Editors' pick

Great Falls Tavern and Visitor Center

History Museum
Great Falls Tavern and Visitor Center photo
Giuliana Nakashima - The Washington Post
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Editorial Review

This historic site along the C&O Canal serves as a visitor center for the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park and a museum to the former inn's long past.

This is an excellent place to view the rushing rapids of the Potomac River as it it falls over a series of steep, jagged rocks and flows through a narrow gorge. Upstream the river is calm, but as it narrows to less than 4 percent of its upstream width, the river's speed and force increases, producing several 20-foot waterfalls with a total 76-foot drop in elevation over a distance of 3,500 feet. These falls are the steepest and most spectacular fall line rapids of any eastern river.

Admission for a three-day pass: $5 per car and $3 for an individual walker or cyclist. The Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. year-round, except for Thanksgiving Day, December 25 and January 1. The center has extended summer hours.

This visitor center offers ranger-led walks and talks, exhibits and short films on canal and local history and the geology of the Great Falls of the Potomac. The center also has restrooms, a snack bar and a bookshop.

Picnic tables and some grills are available but cannot be reserved. There are no picnic shelters.