At Great Falls, the Potomac River builds up speed and force as it falls over a series of steep, jagged rocks and flows through the narrow Mather Gorge. The Patowmack Canal offers a glimpse into the early history of this country. Great Falls Park has many opportunities to explore history and nature, all in a beautiful 800-acre park only 15 miles from the Nation’s Capital.
The are three overlooks at the park:
This overlook is located to the left of the south end of the Visitor Center. It is the closest you can get to the Falls themselves. A short trail leads down to a dirt viewing platform. The rest of the overlook is rocky and will require some easy climbing. Do not go beyond the fences. Falls from this area can cause serious injury or death.
This overlook is located further down the trail. Most of the waterfall can be seen from this overlook. Take a left on the small wooden footbridge by the Patowmack Canal wayside. A staircase and ramp leads down to a large wooden viewing platform.
This overlook is handicap accessible.
Follow the trail that goes past Overlook 2 across the second small wooden footbridge. On your left, you will see the High Water Marks pole, with markers showing how high the floods reached. Two viewing platforms provide the best view of Great Falls. This overlook is the last place that the Falls can be viewed.
Overlook 3 is handicap accessible.
There is also a path that leads down a steep slope to the water where you can see some more great views.
The overlook that you see across the river in Maryland is located within C&O Canal National Historical Park. No bridges connect Great Falls Park with C&O Canal. If you would like to see the falls from the Maryland side, it will be necessary to drive.