Do you want to take a hike that’s a bit more, than your “usual walk around the park?” Does the idea of boulders, along with views of the Potomac River appeal to you? If so, the Billy Goat Trail is one you might want to consider, and section A has been covered extensively in hiker based blogs and magazines. While it doesn’t require you to carry ropes and specialized climbing equipment, expect a substantial workout, and it is not for the faint of heart. Don’t even think about bringing your family dog with you here, as that is forbidden, due to the numerous hazards that most dogs aren’t aware of. Its 1.7 mile length might seem laughable, but as a regular hiker there, I can assure you that I’ve sweat out some calories on this trail.
Parking for this trail is available at Great Falls Tavern, which is right off of the Chesapeake and Ohio Trail. You have to walk about a mile down the C+O to get to the access point, and it starts off simple enough. There are a few small hills, a couple of small rocks, and beautiful Oak trees. Yet this calm environment soon changes, as you will leaping across boulders, getting cliff side views of the Potomac, and enduring a workout that has challenged many. Thankfully the trail is well marked, as it juts in and out throughout various parts, and this is done with blue marks on rocks and trees. In case you tire out or have a medical emergency, there’s an exit a little ways in, and quite a few folks have had to take this “walk of shame.”
For those into adventure, this is one thrilling hike. I cannot describe with mere words, the beauty of the views. The Potomac River is captivating enough, but what really makes it worthwhile, is to see it during autumn. For as far as your eyes can see, you will see an amount of different colored foliage, that’s worthy of a painting. You will see rock climbers scaling cliffs on the Virginia side, and wildlife opportunities always are present. I’ve seen hawks, deer, foxes, and an occasional snake. Be careful as there are some Copperheads, but for the most part they will simply slither out of your way during spring and summer months.
My favorite part is “the wall.” That’s what veterans of the trail call it, as this is a fifty plus foot rock that you climb, to reach a summit that provides a brief respite. It takes a bit of work, and grabbing crevices to get through this portion. You don’t need ropes, but if you are afraid of heights, do not look down until you’ve reached the top. It’s the most grueling part of the trail, but thankfully once you get over this, there’s a shaded area that’s perfect for picnics or just a drink of water. After “the wall” the trail settles down a bit, and at the end its just mere hills without boulders that you have to complete.
This trail will require between an hour and two hours to complete. Most of the time I average around the 1 hour and 15 minute mark, to allow for a few breaks. Once back you will be further South of the initial entrance point, and have to walk a bit further to get back to your car. The C+O Canal is a relaxing way to complete your journey, and I love seeing the carp in the shallow waters, or the gigantic snapping turtles catching some rays on rocks. There is a section B and C, and while they are fine hikes, A truly stands for awesome with regards to the Billy Goat Trail. Its open year round and the address is 11710 Macarthur Blvd Potomac, MD 20854. Due to its popularity, the best time to go is the weekdays, although thankfully I’ve never seen the trail overcrowded.