happyly approved

Great Falls, Virginia

9200 Old Dominion Drive McLean, VA 22102

7am-Dark

$$$

outdoor-adventures, parks, hike, run

Explore the beautiful scenery and get out in nature just a small drive from DC!

Great Falls is a wonderful option within a short driving distance from DC, Virginia, and Maryland. You’ll find great hiking and breathtaking scenery, plus it's easy to access from I-495 (Capital Beltway). We enjoy Great Falls for so many reasons and top of that list is the ability to enjoy a hike that suits all ages and athletic/fitness styles.  

Adults and kids alike will revel in the terrain, with stunning cliffs, the majestic Potomac River, raging rapids, and ample wildlife visible throughout the various paths. Trails, many of which are stroller and wheelchair friendly (including two of the gorgeous overlooks), are rated easy to difficult, with trailheads conveniently located adjacent to parking lots. This is different from the Maryland side, where a relatively long walk is required to view the Falls. Both experiences are lovely, but for those just looking to catch a look, Virginia's views are right by the parking lot, so no hiking and very little walking is required.

One of the overlooks is quite challenging to traverse and is not easily accessible. The kids love it but stay close to your little ones as they climb. The other two are accessible for all levels and abilities. 

During and after heavy rainfall, trails can become treacherous with muddy rocks, slippery gravel, and vernal ponds. For families with bolder, older children, this may add to the fun, but for those with little ones, it’s best to wait for fairer weather or commit to the more traveled routes. If you would like to double your adventure by visiting two nature parks in one shot and have a group with excellent stamina, pack a picnic lunch and hike up the river to Riverbend Park, connected by trails about 1.8 miles away in the actual town of Great Falls, Virginia.

The Virginia side offers 15 miles of trails that meander through the trees and pass along the falls, affording hikers fantastic views of the Mather Gorge. The Visitor Center allows families to take a break, grab a bite, and learn about the park and the history of the area. There are a variety of exhibits, a large room for demonstrations or speakers, and very friendly staff on hand. Be sure to grab a Junior Ranger book when you set out on your journey, and return to the Nature Center for your badge after completing your mission.

We love taking a picnic and making a day of Great Falls, there's so much to explore and enjoy. If you didn't bring a picnic, grab a bite to eat before or after just fifteen minutes southeast at Lost Dog Cafe or Moby Dick House of Kabob, also in McLean.

Go just a few minutes further for some extra fun at the impressive Clemyjontri Park Playground.

Features

Good for All Ages Dog-friendly River views Scenic Walk Nature
Thoughtfully captured by:
The happyly team

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