Snowflake and Great Beginnings are very popular climbs. On a nice day, get out really early if you want them!
Scramblers, take heart! In addition to these routes, most of which require sensible people to rope up, there are some nice routes available. Three in particular stand out:
• At the upstream end, just right of the Seclusion route, a crack system (Seclusion Corner) leads from the base of Seclusion all the way to the top of the crag. This climb is 5.0-5.2 and very good for unroped climbers who need more excitement than Class 3 and 4 scrambles usually offer (see photo marked "Upstream End").
• Between Nylons and the wall holding Original Juliet’s Balcony and Romeo’s Retreat, try any of a few cracks, ledges, and protrusions and climb as close as possible to straight up. This will put you into the upper end of the Original Juliet’s Balcony route. Some of the moves here can get into the 5.4 range, but the exposure, while respectable, isn’t extreme, and the hardest technical moves are short ones.
• Left of the Original Juliet’s Balcony/Romeo’s Retreat wall, look for a crack running up the corner dividing the Seclusion crag from the Romeo’s Ladder one. This crack is about 5.2. I call it "Romeo's Corner," and there is a route page for it attached to the Romeo's Ladder page.
If you have climbed or do climb any of these routes, please add a route page or supply an overview in Additions (I will add it to the main page).
The attached pictures, if you click on them, will provide more details about the crag and some of the routes on it.
An excellent resource for the area is Eric Horst’s Rock Climbing Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland
. The section on Great Falls provides one-sentence overviews of the routes. There are also photos, taken either from a boat or from the Maryland side, of the crags, and the photos have useful diagrams showing the locations and directions of the routes. The guide leaves the step-by-step concerns, and the fun, to you.
Even better is the PATC Climbers' Guide
, which focuses just on the Great Falls area.
Locals will know their own best ways. For others, though, these directions are easiest to follow:
From the western part of I-495, a piece of the Capital Beltway, take Exit 44 for Route 193, Georgetown Pike; this is the second exit south of the Maryland border. Drive west for a few miles until you see the well-signed road leading to Great Falls Park. Turn right and follow the road about a mile to the entrance station. There are two large parking lots after the entrance station, but you should make an immediate right instead and go into the "lower lot" popular with climbers and kayakers.
Hike to the River Trail, which is the last maintained trail before the river. After passing the Sandbox and Dihedrals access points, the trail drops down some wooden steps, makes a bridged stream crossing, and then climbs a set of wooden steps. At the top of the climb, the trail splits in three, with the River Trail heading right. Follow the River Trail across some wooden planks. Shortly after them, you will come to an eroded area that has a nice view of the upstream end of Seclusion (with the Seclusion route). It’s about 40 more yards to the top of the crag.
Relatively easy Class 3/4 descents are possible from either end of the crag. An even easier approach is a bit farther downstream at the downstream end of the Romeo’s Ladder crag.
It should take about 15 minutes to hike from the parking area to the top of Seclusion.
The park is open from 7 A.M. until dark every day except Christmas. There is an admission fee, good for three days, of $5 per vehicle or $3 per person entering on foot or by bicycle. Annual and interagency passes are also available (the latter costs $80).
Climbers are asked to register (free). There is a registration box at the climbers’ parking area, and there is also one at the visitor center.
Drilling to place bolts is prohibited.
The area is popular and can be quite crowded, especially on weekends spring through fall. Also, some of the people there, skilled as they may be, are less the sanctity-of-nature types and more the types who see mountains and crags as a climbing gym with cool views. Since Seclusion is one of the most popular crags, try going on a weekday or in winter if you want quieter climbing.
The park is home to copperheads. It’s unlikely that they hang out in holds on the cliffs themselves, but be aware. The danger, though slim, is greatest near the clifftops, where there are more places for snakes to be.
Poison ivy is abundant. The humid period from late spring through early fall features gnats, mosquitoes, and other biting insects.
None-- day use only
External LinkGreat Falls NPS site