“A short loop that features two of the park's biggest draws.”
— Brian Smith
Birding · Cave · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
This short loop features stunning views of the falls on leisurely trails through beautiful hardwood forest.
Need to Know
The busiest times are certainly on nice weekend afternoons. There is usually a line to enter the park on those days.
This route makes for a very short run or leisurely walk that is made excellent by the views of Great Falls and the historical ruins at Matildaville.
Starting from the park's main visitor center, head south on the Patowmack Canal Trail
. This trail follows the remains of the historic Patowmack Canal, one of the first canals ever to be built in the United States. This trail passes all three overlooks and continues through the picnic area before entering the woods again. Take a moment (or many moments) to view the falls from the various overlooks. The ferocity and water level at the falls will vary depending on the time of year but they are stunning no matter what.
The canal locks and some of the Matildaville ruins can be viewed from this trail. Runners can pick up a brochure for the self-guided tour of the Canal at the visitor center. Sections of this trail can be muddy after it rains, especially in the Holding Basin. Help protect this piece of American history by not climbing on the ruins. After passing a junction with River Trail
, keep an eye out for a connector on the right that leads to the Matildaville Trail
. Turn right, and right again onto Matildaville.
This wooded trail passes by the ruins of the old town of Matildaville, before continuing up the hill to the south end of the park. In the winter, there are limited views of Mather Gorge. There are numerous opportunities for birdwatching here. Follow Matildaville Trail
back to the visitor's center.
Flora & Fauna
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.