Hey, there's no entry fee at the National Parks on Veteran's Day, so let’s get an early start and enjoy a hike in Great Falls Park!
The route: This is a two-part hike:
• The first part is a 3.2 mile loop going south from the meetup point along Old Carriage Road and the Ridge Trail, and returning north along River and Potowmack trails. After returning we'll take a short break for a pit stop.
• The second part is a 1.6 mile out-and-back going north from the meetup along the Potomac Heritage Trail to the Conn Island spillway and returning south along the same route.
The total distance is not quite 5 miles of smiles, plus another half mile or so to check out the overlooks. Plan for around 3 hours at a moderate pace. The surface is dirt or gravel throughout, except for the River Trail, which is broken and rocky. The going is easy to moderate except for the River Trail, which is moderate to strenuous.
Google map: http://tinyurl.com/h6w786v
NB: The River Trail runs along the edge of sheer cliffs in many sections, so if you have difficulties with depth perception, you may wish to avoid the River Trail and return to the start point along Old Carriage Rd. As the NPS website notes, "Your safety is your responsibility." Exercise caution and keep a close eye on your furry friend.
How to get there: From the I-495 Capital Beltway (either direction), take exit 44 onto VA-193/Georgetown Pike towards Great Falls. Follow signs for Great Falls. Drive 4.4 miles west along Georgetown Pike. At the traffic light at the intersection with Old Dominion Road, turn right to enter the park. (There is a park sign.) Drive 1 mile along Old Dominion Road and note the Visitor Center on your right. Continue another 0.1 miles (just past the Visitor Center) and turn right to enter the main parking area. See https://goo.gl/maps/5vqE4ngmbsn
Sorry, this is not a Metro accessible hike.
What to bring: Water, comfy shoes or boots with tread on them and your furry friend if desired (leashes please). Sunscreen and the insect repellent are recommended.
Weather: The forecast is sunny and a high of 61F, with 10-20 mph NW winds. Updates here: http://tinyurl.com/mek9mf4
Advisory: As a reminder, this is an adult group, and you are ultimately responsible for your own safety and well-being during events. No one under 18 years of age is allowed at this event, either as members or as guests, to include babies in carriers and/or strollers.
Cost: Free! (Normally it's $5 per person walking in, or $10 per vehicle, see http://tinyurl.com/po6reeg .)
Administrative stuff: There are restrooms and drinking fountains at the Great Falls Visitor Center.
NB: There are no trashcans in the park! If you bring it in, you pack it out!
• Great Falls: http://www.nps.gov/grfa/index.htm
• Free Entrance Days in the National Parks: http://tinyurl.com/qa3qcv
• Trail Map: http://tinyurl.com/obbjbc