Great Falls Park VA: Hiking Trails and Outdoor Activities

Table of Contents

Located in Fairfax County, Northern VA, Great Falls is one of Virginia’s most beautiful and suburban communities. Its 25 square miles is home to beautiful wooded nature reserves, local businesses, makes for perfect suburbs of Washington, D.C. (Great Falls sits 14 miles northwest of DC), and is home to over 15,000 people.

Great Falls Park Map

With so much beautiful scenery and sense of community, there is no surprise that Great Falls is home to a number of national park services, one of their most popular being Great Falls Park.

Whether you’re spending the day with family, visiting friends, or just stopping by, Great Falls Park offers experiences for any occasion.

Beautiful view from hiking trail.

Patowmack Canal

The Patowmack canal is one of many popular places that Great Falls Park has to offer, for both historic and scenic reasons. As one of the oldest canals in the United States, it was first proposed to George Washington at the in the late 18th century in order to make the Potomac River more navigable.

However, aside from its history, the Patowmack canal is also one of many popular Great Falls hiking trails. The Patowmack trail is a little over one mile long, but is jam packed with beautiful scenery.

Throughout the trail, you pass three overlooks that Great Falls Park has to offer.

You’ll also get to see some of the original canal locks that were built by George Washington in 1785. If you get a closer look, you can also see some of the engravings that have lasted since construction!

If you’re interested in visiting the Patowmack Canal, simply begin at the visitor’s center and follow the trail from there!

Want to find out what your home is worth?
Get an instant market report sent straight to your inbox in seconds.

Great Falls Park Hiking Trails

Great Falls VA hiking is considered the best in the DMV area, especially within the park.

People hiking swamp trail in Great Falls VA.

The Patowmack Canal Trail is one of the trails that Great Falls Park has to offer, but it certainly isn’t the only. Aside from the Patowmack Canal Trail, Great Falls Park offers 6 other trails (stop by the visitor’s center for a trail map if you’re not already familiar with these trails).

  1. The River Trail
  2. Old Carriage Road
  3. Matildaville Trail
  4. Ridge Trail
  5. Difficult Run Trail
  6. Swamp Trail
  7. The Billy Goat Trail

The River Trail

Beginning from the visitors center and about a quarter mile down the Patowmack Canal Trail, you’ll be able to turn left and take The River Trail.

This is a 1.5 mile long trail and is one of the most scenic trails Great Falls Park has to offer. This trail runs adjacent to and 50 feet above the Potomac River.

The River Trail is full of landmarks such as Cow Hoof Rock, one of Great Falls Park’s most impressive overlooks. You’ll also cut through Mather Gorge, which we will be talking about soon!

Old Carriage Road

After entering the park, take an immediate right and follow the directions towards the beginning of Old Carriage Road Trail. This trail is a one-way, 1.6 mile trail that ends at Georgetown Pike, and was originally used to access the historic Matildaville.

While The River Trail is more of a hike, Old Carriage Road is easier and perfect for an afternoon stroll.

The broad, wooded trail is mostly level until it intersects with Matildaville Trail and takes you over a ridge and down to Georgetown Pike.

Many people love this trail for its pleasantness and also report that it is the best trail for birdwatching.

Matildaville Trail

Similar to Old Carriage Road, the Matildaville Trail is immediately right following the entrance station. Matildaville trail is relatively short, only 1 mile long, and intersects with both the River Trail and Old Carriage Road

Also similar to Old Carriage Road, Matildaville trail is often acclaimed for its numerous opportunities for birdwatching.

However, the terrain on this trail is not like that of Old Carriage Road. It starts off fairly level but quickly climbs in elevation. 

Additionally, this trail is far more narrow and tends to be more muddy, so make sure to bring your hiking boots if its rained recently.

Ridge Trail

Ridge Trail is a little more intense a somewhat harder to access. To access Ridge Trail, you can hike down Old Carriage Road for a mile, or also hike down both River Trail and Matildaville Trail.

This trail is considered more difficult because of its narrow path, muddy and rocky terrain.

Ridge Trail follows the ridge between Old Dominion Drive and Difficult run, and drops around 200 feet in a third of a mile.

After about 2 miles, you can continue on Ridge Trail, or turn right to merge onto Difficult Run Trail.

Difficult Run Trail

Contrary to what its name suggests, Difficult Run Trail takes you to a quieter part of the Potomac.

At ¾ of a mile, this trail takes you on a shady walk along a stream that empties into the Potomac.

The only challenging part is a steep, rocky section just as the stream opens into the Potomac, but if you make it down, you’ll be met by a small beach with a wide view of the river.

