This adventure-seeker’s destination is an 800-acre wonder

Located along the banks of the Potomac River in McLean, Virginia, Great Falls Park has recreational offerings as varied as the terrain

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Great Falls Park in McLean, Virginia

Photo by Gary Brooks

An important gathering place for more than 10,000 years, Great Falls Park is an 800-acre wonder along the banks of the Potomac River in McLean, Virginia. Once a homeland for Algonquin, Iroquois, and Siouan peoples, the land became a trading post between native tribes and European settlers. In the early 19th century, it was the site of one of America’s first commercial waterways, the Patowmack Canal, a project presided over by George Washington (you can still see its rock walls and ruins at the park). Today, this adventure-seeker’s destination is a National Park Service site with recreational offerings as varied as the terrain. Known for fishing, horseback riding, rock climbing, and whitewater kayaking, it’s also a popular spot for birdwatchers, bikers, and hikers—after all the C&O Canal Towpath and Potomac Heritage Scenic Trail run right through it. Ranger-led programs are available much of the year, and National Park Week in late April is a great time to explore and learn more. But many visitors come simply to relax, enjoy a picnic, and experience the marvel of the falls with their cascading rapids rushing over ancient, jagged rocks.

This article appears in the Spring 2024 issue of Southbound.

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