Over the last 30 years or so, I've crossed into Virginia many times via US 495 and the Cabin John Bridge, never realizing that there's spectacular natural landmark not five miles off of the Interstate.
Upstream on the Potomac from the Cabin John, just far enough to be out of sight from the bridge, are the Great Falls of the Potomac. The river drops 76 feet in less than a mile through rock-strewn rapids and several waterfalls. Just above the falls, the Potomac is almost 1000 feet wide, but it narrows to as little as 60 feet as it rushes through Mather Gorge, a short distance below the falls.
I visited Great Falls for the first time yesterday, along with my crew from the Shutterbug Excursions meetup.com group.
The group had to cancel its planned Skyline Drive photo meetup last week because of bad weather, but it turned out that fall foliage was closer to it's peak yesterday anyway. And the weather couldn't have been more perfect and comfortable - sunny and about 65F.
This photo is from the lookout point closest to the visitors center, looking across the Potomac to the Maryland side. The ancient, high-walled cliffs are a result of the Potomac carving a deeper path to the sea following the drop in ocean levels after the last ice age.