I love Great Falls. The landscape is dramatic by Northern Virginia/Maryland/DC standards (where most hiking within 20 miles of D.C tends to consist of dirt trails) and the C&O Canal is a good place for a flat bike ride as well. I’ve been wanting to do the Billy Goat Trail, specifically the Billy Goat A portion of the trail for a while now, but I was afraid because I had heard it was strenuous and I worried I wasn’t in good enough shape. However, after receiving plenty of reassurance from friends I finally tried it out this past Saturday and was surprised to find that it’s actually pretty easy. It was a fantastic spring days: Low 70s, not a cloud in the sky, warm breeze and it couldn’t have been a better day for hiking. There was some rock scrambling and some areas that requiring jumping, sliding and careful maneuvering, but it’s not particularly steep or difficult and it’s definitely worth the views you get. I think it’s pretty doable for kids over 8 or 9, though if you’re thinking about doing this hike you should keep in mind dogs aren’t allowed on part A. I went with a couple of friends and I think we probably did about 2.5 miles between the actual Billy Goat Trail and the C&O Canal trail, but it took us about two hours because most of the trail is pretty rocky.
Billy Goat Trail: A Great (Almost) Urban Hike
The trail is accessible from C&O Canal National Historic Park in Maryland and there’s an entrance fee of $5 per car. If you bike in, it’s $3. There is plentiful parking and access to a number of trails of differing difficulty if you’re not up for rock scrambling. You can see a description of other Great Falls trails here. It’s pretty hard to get lost because there are so many people on the trail so, if like me you have no sense of direction, there should be plenty of people to ask. Or you can just follow someone who looks like they know what they’re doing. I find that’s usually a good tactic. I had heard that there were long waits on the rock scrambling portions of the trail on nice spring and summer weekend, but we didn’t really have to deal with any major backups.