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Virginia

Great Falls Park




Open to the Public

Yes

Things To Do

Take a self-guided audio tour. View All

Plan Your Visit

Some things to keep in mind while planning your trip. View All

Get Directions

At Great Falls, the Potomac River builds up speed and force as it falls over a series of steep, jagged rocks and flows through the narrow Mather Gorge.

A 1957 Conservancy booklet - published with support from partners - helped galvanize the public, the media, government officials, and other organizations in calling for a park at Great Falls on the Potomac River. The National Park Service protected the land in 1960 and Great Falls Park opened to the public in 1966. Only 15 miles from the nation’s capital, Great Falls Park hosts a half-million visitors annually for activities ranging from picnics to hiking.

Why You Should Visit

The Potomac River and the unique geological features have shaped the land at Great Falls for millennia. Floods regularly occur along this stretch of the river, taking away soils and plants and depositing new silt and seeds to take their place. This is a dynamic environment, home to rare plant communities and a variety of wildlife.  Most of the park's 800 acres are forested. Throughout the year, over 150 different species of birds can be seen at Great Falls Park. Native animals, such as whitetail deer, fox, box turtles, squirrels, coyotes, bats, and chipmunks also call this place home. A wide variety of plants, including several rare species, thrives in this environment.

Want to explore other parts of the Potomac River?  Download our audio tours for Fraser Preserve and the Potomac Gorge.  The Potomac Gorge audio guide will help you navigate Bear Island's renowned Billy Goat Trail.

Location

Great Falls Park
9200 Old Dominion Dr.
McLean, VA 22102

eBird Observations

Hours

The park is open 7:00 a.m. - dark, daily.  The Visitor Center is open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. daily. 

Park Fees

  • $3.00 Individual Pass. Good for three consecutive days for individuals coming into the park on foot, horseback, or bicycle
  • $5.00 Vehicle Pass. Good for three consecutive days for one vehicle, including motorcycles, in Great Falls Park and C&O Canal National Historical Park in Maryland
  • $20.00 Annual Pass. Good for one year from the date of purchase in Great Falls Park and C&O Canal National Historical Park in Maryland

Download an Audio Tour

Planning a visit to Great Falls Park? Before your trip, download our self-guided audio tour to your handheld device. It's like having a naturalist in your pocket!

  • Step 1: Download the Great Falls audio tour map. This map will help identify which audio tracks to play based on your location on the trail, so make sure to take a copy with you on your trip.


  • Step 2: Download and save the mp3 audio files to your handheld device. Play the corresponding track when you reach a waypoint along the trail. Listen to them all or pick & choose based on your interests!
     

Tour stops 1 - 7

Tour stops 8 - 15

  • The busiest times are on nice weekend afternoons. There is usually a line to enter the park on those days
  • Great Falls is open from 7 a.m. until dark daily
  • Dogs and other pets are welcome, but must be on a six foot leash and under physical control at all times. Remember to clean up after your pet
  • Ranger programs are offered on most days. Check with the Visitor Center for details
  • Alcohol is not permitted in the park
  • Swimming and wading are not allowed in the park
  • Picnic tables and grills are available on a first come, first serve basis. No reservations are needed for picnics
  • There is an entrance fee to enter the park
  • The snack bar is open seasonally. There are no vending machines in the park
  • One wheelchair is available for loan on a first-come, first-serve basis at the Visitor Center. There is no cost to use the wheelchair
  • Rules and regulations for Great Falls Park can be found at the National Park Service website

 

Directions

From the Beltway (I-495):

  • Take exit 44 for Route 193, Georgetown Pike
  • At the top of the exit ramp, there is a traffic light.
  • If you are exiting from I-495 South, take a right at the light onto Route 193 West.
  • If you are coming from I-495 North from points south or I-66, you will take a left at the traffic light onto Route 193 West.
  • Travel approximately 3 miles to the traffic light at the intersection of Old Dominion Drive. Turn right at the light
  • Old Dominion Drive will dead end at the park's entrance station, about one mile down the road

From I-66:

  • Take the I-495 North exit
  • Once on the Beltway, take the next exit, Exit 44, and follow the directions from I-495

For additional directions from points in the DC metro area, visit the National Park Service's website.

 

Discussion

Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

Add Your Comments

Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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