Great Falls Virginia

Great Falls Virginia came by its name honestly. Located where the Potomac River breaks into a series of steep drops and tumbling waterfalls, both the town and the park called Great Falls draw the attention of outdoor adventurers. But there is more to this area than a great location and marvelous sights. Both Great Falls and neighboring McLean have a lot to offer on their own. Here you’ll find excellent shopping, a village green with year-round festivals, plentiful overnight accommodations and a rich history discover, all a stone’s throw from America’s capital city, Washington DC

Great Falls Virginia History

Great Falls Virginia History
Great Falls Virginia History Image: gfhs.org/Colvin Mill

Fairfax County, the home of Great Falls, is the largest county in Virginia by population, home to nearly 15 percent of the population of the entire Baltimore-Washington metro area. It’s also home to Fortune 500 companies and many major government agencies, but it started out small. Great Falls and its neighbors were settled in the 1740s. A few decades later, George Washington picked a prime spot along the Potomac River to build his home, Mount Vernon. The president wanted to open the river to navigation, but the steep decline of the river and the narrow gorge made navigation nearly impossible. The construction of the Patowmack Canal, spurred by Washington's vision, changed the fortunes of this area next to the capital. Soon, the town of Great Falls became a popular place to settle for government workers and others who wanted to live near Washington. Both the residents and visitors were drawn to the falls to see the sights and have fun.   

Great Falls National Park

Great Falls National Park
Great Falls National Park

Because of its unique history and important story, the Great Falls and surrounding lands were set aside as protected land by the U.S. Congress in the 1930s. Today, the national park is a popular place for hiking, soaking in the sights, and learning the history of this unique area. Park rangers lead guided tours year-round, and the visitor center is always  available to tell even more of the story of Great Falls Virginia. Within in a few minutes of the visitor center, you’ll find viewing platforms and biking trails. The river is open to kayaking and boating, but because of the rapids, only experts will want to give it a try.

Great Falls Virginia Hiking

Great Falls Virginia Hiking
Great Falls Virginia Hiking Image: WDanRoberts (flickr)

The park surrounding the falls is a great place for a hike for people of all fitness levels. Fifteen miles of hiking trails and 10 miles of equestrian trails wind through the national park, and maps are available at the visitor center to show the way. The rangers also can fill you in about the ins and outs of rock climbing. The park is known as one of the best areas in the DC Metro area for climbing; its climbs range from 25 to 75 feet, all with a moderate difficulty  

Great Falls Virginia Hotels

Great Falls Virginia Hotels
Great Falls Virginia Hotels

No matter if you spent the day climbing rocks, snapping pictures of the Great Falls or hanging out at Tysons Corner Mall, you’ll need a place to get some rest at the end of the day. With lower rates than the hotels within the Beltline, the Great Falls hotels are a favorite of bargain hunters. The next-door Tysons Corner hotels are close to everything, including Great Falls National Park, the DC monuments, and of course the 300 stores and restaurants of the mall—all close to Interstate 495. If you’d rather camp, you do have several choices around Tysons Corner and Great Falls. The park is for day-use only, so you won’t find any camping right next to the falls. The National Park Service does offer camping at nearby Catoctin Mounain Park and the Chesapeake and Ohio National Historical Park that stretches from Georgetown to Cumberland, Maryland. Camping is also available at Lake Fairfax Park and Burke Lake Park. 

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