Snakes, Shrieks and Sights at Great Falls Park

Posted by Genevieve

Second time to Great Falls but went a different route this time and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Instead of waiting in line to go in the main entrance of Great Falls State Park, a great hiking-friendly buddy, Stephanie, and I started at the Difficult Run parking lot and headed out Difficult Run Trail towards the Potomac River.  The trail first parallels a creek, which gave me a chance to take a quick break and snap a photo.

Creek view from Difficult Run - watch out for water snakes!

Creek view from Difficult Run – watch out for water snakes!

Unfortunately, while I was moving to get the best angle for the picture, I stepped on a rock in the creek and unbeknownst to me dislodged someone’s home.  While zooming in, I saw a splash in the water in my periphery, but just assumed it was a small friendly fish.  Right before clicking the photo, a high-toned, loud shriek sounded behind me, so I turned my head to look at my hysterical friend.  This was followed by something like “there’s a snake next to you”.  All I’m thinking at this point is “great, I’m chilling here on rocks, which is not the preferred terrain for my new knee, and I am unable to run”.  Regardless, I attempt to run, which really just looks like an old lady who left her walker at home mixed with a gangster limp.  I never saw the snake but you couldn’t tell by my shrieks and hobbling.  This is a good point to let you know one of the best parts of this trail: very few people.  So we both saved face and just laughed at each other.  However, for the next (at least) half hour, we frantically scanned the trail ahead of us for possible snakes.

As we approached the Potomac River, we veered off onto River Trail.  This trail led us to high views of the Potomac River.  We carefully peered over ledges to check out paddle boarders in the river and rock climbers on the coastline cliffs.  Soon, we started seeing many more park visitors…we knew we were getting closer to the falls.

View of Great Falls on the Potomac River from the Virginia side.

View of Great Falls on the Potomac River from the Virginia side.

In hindsight, I will never go to Great Falls any other way.  Hiking up to the falls through the less traveled trails and then at the mid-point of the hike, you reach the beautiful great falls and then head back (mostly downhill) through the forest (Old Carriage Road, Swamp Trail or Matildaville Trail).  Once you exit the trail on Georgetown Pike, you just need to remember which way to turn because you are only about 0.2 miles from the Difficult Run Parking Lot.

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