This is going to be the highlight of my hiking year! Great Falls is a small park run by the National Park Service, with part of the park located in Virginia and the other part just across the Potomac River in Maryland. When our family lived in northern Virginia we were here at least once every month – and often more. We hiked Great Falls in every season and in all weathers – from sweltering August days to snowy January mornings. It’s my favorite place in the world, and I don’t say that lightly.
So when we decided to break up our drive down to the Outer Banks with a couple of days in DC, Steveand I both agreed immediately that a morning hike at Great Falls was in order. Would you believe that the last time we were there, Peanut looked like this:
And now she’s a big kid and we have a new tiny one accompanying us on our hiking expeditions!
Anyway, we knew we had a limited window to get our hike in, because we were expected back in the city for lunch with my friend Maureen. So on Saturday morning, we jumped in the car and rushed to the park. Once there, we – of course – made a beeline for the overlooks. The best part of the park, in my humble opinion!
We skipped the first overlook, because it’s only a partial view and in order to get that partial view you have to climb over and then perch atop some big, scary boulders. Fun to do if you’re not encumbered, but not something either Steve or I was interested in taking on with the mini ones strapped to us. So we lingered on the nice, steady decks at the second and third overlooks instead.
Peanut was pretty interested in the view. Nugget just wanted to chew on the Ergo strap.
I could have stayed and feasted on this view all day, but we had a hike to get in. So we reluctantly tore our eyes from the falls and headed into the park.
We picked our way along the River Trail, which runs right along the ridge overlooking Mather Gorge. Fun fact that we didn’t really appreciate last time we were here: Mather Gorge is named for Stephen Mather, the brilliant and troubled first Director of the National Park Service. Mather was a pioneer in government management of our nation’s most spectacular spaces – without him, there probably wouldn’t be a National Park Service! I didn’t realize the momentous nature of his contributions until Steve and I watched Ken Burns’ The National Parks documentary this winter. There are a number of places named for Stephen Mather, sprinkled throughout the national park system; Mather Gorge is just one of them.
I think it’s the best one, though. The gorge is certainly spectacular; it does honor to Stephen Mather. Beautiful, isn’t it?
In the past, whenever we’ve come to Great Falls (even in winter!) we’ve seen kayakers making their way bravely down the rapids. This time was no exception; there were plenty of kayakers enjoying the water. But we also saw, for the first time…
A stand-up paddleboarder! I was seriously in awe of this guy. I can’t imagine balancing on a board in these waters!
WOW. But then…
Oops! And he’s down.
We headed deeper into the park. The trail is relatively easy, but there are a few technical portions to keep it interesting.
(Not that part.)
On the way out, we stopped by one of the old Potowmack Canal locks. Always fun to get a bit of local history in with a hike!
This isn’t goodbye, Great Falls. It’s just see-you-later.
What’s your all-time favorite hike?