficult than its more northerly counterpart. You’ll hike along the tops of the cliffs that line the Potomac River and Mather Gorge. With drop-offs ranging from 25-75 feet, it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. However, for anybody willing to brave the rock scrambles and shifty terrain, the views are well worth the effort. 

Patowmack Canal Trail

Difficulty: Easy

Length: 1.25 miles one way, 2.5 miles round-trip

foley remodeling hiking trails in great falls

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This lovely little trail is an ideal walking path for a more relaxed meander through the park, and it’s also wheelchair and stroller accessible. It follows the remains of the historic Patowmack Canal, one of five skirting canals that were the brainchild of George Washington, who designed the system to bypass the treacherous rapids of the Potomac River and enable easier passage through the states. You’ll see the over 200-year-old ruins of the Great Falls Canal, and you won’t miss catching an eyeful of the incredible falls! This gentle trail passes all three of the park’s overlooks, which offer stunning views of the rapids from various angles.

Old Carriage Road/Swamp Trail

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: 1.6 miles one way, 3.2 miles round-trip/0.9 miles one way, 1.8 miles round-trip

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Old Carriage Road lets you hike, bike, or travel by horseback through its shaded, mature woods. Although it is smooth sailing, for the most part, the path intersects the southern tip of Swamp Trail and becomes quite hilly, making it tricky traveling for wheelchairs and strollers. This path will take you through the woods and up the park’s southern ridge, the whole way lined with lush foliage. Birds and wildlife of all kinds are regularly found along the trail. If you do choose to veer off onto the Swamp Trail, you’ll find yourself in a low-lying marshy area, with lots of rocks and downed trees to liven up your hike. However, if you prefer, there’s a raised walkway to keep you high and dry, even while adventuring.

Whichever route you choose, you’re bound to enjoy the natural beauty of the falls and their surrounding trails. So get out there and enjoy the last of the warm weather. Spend time with loved ones, or find yourself on a solo hike. There’s no wrong way to spend time at Great Falls Park.

Now the choice is yours: which path will you take? Do you have any favorite fall hikes in the Great Falls area? We’d love to hear about them! Reach out today, and let’s talk about it.

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