Planning an RV trip to the Washington, DC area this summer? There’s a place just a few minutes away that will thrill the heart of any nature lover. That scenic spot is the Great Falls of the Potomac, one of the most popular attractions along the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Formed by granite outcroppings in the Potomac River, the Great Falls provide outstanding views and recreation opportunities.
The Potomac River is the boundary between Northern Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia. Thanks to the foresight of the National Park Service, it’s easy to view the falls and explore the Great Falls area. On the Virginia side of the Falls you’ll find Great Falls Park, complete with three scenic overlooks and a visitor center. All three overlooks are a short walk from the visitor center and two of them are equipped for wheelchair access.
A system of trails helps hikers explore the historic Potomac Canal and view the Falls from unique vantage points. If you’re pulling a horse trailer behind that RV, you’ll appreciate that a section of the trails is open to horseback riding enthusiasts. You can also ride your bike five miles along the swiftly-flowing Potomac, and bird watching fans can spy dozens of species near the Great Falls.
Fishermen will find great sport in the Great Falls area, but please note that no one is allowed to wade or swim in the Potomac River due to dangerous currents. Experienced paddlers may want to test their skills in the Class VI rapids that lure the best kayakers in the country each year.
RV travelers may be wondering where to camp when visiting the Great Falls of the Potomac. There are no campgrounds within Great Falls Park, but plenty of campsites are available nearby. One family-friendly option is Lake Fairfax Park in Reston, Virginia, just fifteen minutes from the Falls. This park offers full-service campsites plus The Water Mine water park, great lake fishing and picturesque picnic areas.
Another nearby RV camping option is across the Potomac from Great Falls Park at the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park. Three campgrounds there allow RV camping and this fascinating historical park gives visitors another chance to learn about the Great Falls region.
Not yet persuaded to visit Great Falls Park in Virginia? Here are three ways RV campers can enjoy the park even more:
- Ranger-led Falls Walks and Ranger Rendezvous events allow visitors to explore this scenic region with a well-trained guide.
- A section of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, an epic collection of DC-area trails and byways, runs through Great Falls Park.
- The remains of the Potomac Canal system, first planned by George Washington, are within the national park boundaries, giving a glimpse into commerce after the Revolutionary War.
Nature-loving RV travelers should definitely plan time to visit the Great Falls of the Potomac while in Northern Virginia. The beauty of the area and the multitude of outdoor recreation opportunities promise to keep your campers completely engaged.