Great Falls National Park

Hiking via River Bend Park trail to Great Falls Overlook

Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) typically bloom mid-April through mid-May.

Using AllTrails, I located River Bend Park, directly north of the national park housing Great Falls along the Potomac River. Parking and access to Great Falls park is $20 per vehicle, while parking at River Bend is free (donations are encouraged though). This Sunday (April 22nd) however, is Earth Day and there is no cost for entrance to the national park. Parks exist and continue to operate on the implementation of fees and donations, so I am definitely not discouraging that route. I am merely offering a solution to those who are traveling on a budget.

Spring (April-May) is the best time to walk these trails, as Virginia bluebells are in peak season and provide for a delightful view due to the astonishing numbers of these flowers collected near the riverbank. Many other natural flora are intermixed on the path to the Great Falls overlook, providing an alluring scent to the state’s official insect, the tiger swallowtail butterfly.

The River Bend trail was an easy route with wide and clearly visible paths, and almost no incline. It’s a roughly 3.5-4.0 mile long trek (out and back). Pack water and refill at the designated fountains near the bathrooms at the entrance to the falls overlook. Sunscreen and bug-spray will be your best friends. There are several overlooks to view the falls to accommodate for overcrowding, although I didn’t seem to have any trouble getting a good photo. The gift shop was closed temporarily for reconstruction the day I went, as well as some parts of the trails in the national park itself.

I will certainly be checking out the other opportunities the Potomac has to offer, but this was by far one of the best ways to enjoy the view without an extremely strenuous hiking challenge. What are your plans to get out and celebrate Earth Day?

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