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Recreation Across Virginia

Great Falls State Park

Great Falls, National Park Service
Located only 15 miles from the nation’s Capital, Great Falls Park is an 800 acre escape into nature for dwellers of Washington, D.C.

The falls are an overflow of the Potomac River, which flows into the Mather Gorge.

For centuries, the Great Falls have been a gathering place for people to fish, hike, and discover nature.

In 1784, George Washington’s plan was to make the Potomac River as navigable as the Ohio River, thus drawing people west. George Washington’s work on the river required the cooperation of multiple states, thus preparing him for the job of President a few years later.

Constructors worked to make a canal of the river, with locks to bypass the Great Falls. Getting around the falls involved a system with a series of five locks that lowered or raised boats around the sharp drop.

Thousands of boats used the Patowmack Canal upon its completion. The canal was abandoned in 1830, when workers aimed to build a waterway stretching from Georgetown to Maryland.

Today, Great Falls and the Patowmack Canal are protected by the National Park Service.


Great Falls National Park is located in Northern Virginia, in the town of McLean.

The address of the park is 9200 Old Dominion Drive, McLean, Virginia, 22102.

Great Falls is a 30 minute drive from Washington, D.C., and a two hour drive from Richmond.

From Roanoke and from Virginia Beach, the park is a three and a half hour drive away.

Hours and Admission

The park is open daily from 7 a.m. until dusk.

The Visitor Center is open daily from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. The snack bar is open seasonally.

The Visitor Center contains brochures, trail maps, and a museum. Throughout the year, events are held in the auditorium of the Visitor Center.

A children’s room is also located in the Visitor Center. This room contains puzzles, games, and educational activities for children.

Admission to the park is $3 per individual or $5 per vehicle. These passes last for three consecutive days.

Annual passes to the park are $20.

Things to Do

From the Visitor Center, the three Falls overlooks are can be reached by walking within two to ten minutes.

The park has fifteen miles of hiking, biking, and bridle trails, including the River Trail, which offers one of the best views of the Falls.

Fishing is permitted with a valid Virginia or Maryland license. Swimming and wading are not permitted.

Picnic tables and grills are available for use. They cannot be reserved and are filled on a first come, first serve basis.

Hours: 7:00 a.m to Dusk
Location: McLean
Address: 9200 Old Dominion Drive, 22012
Telephone: 703-285-2965
Web site:
Cost: $3/individual, $5/ vehicle
Latitude: 38.998165
Longitude: -77.288316

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Walton’s Mountain Museum
Virginia Aquarium
Virginia Air and Space Center
Yorktown Battlefield
Jefferson’s Monticello
Maymont Park and Estate
Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall
Natural Bridge Nature’s Art
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