Be sure to know, however, that it is prohibited to swim in the Potomac as the waters can be dangerous, so enjoy the view!

Swamp Trail

The Swamp Trail is perfect for those looking to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

The trail extends a little less than a mile and runs through low-lying areas of forest. These areas can often get muddy, but there are raised walkways and bridges to use for those areas that are more prone to gathering water.

During the spring, Swamp Trail offers an incredible array of wildflowers, while birdwatching is prevalent year-round!

Bonus Option: The Billy Goat Trail

Located on the other side of the Potomac River in Maryland is the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Park, home to the popular Billy Goat Trail.

Billy Goat Trail Map

The Billy Goat Trail is one of the most popular trails in the DMV and is split up into three sections, offering adventures for all ages.

This trail is located just southeast of the Great Falls Tavern Visitors Center, and accepts Great Falls Park passes.

Before attempting to conquer the Billy Goat Trail, make sure you know what to expect from the trail and how to come prepared!

Mather Gorge

The Mather Gorge is located right at the bottom of Great Falls and is part of both Great Falls Park and The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Park.

Just 12 miles away from the White House, the Gorge is 100 feet wide and one of the most secluded and remote parts of the Potomac River.

Mather Gorge near Great Falls VA

The water falling from Great Falls creates a fast and steady current, making it an attractive spot for kayakers, paddlers, white water canoers and other water activities alike.

Mather Gorge rafting is a local favorite, and there are plenty of local businesses that will host you for a day trip. There are also of plenty locals who host kayaking and canoeing day trips.

For example, Potomac PaddleSports is a popular company that hosts these types of trips

Aside from all the water activities the Mather Gorge hosts, you also have the opportunity to hike right next to it for a portion of Section A of the Billy Goat Trail.

For experienced hikers, Section A of the Billy Goat Trail also offers opportunities for more challenging routes with better views of the Gorge.

Rock Climbing

While hiking, kayaking, white water rafting and so many more activities make Great Falls Park one of the best in the nation, many people solely come for the rock climbing.

The Mather Gorge consists of 60 foot cliff faces and over 200 climbing routes perfect for top roping rock climbers of all experience levels.

Similar to the water activities in the Mather Gorge, there are local businesses that offer rock climbing classes and trips.

However, if you’re deciding to go without an instructor, make sure you wear loose fitting clothing and bring the right gear.

If you decide to climb on your own, you’re advised to double check to make sure the rock is sturdy before climbing!

For more information before you start, check out the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club’s rock climbing Great Falls VA guide

Great Falls Park: the best outdoor activities in the DC Area?

Great Falls Park is a great destination for any visitor, and offers a wide variety of experiences for all age levels.

However, Great Falls Park is only a portion of what the area of Great Falls has to offer.

Great Falls is constantly attracting more and more permanent residents, and offers great property investment opportunities

Nomadic Real Estate can help you rent, buy, sell, or manage a property in Great Falls, and the rest of the Metro D.C. area. If you need any help or advice on managing your property, feel free to check out some of our other articles or contact us directly!

Share via Email
Share on Facebook
Share on LinkedIn
Share on Twitter
Get help from DC's top real estate team.
Founded in 2005, Nomadic is the go-to full service real estate firm in the DMV. We've helped thousands of landlords, investors, and residents and we would love to connect with you next.

Check out more of our blog posts below!

Or search for a different topic:

Scroll to Top

Thinking of selling? Get an instant property value report:

Enhanced Reporting

Your portal includes a selection of extremely useful reports. Reports are available in the “Reports” section, and are distinct from the financial statements. Unlike financial statements which are static records, Reports are dynamic real-time records that will update with current data every time you view them. 

Scroll down to learn more about Reports:

Navigate to the "Reports" module in your portal:

Owner Portal Reports
  • Keep in mind, these reports are dynamic records. They will refresh to display current information every time you view them. 

Enhanced Rent Roll Report:

Enhanced Rent Roll Report
  • The Enhanced Rent Roll Report will show the rent amount, last payment date, move-in date, lease expiration date, and security deposit amount for each of your tenants. 
  • It will also show a portfolio summary with occupancy percentage, vacancy loss, and more!

Unit Comparison Report:

Unit Comparison Report
  • If you own multiple units (or buildings) with Nomadic, you’ll get access to the Unit Comparison Report. 
  • This report enables you to quickly compare financial performance between your units at a glance without toggling between individual reports. 

Income Statement Month-Over-Month:

Income Statement by Month Report
  • The Income Statement Detail – Monthly Report serves as a month-over-month record of portfolio performance. You’ll see itemized income and expense categories and can track monthly. This report will update with fresh data every time you view it. 

