5 Best Great Falls Hiking Spots

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Fall is here, and the crisp temperatures and mild afternoons make this the perfect time to get outside and go hiking in Great Falls, Virginia. A trek on one of the area’s many trails is the ideal way for those who want to social distance to spend a day — or even a few hours — and enjoy some incredible scenery at the same time. 

The Great Falls area is full of beautiful, scenic places to explore, and those who call the area home have easy access to some of the best trails in the nation. Here are the top five local spots, as well as some simple tips to prepare for your outdoor exploration. 

  1. Old Carriage Road at Great Falls Park
  2. Swamp Trail
  3. Patowmack Canal Trail
  4. Matildaville Trail
  5. Ridge Trail
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How to Prepare for Your Hike in Great Falls

There are a few things to prepare in advance when getting ready to spend the day outside:

  • Backpack
    Make sure you have a good, sturdy backpack on hand that is large enough to carry all of your supplies without weighing you down too much.
  • Water
    Hiking can be strenuous work, and dehydration is dangerous. Pack plenty of water in containers that won’t puncture, like a canteen. If you aren’t sure how much water to bring, follow the rule that states adults should have a half-liter per hour. If you will be hiking particularly rough terrain, include one liter per hour. Additionally, make sure to bring some nonperishable snacks — granola bars, trail mix, or beef jerky are all great options — so you don’t get hungry on the trails.
  • First aid kit
    Accidents can happen even if you are hiking in a very safe area. Make sure to pack a basic first-aid kit that contains band-aids, gauze, and other essentials so you will be prepared for any eventuality.
  • Flashlight
    You might be heading out for a morning or afternoon hike when the sun is shining, but it is still a good idea to pack a flashlight. Tuck it in your backpack (with extra batteries) and you will be all set if you decide to extend your hike.
  • Weather-appropriate clothing
    As anyone in Great Falls knows, the weather can be unpredictable. Stay ahead of any changes and pack for rain. Carry a water-resistant jacket or poncho as well as a light hoodie in case temperatures dip.
  • Map of the area
    Most people now rely on their phones for directions, but you might well be out of cell phone signals if you are heading out for a hike. Bring along an old-fashioned map of where you will be hiking and a compass for good measure.

Once you have your supplies ready to go, it’s time to hit the trails. The following hiking trails in Great Falls are easily accessible and stunningly beautiful.

A couple in one of the Great Falls Hiking Spots

1. Old Carriage Road at Great Falls Park

At just under two miles, the Old Carriage Road trail is located at Great Falls Park and is one of the best multi-use hiking trails in the state. It is relatively easy to navigate for even inexperienced hikers, and is a historic trail that is often used for horseback riding, stroller walks, and biking. The path becomes a bit more hilly and steep toward the southern end, making that point better for hiking than biking. 

2. Swamp Trail

A river walk featuring 1.6 miles of scenic beauty, Swamp Trail is easily accessible for all ages and skill levels. It features some of the very best outdoor scenes of any trail in the state and is perfect for a brisk afternoon stroll. It is also the perfect trail for hikers with canine companions!

3. Patowmack Canal Trail

An easy hiking trail that is reserved for foot traffic, Patowmack Canal Trail follows the remains of the Patowmack Canal — one of the United States’ first-ever canals. There is even a brochure that hikers can pick up at the entrance to the trail that points out special places of interest along the way. At just over one mile, Patowmack Canal Trail is a quick hike and an ideal place to spend a morning or to witness a Great Falls sunset.

4. Matildaville Trail

Matildaville Trail is a narrow hiking trail that is designed for hikers and horseback riders. It starts off relatively level and becomes steep further in, making it slightly trickier to navigate — especially if the trail is muddy. For these reasons, hikers are asked to yield to horses if they encounter riders on their treks. Matildaville Trail is 1.1 miles in length and is almost fully wooded, making it the ideal spot for later summer or autumn hiking. 

5. Ridge Trail

Ridge Trail is one of the most beautiful hiking spots in Great Falls, and a more narrow trail that is recommended for foot traffic, horseback riding, and bicycling. It is narrow, so it is not ideal for stroller or wheelchair access. Hikers on the trail can navigate rocks, stumps, and occasional muddy patches, so it might be difficult for younger children. More experienced hikers who wish to view some stunning wooded areas and beautiful river views may find there is no better place in Great Falls.

Find More Great Falls Hiking Spots

If you want to start enjoying all of these areas of natural beauty, consider settling in Great Falls, Virginia or the Greater DC Area. It’s an area ripe with nature, community connection, and fun things to do, and the area is ready to welcome you. Contact Nomadic Real Estate for help with renting, buying, selling, or managing a property in the Great Falls area and the rest of the Metro D.C. area. Our trained professionals can help with any real estate questions that you might have.

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