Great Falls Loop: River, Ridge, CCT, and Swamp Trails

MODERATE 312 reviews
#1 of 14 trails in

Great Falls Loop: River, Ridge, CCT, and Swamp Trails is a 4.6 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near McLean, Virginia that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
4.6 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
383 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

dogs on leash

kid friendly

birding

hiking

horseback riding

mountain biking

nature trips

paddle sports

trail running

walking

forest

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

$10 entrance fee This trail is a lot of fun. Lots of rock scrambles, optional side trails, and a ton of gorgeous views. Lots of people there with kids, baby carriers and dogs! As others have noted, the park gets very, very busy so you should go as early as you can.

hiking
10 days ago

Great trip with the dog a little hairy in some spots so be careful.

hiking
28 days ago

Several areas were blocked (I’m assuming because of recent storms) but this trail was fun for my girls! Not a trail for younger kids or strollers....some areas are quite close to rock cliffs. The trails were a little difficult to navigate in some areas but blue paint on the trees helped us to stay on track. The app was also a great guide tool.

walking
1 month ago

I went on this trail as a brand-new-to-Great-Falls person and was expecting a walking trail. The River Trail is DEFINITELY a hiking trail that requires frequent use of your hands for navigating hills and over rocks, and includes very steep inclines that will leave inexperienced hikers (like myself) out of breath and physically strained. You will spend most of your time looking at the ground to watch your footing and very little time enjoying the beautiful scenery around you. Early March 2018, there were downed trees on the trail that were difficult to pass without being extremely nimble. A wet patch of mud on a slope caused me to tumble; I cut my palm on a rock trying to break my fall. I do not recommend this trail after any amount of rain. I cut this trail short and took a shortcut over to the Old Carriage Trail, which can be classified as a walking trail... very smooth and only slight inclines.

birding
1 month ago

This park was listed as an Audubon Hotspot for birding year-round but we hardly saw any birds at all (early March). We saw the most birds near the parking lot (and just common birds). Disappointing.

hiking
2 months ago

This was a much better hike than I expected it to be. I’ve been to Great Falls Park a number of times to look at the falls but wasn’t aware that there was a loop with some elevation and rocky parts and more challenge than I expected. It was also beautiful - a warm winter mid-week day with few people and great views through the bare trees. I highly recommend it for a good hike close to downtown DC.

amazing as good as it gets beautiful waterfalls

hiking
4 months ago

hiking
4 months ago

5 months ago

Great walk along the river, old carriage road great for running as well

5 months ago

I've done every trail on the VA and MD side. MD is usually less crowded. I would say every trail is dog friendly but if you have a small dog there are some places you will need to carry them. I love Great Falls because how how versatile the trails are regardless if you want hard or easy, water or forest.

5 months ago

I hiked this a couple times. We hiked along the river and it’s a pretty easy hike. If you’re trying to cross the river in some parts the rocks are very slippery and not sturdy. I definitely fell down one time trying to be too adventurous. Beautiful! We saw people in the canoeing in the water. Water stream is very intense!

hiking
5 months ago

very easy hike

6 months ago

Very good hiking place one way in the wood with return along the river. See people across the river in MD side. Only very small portion with slopes going up, and most of the trail is easy to moderate level. Very pleasant hiking place!

hiking
7 months ago

This trail is a lot of fun. Lots of rock scrambles, optional side trails, and a ton of gorgeous views. Lots of people there with kids, baby carriers and dogs! As others have noted, the park gets very, very busy so you should go as early as you can. We left the park at 11am and there was a line of cars that was well over a mile long waiting to get in. When we arrived at 9am there was no line at all.

7 months ago

Lovely hike, took us close to 2 hours. River trail to Ridge trail to Difficult Run trail and then follow signs back to visitors center. We started at 8am on a Sunday and saw just a handful of people along the way.

7 months ago

place to visit again

8 months ago

fun beginner trail for family with teenagers

8 months ago

Easy to moderate, lots of course options given your mood. Dog friendly. Gorgeous views with little effort

8 months ago

Easy to moderate, lots of course options given your mood. Dog friendly. Gorgeous views with little effort

trail running
8 months ago

This is an awesome trail with many scenic spots along the way. It will test your scrambling and hill climbing abilities with many rocky sections and meandering ascents. Lots of sandy and wide sections in the lowland along Difficult Run. Some areas along the River Trail portion follow a high, rocky ridgeline with sections nearly impossible to run for a novice scrambler. Lots of fun throughout! I'll be back.

hiking
8 months ago

This is my go-to trail when I'm at home. It provides a nice mix of terrain with a tree canopy for hot days. The changing foliage makes the trail feel brand-new with each passing season. My favorite segment is the River Trail with its fantastic views of the Potomac River and rocky cliffs on the MD side. I like to go early in the morning with my coffee and a breakfast treat, sit on a ledge, and take in the river sounds. Once, I even got to witness the resident bald eagle. On weekend mornings, you often get to watch kayakers and rock climbers along the river too. Speaking of weekends... Great Falls gets packed by 10am, no matter the season. So try to arrive by 9am on weekends to avoid a long line into the park and parking hassles.

walking
9 months ago

You nice walk. Very easy and fun rocks to climb on. Cool crevices to climb down. Fun for kids.

9 months ago

I hiked this trail alone this winter when the temp was 23 degrees. My usual hiking partner was on the disabled list with a broken foot though it's highly unlikely she would have joined me under those conditions. It was beautiful then and equally beautiful this Summer especially with my wife along. The additional foliage did obscure some views and we were a little late for wild flowers. Nevertheless Great Falls is one of my favorite places and I'm glad it's practically in my back yard.

9 months ago

Get there early. went at about 9:30am on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend and by the time we left around 11, the line of traffic was backed up more than a mile outside the gate house.

hiking
9 months ago

Gorgeous hike, can't wait to go back.

hiking
9 months ago

After a few rainy days, I hiked this trail 7am this morning with work colleagues. We unwilling left the trail and had to climb a rocky area but it was a lot of fun. So much water At the water falls.

hiking
9 months ago

waterfalls and a nice walk....3 scenic overlooks in the area.

hiking
10 months ago

We really enjoyed this trail. The trail was challenging enough to make it fun for us (new hikers) but not so challenging we never want to hike again

hiking
10 months ago

Amazing place! It is busy, but it doesn't take away from the beauty of the place. There is an entrance fee, I paid $10 for a car with 2 people including myself in it and they do accept card. I took the Pawtomac Trail then got on the River Trail. Fairly easy hike and there's lots of things to see and do off the trail as well. Overall great experience, and I suggest this for anyone who loves scrambling and scenic views!

10 months ago

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