Great Falls National Park is about 15 miles from Washington DC. I had never heard of it until now. We were searching for local trails to hike and found this on a trail website. We went to the NPS site for more information (http://www.nps.gov/grfa/index.htm). There is a park fee of $5 per vehicle for three consecutive days or $3 per individual. Our NPS annual pass got us into the park.
We went on a weekend and it was crowded! We visited the Visitors Center first and walked past the expensive bookstore to get a free paper trail map from the NPS rep, then we headed out. We took the trail hugging the river and it was spectacular. It was crowded at first but it thinned out as the trail became more challenging and as we walked further away from the main built up area. The river trail is a good challenge, negotiating downed trees, boulders and steep climbs and it was well worth it. We combined the river trail with the ridge trail then doubled back when we intersected Difficult Run trail. That trail just leads to the main road and we wanted to avoid ending our hike along a main road.
There are several trails of different lengths and challenges. There are trails for families with small children and strollers, like the Old Carriage Road trail. I wouldn't recommend the river trail for small children unless one stays within the built up area (picnic area) because of the cliffs and steep climb further down the way on the trail.
Because of the crowds on the weekend, the main restroom by the Visitors Center was also crowded. There is another restroom at the intersection of Matildaville trail and Old Carriage trail. There is one kiosk area to buy some food, ice cream and drinks and it's typical expensive. We brought in our food and water and left with our refuse and some additional refuse left on the trail by some slobs...plastic water bottles. The park is a trash-free park so there are no trash cans. Take out what your brought in...minus whatever is deposited in the restroom.
Great Falls is a nice day trip for the entire family.
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