Great Falls

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November 1

Great Falls Fall Color Welcome back to C&O NHP! This event is now sold out. If you have registered but will not be able to attend, please notify us in advance so others can attend. On Sunday, only pre-registered orienteers will be able to start on their course anytime between 11 - 1:30, and must be back no later than 3pm. There will not be any day-of registration at the event.

Registration is now closed.

Course Information: Course stats are now posted below. Note that there are officially 3 approved courses (beginner, intermediate, and advanced). These courses are carefully designed to avoid areas that the National Park Service has designated as sensitive.

Reminder: On Sunday, November 1 at 2 a.m., Daylight Saving Time ends, and all clocks should be moved back one hour. Don't show up one hour too early!

In order to provide safety options for advanced orienteers that are likely to be unable to complete the full advanced course of 9.7km, we have designated a specific bypass between certain controls on this (long) advanced course that also avoids sensitive areas; this version of the advanced course is designated "medium advanced" below and "Advanced-medium" in the registration software. This also means that orienteers on either advanced course have a certain number of controls in common at the beginning of their courses.

Great Falls Locator Map

Save $8 - Just $9 For A Large Pizza Back by Popular Demand: Post-Race Potomac Pizza Palooza! After your race, take advantage of a 1/2 price pizza deal at a nearby restaurant, Potomac Pizza. Normally $17 for a large cheese and tomato pizza, just wave your QOC map and you'll get this 8 slice pizza for just $9, and additional toppings are only $1 each. There's seating for everyone at this friendly local place with a full menu, free soda refills, and it's no problem to go "as you are" post-race. There's plenty of room to go over your map and routes and meet up with your fellow orienteers. The address is 9812 Falls Rd in Potomac; to get there, just take a left at the stop sign as you exit the park, and in less than 2 miles take a left just before River Road into the Potomac Promenade parking area. Directions are also shown in the Event Locator Map; the Tavern area is shown in the image to the left.

Bike Loaner Program logoBike Loan Program: Borrow a bike at no cost to ride along the Canal, if you've got energy after your run (or if you have brought non-orienteering friends or family along)! Info available at the Bike Loaner Program website or Facebook page.

Note: Although we have been assured that it will not impact our event, as you enter the park you will notice fencing related to a construction project near that area. Details are online here.

Have any questions? Just use our Contact Us form and ask away!


C&O NHP (Great Falls MD), Great Falls Tavern, Potomac, MD (Classic)

RegistrationRegistration is now closed. Pre-registration was mandatory for this event.
Start TimesPre-registered participants may check in between 10:45 - 1:15, and may start anytime between 11 - 1:30. There will not be day-of registration at this event.

Reminder: On Sunday, November 1 at 2 a.m., Daylight Saving Time ends, and all clocks should be moved back one hour.

ScheduleSunday, November 1
11:00 am - 3:00 pmClassic:
Event Director:Greg Lennon
Event Director:Kathleen Lennon
Course Designer:Peggy Dickison
Location Details

C&O NHP (Great Falls MD)
Great Falls Tavern
Potomac, MD
Google Map

From I-495, Maryland: Take exit 41 (Carderock/Great Falls, MD), follow Clara Barton Parkway to the end. At the stop sign, turn left onto MacArthur Blvd. Follow MacArthur ~3.5 miles to the park entrance booth. MacArthur Blvd. ends at the park.

From I-495, Virginia: Cross into Maryland over the American Legion Bridge (beltway inner loop) and take exit 41 (Clara Barton Parkway) Westbound, staying left at the fork. Follow Clara Barton to the end. At the stop sign, turn left onto MacArthur Blvd. Follow MacArthur Blvd ~3.5 miles to the park entrance booth. MacArthur Blvd. ends at the park.

After paying the park entrance fee, park in the large lot to the right (north) of the roundabout, then walk south back past the roundabout and beyond the Tavern to find our registration area.

