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Great Falls Park - South Loop

 4.3 (20)

Length


3.3 Miles 5.3 Kilometers


201' 61 m

Ascent

-203' -62 m

Descent

2%

Avg Grade (1°)

27%

Max Grade (15°)

278' 85 m

High

115' 35 m

Low

Shared By Brian Smith

Conditions


All Clear 49 days ago
Some Mud History

Getting forecast...

A tour of some great trails in the south end of GFNP culminating with dramatic views of the falls.

Brian Smith

Dogs Leashed

Features Birding · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

Overview

This loop is a quick and easy way to experience a lot of what Great Falls Park has to offer.
Great Falls National Park is a fee-based park. There is a fee of $5.00 for vehicles or $3.00 for pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians. See the following link for the most accurate and up-to-date information: nps.gov/grfa/planyourvisit/…

Description

Park at either the main parking area or, if possible, at the small lot that is immediately to the right upon entering the park.

Starting at the south parking lot, take the South Lot Connector to Old Carriage Road and turn right. Follow the wide, smooth path and look for Swamp Trail to branch off to the right. The Swamp Trail runs through a low-lying, swampy area of forest. Trail conditions are frequently muddy and the trail is sometimes blocked by downed trees. Many of the most mud-prone areas have raised walkways or small bridges that will keep you dry.

At the next junction, stay straight (slightly right) and onto Swamp-Ridge Connector. This trail climbs steeply up an eroded hillside and onto the ridge. Eventually, you'll hit Ridge Trail and turn left. Ridge Trail is a well maintained, six-food wide trail that runs east from Old Dominion Dr. to Difficult Run Trail. Follow it across Old Carriage Road and look for a major junction with River Trail.

Turn left and descend steeply on River Trail. The trail follows the Potomac River for approximately 1.5 miles, along the tops of the cliffs. In some areas, this trail runs right next to the edge of the cliff, offering spectacular views of the Potomac and Mather Gorge. Cliff heights range from 25-75 feet.

Some rock scrambling is required, especially in the section between the Canal Cut and Cow Hoof Rock. This trail can be hazardous in wet weather. Lichen, sand, and grit on the rocky areas and cliff edges make footing treacherous.

Finally, River Trail will dead-end into Patowmack Canal Trail. Turn right and follow it to the overlooks that offer incredible views of Great Falls. Turn around just before he visitor center and head back toward the lot on Old Carriage Road.

Flora & Fauna

The Potomac River and the unique geological features have shaped the land at Great Falls for millennia. Floods regularly occur along this stretch of the river, taking away soils and plants and depositing new silt and seeds to take their place. This is a dynamic environment, home to rare plant communities and a variety of wildlife.

Most of the park's 800 acres are forested. Throughout the year, over 150 different species of birds can be seen at Great Falls Park. Native animals, such as whitetail deer, fox, box turtles, squirrels, coyotes, bats, and chipmunks also call this place home. A wide variety of plants, including several rare species, thrives in this environment.

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Your Check-Ins

Check-Ins

Jul 14, 2018
Tyler Thieding
Jul 8, 2018
Martini Doziér
May 24, 2018
Jordon Birman
2.7mi
Apr 27, 2018
Sabrina Rose-Smith
Apr 27, 2018
John Smith
Rose-Smith Family Doing It!
Apr 25, 2018
Lauren B
Great view of the falls and pretty easy to hike. You'll be surrounded by lots of people on weekends.
Apr 15, 2018
Dan Barie
Mar 24, 2018
Kevin Sieben

Trail Ratings

  4.3 from 20 votes

#361

Overall
  4.3 from 20 votes
5 Star
40%
4 Star
50%
3 Star
10%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Rankings

#10

in Virginia

#361

Overall
514 Views Last Month
2,603 Since Dec 28, 2014
Intermediate Intermediate

11%
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58%
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