A trip to Great Falls, VA

Sunday’s blue skies and warm weather was an invitation for another hike around town. Sugato suggested exploring the trails in Great Falls, Virginia. Our past trips to the Falls in Maryland have been very rewarding; we expected nothing less on the VA side.

After waiting in a bumper-to-bumper line for 20 minutes, we finally paid the $5/car fee and parked by the Great Falls Park Visitor Center. The picnic area was crammed with families and the air was filled with various smells of good food. We walked past the hordes of hyper kids and onto the first overlook. The view was nice.

After consulting the map, we decided to hike the Matildaville Trail (MT) which is littered with ruins from decades past. MT crept along the river with several scenic overlooks. With the exception of a few hilly patches, this trail is not very challenging. Hoping that things would get more interesting, we decided to push further on Ridge Trail (RT) instead. RT doesn’t run along the river but winds through the forest and took us to the MD/VA state line. After poking around for a bit and seeing nothing of interest, we turned around and followed RT to Old Carriage Road which eventually took us back to the visitor center. There, we watched a short film on the history of Great Falls and indulged in a few puzzles and coloring activities intended for 5 year old kids. We then walked back to the car and called it a day.

We spent two hours exploring the Great Falls Park in Virginia. The boys had a good time throwing pebbles and sticks at the trees, the swamps, and at each other. Sugato was especially proud to find an extra long walking stick. But given that none of us were ever out of breath or even broke a sweat during the entire two hours, the hike felt more like a walk in the woods. The Billy Goat Trail on the Maryland side compared to MT and RT feels like a better choice for future hikes. However, it was nice to take it easy this time. I would like to come back here for a run sometime.

Having hiked a few times this year I now have a list of things that I take with me regardless of the duration or the type of hike. This includes water, snacks, a rain jacket, sunscreen, band-aids, matches, a small knife, a book, camera, phone, wallet. This is in addition to making sure I have the proper shoes, clothes, and back pack. My friends think this is over the top, especially since some of them don’t even carry a day pack or bring water. I know the knife and matches sounds a little excessive, but it seems like no hiker should ever be without some basic supplies. I guess I’ve read too many books where things didn’t go as planned. Just my two cents.

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Chika Gujarathi is a freelance writer and a mother of three from Raleigh, NC. She writes for national and local publications about lifestyle, travel, books, and of course, motherhood! Her most current project involves illustrating and publishing a children’s Hindi book. When not adventuring with her family in the minivan, you can find her riding the streets of Raleigh on her beloved bike Linus.

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