Washington, DC: Great Falls Loop

This 4.5-miler runs along steep cliffs to two photogenic overlooks above an impressive waterfall on the Potomac River.

-Mapped by Ivan Levin

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 7.2



Location: 38.978287, -77.248871

Hike S on Difficult Run Trail, which parallels the banks of its aptly-named stream. In 800 ft., path rounds to the E


Location: 38.976006, -77.246223

Pass under Georgetown Pike; trail widens as it follows stream's course


Location: 38.975887, -77.237022

Bear R (SE) @ Y and continue downhill; rocky trail awaits below


Location: 38.976208, -77.23513

Watch Difficult Run flow into the Potomac River from grassy banks. Next: Retrace to WPT 3; turn R @ Y onto Ridge Trail


Location: 38.976204, -77.236259

Turn L @ T


Location: 38.980785, -77.242607

Turn R (N) @ T onto River Trail; prepare for steep descent. On R, rocky cliffs jut up behind the Potomac River


Location: 38.984169, -77.245827

Follow River Trail to the R (N) @ road crossing


Location: 38.989349, -77.248611

Pass stone ruins. Turn R @ footbridge (stay on River Trail). In 300 yds., cross wooden footbridge


Location: 38.995117, -77.252991

Stay R of picnic area. Ahead are two overlooks above Great Falls, a series of several cascades that cut deep grooves into the rocky river bottom. Next, hike S through picnic area, cross footbridge


Location: 38.992874, -77.252907

Pass bathrooms and turn R @ Y onto Old Carriage Rd.


Location: 38.990616, -77.253723

Turn R @ 3-way onto Swamp Trail


Location: 38.986088, -77.250732

Keep R (S) @ Y, heading uphill


Location: 38.981892, -77.250099

L @ T onto Ridge Trail. In 350 ft., turn R onto path marked by split rail post. In .3 mi., carefully cross Georgetown Pike to parking area

Difficult Run Parking Lot

Location: 38.978245, -77.248611

Georgtown Pike

Location: 38.97607, -77.246048

Difficult Run Trail passes under Georgetown Pike.

Difficult Run Trail Fork

Location: 38.975876, -77.236847

Go straight for scenic views of Difficult Run flowing into the Potomac River.

Difficult Run and Potomac River

Location: 38.976231, -77.235031

Difficult Run empties into the Potomac River.

River Trail Entrance

Location: 38.98077, -77.242332

Entrance to River Trail from Ridge Trail.

Potomac Overlook

Location: 38.981796, -77.24305

Scenic overlook of Potomac River.

River Trail Road Crossing

Location: 38.984203, -77.245811

River Trail after road crossing.

Potomac River

Location: 38.985584, -77.246124

View of Potamac upriver from overlook on River Trail.

Patowmack Canal Ruins

Location: 38.989414, -77.248451

Large Wooden Footbridge

Location: 38.991703, -77.249168

Large wooden footbridge on River Trail.

Great Falls

Location: 38.995022, -77.252876

View of Great Falls from scenic overlook.

Swamp Trail

Location: 38.985981, -77.250549

View of Swamp Trail.