Great Falls (Virginia)

Great Falls National Park is located in Virginia, but you can access the view from Virginia or Maryland.  When I first moved to D.C., I visited Great Falls from the Virginia side at the end of October, and then I really wanted to return and visit the Maryland side to do some hiking and see the other view  (Check out my previous blog to learn about the Maryland side!).  When I returned to hike the Billy Goat Trail, I decided to head over to the Virginia side again to take a look from over there.  This blog describes my experiences from both times of the year (summer and fall) so you can decide for yourself what time of the year is the best time to visit.

The Virginia side of the falls had a lot more traffic in the summer than the fall.  A sign when we turned down the entrance road told us to expect a wait of 45 minutes to get in.  Luckily, we only waited about 30 minutes, and there was plenty of parking to choose from when we did finally get past the ranger station.  There is a food stand and lots of picnic tables, and many people were taking advantage of both things.  This side of Great Falls is more green and grassy than the Maryland side.

Since I had already visited the Virginia side, my friend Cacia and I just went for the overlooks.  The crowds at the overlooks were actually smaller in the summer than my fall visit, and I was happy to see that the falls had quite a bit more water flow than the first time I saw them.

Great Falls in August 2017 from Overlook #1

After taking a quick look from Overlook #1 and Overlook #2, Cacia and I headed back to the car to get some dinner.  However, when I visited in the fall, there was far less traffic and people floating around than in the summer.  My friends, Jessica and Meg, and I pulled right into the parking lot, and while a few people were getting hot drinks from the food area, people were mostly visiting the park to see the falls and leave.  The leaves were beautiful, and a few people were trying to kayak up the falls.  The falls are very small in the fall and look like rapids from the three outlook points.

A view of the falls in October 2016 from Overlook #2.  The water and skies look so different from one picture to the next!

There were lots of dogs and families out on the nature paths in October.  I would not consider there to be any hiking on this side of the falls, but there are lots of nature paths to take a leisurely and flat walk along.  While wandering down one, we discovered that we could get closer to the water on one path, and it was fun to sit on the rocks and enjoy the water sounds.  We also enjoyed walking along a different path looking at the autumn leaves.


While I prefer the Maryland side of Great Falls since there are hiking trails, the Virginia side has the benefit of being more friendly for Hudson the little Poma-Poo.  This summer trip to Great Falls also lead to the break-even point of my America the Beautiful National Parks pass!  After saving $20 to enter Assateague Island in May, $25 at Shenandoah in June, $25 at the Everglades in July, and $10 at Great Falls in August, I am at $80/$80 spent for my National Parks pass.  It’s all a bonus from here!  It should be interesting how much overall savings this pass leads to.

I hope you enjoyed my blog post for this week.  I just returned from Utah, and I had so much fun visiting so many amazing sites in Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon!  I will be working on those blogs to post over the next few weeks, but next week’s post is all about my two recent trips to Harper’s Ferry to tube and see the historic town.  See you next time!