Trash Free Park
Great Falls Park is now a trash free park. Trash cans have been removed. Please come prepared to carry your trash out with you. More »
Learn more about how to stay safe around the Potomac. The Potomac has dangerous currents and going into the river is not permitted. Swimming and wading could cost you your life. Stay safe. Stay out of the river. More »
There are many opportunities for outdoor recreation at Great Falls Park. This page contains information on the different activities offered here. Please note that swimming, wading, hunting, and camping are not permitted in the park. Nearby parks may offer some of these activities. Visit the Nearby Attractions page for links to area parks. Great Falls Park is a trash free park.
Falls and River Viewing
The three Falls overlooks are within a two to ten minute walk from the Visitor Center. Overlooks 2 and 3 are accessible and have ramps that go down to the overlook platforms.Bicycling
Five miles of trails, including the Old Carriage Road, Ridge, and Difficult Run trails, are open for biking. Biking is not permitted on the Falls overlooks, or on the River, Patowmack Canal, Mine Run, or Matildaville Trails. A bike rack is located behind the visitor center. The entrance fee for cyclists arriving by bike is $3.00 per person. Annual passes are also available at the entrance station.
Don't forget your binoculars and bird guides! Depending on the season and the time of day, you have a chance of viewing some of the 163 species of birds that can be found here. Among them are waterfowl such as ducks, geese, and herons. Other species include songbirds, woodpeckers, vultures, and kingfishers. This large variety of birds makes Great Falls Park an excellent location for birding.Boating
Climbing sites begin downstream of Overlook #2 and end near the emergency boat ramp at Sandy Landing. No climbing is permitted in the historic canal cut. Routes range in length from 25 to 75 feet. Difficulty ranges from 5.0 up to the highest rated climbs at 5.14. Most of the routes are in the 5.5 to 5.9 range. All climbing is top-rope and no anchors may be drilled into the rock. Bring enough anchor material to have two independent anchor systems and allow about thirty feet of material from the edge to your anchor and you will be set to move to almost every climbing area in the park. The majority of the climbs are accessible via a walk down route except during periods of high water, above 4.5 on the Little Falls gauge. The river gauge reading is reported in the weather section of the Washington Post under the title 'River Stages.'
Fishing is permitted with either a Virginia or Maryland state fishing license for all fishermen over the age of 16. The park does not issue licenses, but they can be purchased at fishing/sporting goods stores, hardware stores, and some convenience stores. A regulation book for fishing is given with each license issued, although you may need to request one. For more information on the fishing regulations, you may contact the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, which administers the Potomac River. Line fishing is allowed, but net fishing is prohibited.Hiking
The park has about ten miles of multi-use trails open for riding. Trails open to horseback riding are the Old Carriage Road, Difficult Run, Mine Run, Matildaville, and Ridge Trails only. *Please note: there is a complete washout midway down the Difficult Run Trail that is impassable on horseback. However, work to repair this damage is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2014 (Please contact the park for any additional information).
Riding is not permitted on the Patowmack Canal Trail, Falls overlooks, and the River Trail. Trail rides are not offered by the park. Visitors who would like to ride must bring their own horses.
Picnic tables and grills are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. There are no covered shelters and reservations are not accepted.
Did You Know?
Water temperatures in the Potomac can drop to freezing and ice will form along the banks. However, the water is moving too quickly through the Great Falls to completely freeze over.