Weekend Spotlight: Hiking The Great Falls
By: Melissa Woolverton, Front Desk Supervisor at VK Pediatric Dentistry in Arlington, VA and Mom Extraordinaire to a 5 year old child.
My 5-year-old son was getting a little stir crazy at home and the nice weather - 50 degrees and sun in February - inspired me to look for an outdoor adventure for the family. Luckily, if you live anywhere in Northern Virginia (Arlington, Falls Church, Mclean), you don’t have to travel far to find amazing hiking.
We stumbled on the Great Falls Park, a national park just 15 miles north of D.C. off George Washington Memorial Parkway. It’s an 800-acre national park with three falls overlooks, 15 miles of hiking trails (some for mountain biking and horseback riding), white water rafting, fishing and more! We weren’t feeling adventurous enough for white water rafting in February, but we did go on the hiking trails and absolutely loved it.
Our original thought was to try the Billy Goat Trail, which is the area’s toughest trail, on the Maryland side of the Potomac, and includes rock scrambling in one section. Because of all the rain we’ve had lately, a few sections of that trail were closed. We didn’t get to try the rock scrambling this time, but our plan B was a perfect, more relaxed substitute. We walked the towpath that follows the canal. My son enjoyed straying from the path to climb the rocks, running as fast as he could on the straight ways, and taking breaks on the park benches to eat the snacks we packed.
Highlights of the trip: Where the Potomac River falls over steep, jagged rocks (3 falls overlooks) and the sound of the force of the water. It was incredible. Exploring the rocks along the canal. The smile on my son's face all day was definitely worth the muddy shoes and pants and clean up afterwards.
My son taking a quick nap on the rocks after lunch ^
Take your kids into consideration and pay attention to how long you must walk back to your car. Most trails are one-way so allocating enough time to get back to the car will, hopefully, prevent a meltdown! Water and snacks are a must. Sunscreen and appropriate outerwear too (I recommend layers so you can better adjust to when you get warm from hiking or cold from taking a break). It’s never too early to teach your kiddo to carry their own daypack with water and snacks and whatever else they might need, or collect, on the trek.
We will definitely be going back to experience the other trails and maybe even a mule drawn canal boat ride in the summer!
VK Pediatric Dentistry
5001 Lee Hwy, Arlington VA 22207