Summary: The little hike starts out only suggestive of what's to come. The dam just across the C&O Canal show's that there's a lot of water flowing through the Potomac. Walk down the towpath a short way and you see a section of the channel narrow and you begin to see the water really move. You make a turn off the towpath onto a boardwalk and you start to hear it; a constant rumble in the distance. The first bridge is across a gorge where the water roars through a chute cut 20 feet deep. More boardwalk and another chute but your not there yet.
When you reach the overlook itself you see the bulk of the Potomac River pouring in great torrents through the gorge. With a shap eye you will see the occasional kayaker, looking like a toy boat being swept along past high, broken rocks.
On the way back, be sure to pay attention to the unique "swamp on top of a rocky dessert" ecosystem that the boardwalk you walk on is designed to protect.
Trailhead: 14 miles west of Washington DC. On Route 190 outboud from Washington, turn South onto Route 189 at the town of Potomac. At the T-intersection you will turn right onto MacArthur Blvd. which will take you to the parking lot at the Great Falls Tavern. Exit 41 of Route 495 also connects to MacArthur Blvd.
There is a $5 per car parking fee.
The Great Falls Tavern has historical displays and maps of the C&O Canal, Applachian Trail and other parks and trails in the area. Nearby there is a water fountain, rest room and a food cincession stand that operates in season. (Lat:39.00148 Lon:-77.2469)
Trail Guides for Great Falls Overlook:
The C&O Canal Companion
by Mike High (Johns Hopkins University Press)
Best Seasons: Year-Round
User Groups: Hikers,
Ranger Contact: C&O Canal National Historic Park 301-739-4200
Localhikes Reporter: This hike was submitted by Kevin Geiselman, who has posted 96 other hikes on this site. To visit this reporters web site, click here.
Trail Reviews Submit your own review
Reviewed by Todd on 2/22/2009
The trails at Great Falls are nice, but if you what a little extra difficulty along with some spectacular scenary, take the kayak access trails down to the water at the second overlook and then again at the bridge farther along the trail. There are many rock climbing potentials and not a lot of people take these pretty intense alternatives. Highly recommended!
Reviewed by Lamp on 2/12/2009
Plan on large crowds any weekend, especially warm weather. Very popular and crowded, but still worth it.
Notice: Traveling in the backcountry can be hazardous. You are responsible for informing yourself about these hazards and taking necessary precautions. Information on this web site comes from volunteer reporters and may contain errors or omissions. A current guidebook and proper equipment are essential for safe enjoyment of the hikes posted on this site.
Keys: Maryland Hiking, Maryland Trails, Maryland Hikes, Montgomery County Hiking, Montgomery County Trails, Montgomery County Hikes