Great Falls Park Maryland Edition can be found if you just hop over the Potomac River. Drive down the windy MacArthur Ave and avoid every biker you see, of which there will almost definitely be a lot. Similar to the Virginia side, it has a $10 entrance fee per car or $5 dollar fee for bikes or horses. There is a much larger, more historic visitor’s center on this side of the park that is fully staffed with park rangers to give you the best hike for your needs or some history on the area.
If you want to save yourself some money, try and visit on a federal holiday! All entrance fees are waived! If they don’t waive the fee, just remember that you’re paying to help keep the park open so we can all enjoy it!
Shortly after walking past the refreshments stand and the Visitor’s Center, you can look out over the Washington Aqueduct, but skip this… you’re really not missing a lot. The views are to come.
For the time being the easiest overlook to get to is closed for repairs as is the bridge to Olmstead Island (which is a small island in the middle of the Potomac). If it’s open, do it. The views are great and it requires very little lift to see it. Similar to the Virginia side, many of these trails are multi-use. There are fewer horses on this side but plenty of trails to bike and walk your dog along. However, the most popular trail (and the one I am suggesting), Billy Goat Trail is not suitable for dogs. I don’t think little children should really be on this trail but that’s something parents can decide.
Billy Goat Trail
According to the National Parks Service, there are 15 ‘trails’ but some of the trails are only .1 mile long…not exactly what I would call a trail. The Billy Goat Trail is broken up into 3 sections, A, B, & C. They combine to make about 4.5 miles or so but it is easily broken up. Section A is the first one you’ll come across if you head down the tow path from the visitors center. It is about 3.7 miles if you turn off at mile marker 2 and head back along the canal.
I highly suggest doing this unless you’re an experienced hiker. It is quite rigorous. There is a lot of rock scrambling and you have to do a tiny bit of climbing. It goes right along the water and has an amazing view for most of the trail. However, if you’re not into the tougher hike, avoid it. There isn’t a way to avoid the rock scrambling.
I kid you not when I say it’s hard. I would say I’m in pretty good shape and still I think its hard. On my most recent hike, we ran into a woman who needed to be medi-vacced out because she popped her knee. There is limited cell phone service out here so be prepared. Accidents happen but obviously we want to avoid them!
If you’re just looking a nice walk with your dog, you can walk along the tow path all the way into Georgetown. Definitely bring your water and sunscreen as there is intermittent shade. There are a lot of great places to sit and watch the kayakers in the river. Make a day of it, bring a lunch and relax!