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Great Falls Park: Nature in DC’s Backyard

It’s been six years, but I finally made the 45-minute drive to Great Falls Park.
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I can cross it off my DC bucket list, and resolution for this year (if you’ve been following along, I’m still way behind!)

Most friends can’t believe it’s taken me this long to visit one of the closest national parks to the DC area. It must be out of my visit-everything’ nature.

If you’re looking for a break from the city and an easy escape into nature, Great Falls Park is it.

Although only 800 acres, the national park includes picnic areas, 600 parking spots, three scenic overlooks, a visitor center, 15 miles of hiking trails, and cascade falls like you normally don’t find in Maryland and Virginia. I’ll be the first to admit they are no Niagara or Yellowstone, but still beautiful and peaceful in a different way. Remember I said cascade falls.

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It reminded me of growing up and checking out waterfalls along the Columbia River Gorge with my grandmother and aunt– some of my favorite childhood memories.

We packed a picnic and enjoyed the beautiful mid-August weather we had. I don’t get to say that often in DC! As we were leaving at about 12:30, more than 40 cars were lined up waiting to get into the park.

If you go, I recommend arriving earlier in the day on a weekend. Pack plenty of sunscreen and dust yourself with a layer of bug spray. Pack a picnic or stop in nearby Great Falls, McLean, or Tysons Corner on your way home. Strollers would be possible if staying in the scenic overlook area, but it was perfectly safe for our two-year-old to explore on her own.

The next time we go, I think I’ll plan better to be able to check out one of the hiking trails. I don’t think it will be six years from now!

Great Falls Park Visitor Information

  • 9200 Old Dominion Dr., McLean, VA 22102
  • Great Falls Park is open daily from 7 a.m. to dark. The visitor center and bookstore is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A snack bar is open seasonally.
  • Admission is $3 per person coming into the park on foot/bike/horse and $5 per vehicle. Passes are good for three consecutive days and are also valid at C&O Canal National Historic Park in Maryland (includes the Maryland side of Great Falls)
  • Additional Visitor Information:Great Falls Park


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