61. Great Falls, Virginia

I grew up on an extremely large lake, but nowhere near a river. And we all know you need some elevation to get a waterfall, of which Illinois has none. So a river with waterfalls within it is really, really exciting for me, and I head to my local one whenever possible.

Overview:
The National Park Service says the Great Falls of the Potomac is largely considered the “most spectacular” natural landmark in the area, and I’m certainly not arguing. According to its website, the falls cover a 76-foot elevation drop over a distance of less than a mile, good enough to win classification as the steepest fall line rapids of any eastern river.

How I got there:
Drove from DC. Great Falls should take about a half hour to get to–unless you go to the Potomac, MD side first looking for the Billy Goat Trail, like we did. In that case, allot at least 15 more minutes to drive to the Virginia side and find parking.

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What I did:
Sections B and C of the Billy Goat Trail on a beautiful fall morning. You can do all three section of the trail, two like we did, or just one; according to trusted source Wikipedia, Section B is 1.4 miles and Section C, the southernmost, is 1.6 miles.

(Note: I’d come to Great Falls multiple times already in hopes of doing the Billy Goat Trail, but it had been closed thanks to high water levels. Call ahead!)

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What I missed:
For some reason, the words “rock scramble” scared us out of doing Section A–the “most challenging”–before we realized we’re both able-bodied, relatively fit 20-somethings. So there’s that.


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