Summary: Begin this hike along the towpath of the historic Cheasapeake and Ohio Canal, completed in 1850 after 22 years of work and mishap, and operated for 73 years between Georgetown and Cumberland, MD. The blue-blazed Billy Goat Trial turns toward the Potomac River at Widewater (a natural wide basin where the barges were able to pass) and leads backwards in history 180 million years to the time when the palisades of the Potomac were first forming. The trail skirts the edge of Bear Island, passing giant potholes as it follows along the top of the cliffs of Mather Gorge. This portion of the hike is quite rugged and necessitates a good bit of rock scrambling. The blue blazed painted on the rocks help to locate the route. The return trip is an easy stroll along the towpath. Although this hike is only 4 miles in length, it may be rather slow going on the rocks - and the view will invite you to stay awhile.
Trailhead: I-495 to Exit 41 (Carderock and Glen Echo); follow Clara Barton Pkwy towards Carderock, passing David Taylor Model Basin and Naval Surface War Center on right. At junction with MacArthur Blvd turn left and continue West to Old Anglers Inn on right at sharp turn in road. Continue past Old Angelers Inn, approximately 2 miles, to the C&O Canal National Park at Great Falls. Park near the Taven and proceed East down the towpath. Billy Goat Trail is well marked to your right. You will pass the scenic overlook of Great Falls, MD from Olmstead Island by taking this approach to Billy Goat Trail Part A. (Lat:38.99338 Lon:-77.2456)
Trail Guides for BillyGoat section A:
Circuit Hikes in VA WVA MD and PA
by Potomac Appalachain Trail Club (PATC)
Best Seasons: Year-Round
User Groups: Hikers,
Ranger Contact: National Park Service (301) 299-2026
Localhikes Reporter: This hike was submitted by Joe Cross, who has posted 56 other hikes on this site
Trail Reviews Page 1 of 6 Submit your own review
Reviewed by Maria on 7/1/2015
Trail was closed today. When my son arrived, there was a sign that stated it was closed. No reason was given. I am not sure how to check on when it will open again. 7/1/15
Reviewed by Laura on 4/16/2013
Great hike, I'm from the Tennessee mountain region and I really enjoyed it. Although I would recommend trail A for those used to hiking. It was challenging but not not as challenging as the Chimney's for those who like to hike. I would say that the over look is better on the VA side, but this one is not bad.
Reviewed by David Z on 3/5/2012
Just go back and pieced together ten miles with the A and the B loop. Due to the flooding, the A loop is currently closed. We got hit with the snow and can't wait to come back when it's open. Great day to hike.
Reviewed by BEH on 3/4/2012
IMPORTANT: Due to construction and a major breech in the C&O Canal, all hikers wishing to hike Section A should park in the C&O Canal National Park at Great Falls, MD. The entrance is at the intersection of MacArthur Blvd and Falls Rd. Proceed along MadArthur Blvd, past the Inn until you get to the Park Entrance. There is a charge to enter the Park - National Park Passes honored.
Reviewed by Cody on 8/14/2011
I went in the late afternoon on a Sunday and hardly passed anybody on the trail. Most of the people I encountered were kayaking down the river, and they were fun to watch. The best part about this trail is that there are so many great boulders to scale up along side it that always yield amazing views. This is the frist trail I've hit since moving to DC from Colorado and to be honest I was pessimistic about the opportunities for a great hike, but this trail has changed my mind!
Reviewed by KF on 3/6/2011
This has been one of the great hikes I have ever been on!!
Reviewed by Puja on 2/8/2011
Not being an avid hiker (though in somewhat good shape), I was expecting to have a difficult and uncomfortable time on this hike. This turned out to be an excellent day and I'm really glad I went. It was somewhat challenging, but even the difficult portions didn't require too much work - just put in some thought as you scramble. I got to see some great things along the way and was surprised to see so much in the DC area after having lived here all my life. They recommend strong hiking boots but I did it in my Vibrams and found them to be great - I could stick my toes into little parts to gain traction where others couldn't.
Reviewed by Viewer on 12/4/2010
Excellent hike! my gf and I got naked out on the cliffs and someone caught us in the act...fun fun fun!
Notice: Traveling in the backcountry can be hazardous. You are responsible for informing yourself about these hazards and taking necessary precautions. Information on this web site comes from volunteer reporters and may contain errors or omissions. A current guidebook and proper equipment are essential for safe enjoyment of the hikes posted on this site.
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