Financial Statements

Financial statements will be published to your portal on a monthly basis. The statements are found in your Documents library, and provide a historical record of all financial performance. The statements serve as a snapshot of financial performance over a given period, and are static documents (unlike Reports, the statements do not update/change in real-time). 

Scroll down for more info about the Financial Statements in your Documents library:

The Documents area contains monthly financial statements:

Owner Portal Documents
  • The statements in the Documents are are static documents. They are posted to the portal once a month to serve as a historical record of financial performance. 

Download a statement to see month and YTD financials:

Owner Portal Property Statement

You'll also find a month-over-month operating statement:

Month over Month Statement

Portal Communication Tool

You can use your owner portal to communicate with our team. Any messages you send through the portal will go straight to your Account Manager. When we reply, you’ll get an email notification and you’ll also see the message in your portal next time you log in. 

Here’s an overview of using the communication platform:

Click "Communications" and navigate to "Conversations":

Commincation Dashboard Screenshot
  • The communications module will contain a record of all messages that you create through the portal. 

Click the "New Message" button and send your message:

Owner Portal New Message Screenshot

Responses will show up in the conversation ticket:

Portal Conversation Response Screenshot
  • You’ll get an email notification whenever you get a response, and you’ll also see the message in your portal next time you log in. 

You can reply in-line using the comment box:

Owner Portal Comment

Each conversation will be logged in its entirety:

Portal Conversation Snapshot

Understanding the Ledger

Your portal includes a ledger with all transactions. The ledger is populated with data in real-time as transactions flow through our accounting software. Much of this information is also available in the Reports area, as well as the Statements in your Documents library, but the ledger is the most comprehensive resource for diving into the details. 

Please scroll through the sections below to get a better understanding of how to interpret the ledger. 

By default, transactions are sorted chronologically:

Owner Ledger Dates
  • The date reflected in the lefthand column is the actual transaction date, not the “bill date”. This is the date the transaction was actually processed. 

If you have multiple properties with Nomadic, you'll see the address for each transaction in the "Location" column:

Ledger Property Column
  • You can filter the ledger to look at just one property, all properties, or specific sets of properties. 
  • If you only have one property with us, you’ll just see the ledger for that property. 

The Description column displays the transaction type:

Owner Ledger Description Column
  • BILL: this is an expense transaction, such as for repair costs or management fees.
  • CHARGE: this is a transaction  billed to the tenant, most typically a rent payment. 
  • NACHA EXPORT: this is a credit we processed to your distribution account. This type of transaction is how you get paid! 

The Amount column shows the dollar value of each transaction:

Owner Ledger Amount Column
  • Positive Amounts: if an amount is positive, it reflects a transaction that is payable to you. Typically, this will be a rent payment that we collected from your tenants. On occasion, a positive number could also signify a journal entry or credit adjustment. 
  • Negative Amounts:  if an amount is negative, this is a transaction that is either payable to Nomadic or is an amount that has already been paid to you. Typically this will be for repair costs or management/leasing fees. Owner draws (net distributions into your checking/savings account) also reflect as negative amounts, since they have already been paid to you. 

The Account Balance column shows a sum of positive/negative transactions at a given point in time:

Owner Ledger Account Balance Column
  • Account Balance should always equal zero after a net distribution has been processed. When the balance is zero, this means that all expenses have been paid and you’ve received the remainder as net operating income, leaving a balance of zero (meaning: no one is due any money, as all funds have been distributed appropriately). 

Navigating the Propertyware Owner Portal

Your portal includes some extremely useful features that help you understand your property’s financial performance at a new level, with real-time transparency into every transaction.

Scroll through the snapshots below for an overview of portal navigation! If you need more help or have specific questions about using the portal, you can reach out to your Account Manager any time for a screen share. 

You can filter all info by date range or property:

PW Portal Filters

View a snapshot of income and expenses on your dashboard:

PW Owner Dashboard View

See every transaction in real-time on your ledger:

Owner Portal Ledger View

Statements and forms will be posted to your documents library:

Owner Portal Document Library

View a suite of real-time financial reports:

Portal Reports View

See a running list of all bills, and drill down for more detail:

Owner Portal Bills View

Under Bill Details, you'll find dates/descriptions/amounts and more:

Portal Bill Details

You can also communicate with your Account Manager through the portal:

Owner Portal Communication Tools

How do net distributions work?

Net distributions keep your accounting clean and simple. Each month we’ll collect rent from the tenants, deduct any repair expenses for the previous month and any management/leasing fees for the current month, and credit the remaining net operating income to your account. 

Net Distribution

You’ll receive a statement via email each time a net distribution is processed, and can view all transaction details in your Propertyware owner portal.