Printable detailed maps showing the parking/registration area and the route to the Pizza Palooza are available here.

Course DetailsClassic
Course NameLength (km)Climb (m)No. Controls
Beginner 2.211511
Intermediate 5.220514
Medium Advanced 626016
Long Advanced 9.740524
Course NotesClassic

It’s beautiful, open, sometimes tricky Great Falls! If you've been here before you’ve probably been to many if not most of these control locations. That should about cover it.

You want to know more, even this late? Okay, first, we have an agreement with the NPS that we’ll use pre-approved control sites, limit our numbers, and keep out of the sensitive areas (marked as out of bounds). In return, we get to come back every year and run around in this fantastic park. I tried to set courses that are different from the past two years, but it’s inevitable that there are some similarities, given the restraints. But it’s still tricky in places—the contours don’t always do what you expect—and the woods are so open and fun to run through that you’ll still enjoy yourself.

The woods are mostly open and fast. The light green on the map is primarily large-leafed saplings; it’s not hard to get through but the visibility is lower. I saw no Japanese stiltgrass in the woods so no vegetative worries underfoot. There are some areas of deadfall but they’re easy to avoid. There’s some unmapped green you’ll probably encounter, so, as always, don’t navigate primarily by vegetation. The contours and trails are reliable. Stay out of the areas marked out-of-bounds.

It’s hilly. Point features, especially rock features, are small, except for pits. Pits — remember this was an area mined for gold back in the day — range in size from normal (small) to really big. The big ones are mapped using contours. There are some areas of stony ground, not necessarily enough to be mapped but enough to trip you up if you’re not careful. So watch your feet. The trails can be rocky as well so pay attention while running on them. We’re just past peak leaf color, and about half of the leaves are probably on the ground. The trails are covered with leaves and, while they’re generally easy to follow while you’re on them, you can easily run across them without seeing them.

There are very few wet areas in the forest. You will not get your feet wet. Unless you wander into an out-of-bounds stream valley. (Don't.)

On the Beginner’s course, there are some controls that are not on the trail. One is well off the trail. I hung the control high and if you look in the right direction, you can see the control. It may be streamered (some streamers from the trail but not back) if I have time. If you are careful and pay attention, you should be able to find the control.

Have fun working off all that Halloween candy you stole from your kids (or the stash you didn’t give away). It should be another beautiful day in the Great Falls woods. Oh, one last thing: this park is popular with non-orienteers, especially when the weather is nice. Please don’t run down a tourist.

Entry FeesIndividual Entries

Note: juniors = under 21

Club Member, adult Club Member, junior Non-Member, adult Non-Member, junior
Epunch Owner $5 $5 $10 $5
Epunch Borrower $10 $5 $15 $10

Team or Group Entries

Participants are welcome to compete together as a single team entry. Teams containing one or more nonmembers are charged the nonmember individual rate. Teams containing one or more adults are charged the adult individual rate. For teams to receive member or junior rates, all members of the team must be members or juniors, respectively. Each extra team map beyond the first is an additional $2. Individuals or teams desiring to compete on a second course can do so for a reduced fee of $2/map.

Important Notes
  • At the event, we can only accept payment in cash or check; online, you may use a credit card or PayPal account.
  • You may become a member at the event or by joining online via this webpage. Membership is completely optional.
  • Most of our events use an 'epunch' timing chip for electronic timing. Individuals or groups without their own epunch pay a higher entry fee (see above), which includes the loan of an epunch for that event. Loaned epunches that are lost incur a $40 replacement fee. Epunches (also known as SI-cards or finger sticks) are usually available for sale at each event as described here.
  • Compasses are available at no charge, but if lost incur a $15 replacement fee.
  • Please provide collateral (driver's license or car keys) when borrowing a compass or epunch.
  • For additional safety, whistles are available for sale at $1/each.
  • Free beginner instruction is always available - just ask at the registration table.