Billy Goat Trail - Great Falls MD
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Billy Goat Trail - Potomac, MD

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Length Difficulty Streams Views Solitude Camping
7.8 mls N/A
Hiking Time:
Elev. Gain:
4.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch
280 ft
Great Falls Park MD
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Park at the Great Falls parking area. 39.00224, -77.24664

The Billy Goat Trail is one of the most well known hikes in the Metro D.C. area, and for good reason. With nearly a mile of fun rock-hopping, and spectacular views of the Potomac River along the way, this circuit is loads of fun with plenty to see. We have the circuit rated as only a for difficulty, but be prepared to jump from rock to rock.

The Billy Goat Trail is very busy on nice days anytime of the year, however if you get on the trail by 8:00 a.m. you can miss all the crowds. The entire Billy Goat Trail is made up of 3 separate sections A, B, & C, that start and finish on the C&O Canal. The 7.8 mile circuit we have mapped here follows the rock-hopping section A, the more casual hike on section B, with a return back to the Great Falls parking area using the Berma Rd. Trail and Overlook Trail.

  • Mile 0.0 – From the parking area at Great Falls Park follow the path past the Great Falls Tavern and Visitors Center, cross over to the C&O Canal at Lock 19, then follow the C&O canal down to the entrance for the Billy Goat A Trail 50 yards before the covered Stop Gate.
  • Mile 0.9 - Turn right onto the Billy Goat A Trail where shortly it starts paralleling the Potomac River. The Potomac River is approximately 50ft below at this point. From here the trail becomes more of a rock-hop then arrives at Trail Marker 1.
  • Mile 1.4 - Trail Marker 1 is the point where the rock-hopping becomes more intense. There is a National Park sign warning hikers that 'Many hikers are injured every year on this section of the Billy Goat A Trail' so be prepared for a little more scrabbling. Between Markers 1 and 2 you also need to climb the 50ft traverse mentioned on the Trail Marker 1 sign. Although this might look slightly intimidating to some people, once on the traverse it's not that difficult.
  • Mile 1.9 - From Trail Marker 2 the scrambling diminishes, and the trail descends to the river bank where there is a nice beach area. DO NOT be tempted to wade into the water as the currents are deceptively strong, and you can be quickly washed down stream. Continue along the trail passing a wetland, small pond, then crossing a small log bridge. On the opposite side of the log bridge is Trail Marker 3.
  • Mile 2.2 - From Trail Marker 3 there is one more spectacular panorama of the Potomac River before the trail becomes more gentle passing by Sherwin Island and arriving back at the C&O Canal.
  • Mile 2.5 - Turn right on the C&O Canal following it for 0.6 miles to the entrance of the Billy Goat B Trail.
  • Mile 2.8 - Turn right on the Billy Boat B Trail. The trail is considerably more leisurely than the Billy Goat A Trail, with only a small section of rock-hopping where the trail passes Hermit Island. Where the Potomac River passes Hermit Island is a favorite spot for Paddle Boarders surfing the river wakes. Continue on the trail passing the Marsden Tract Campground, then arrive back at the C&O Canal.
  • Mile 4.4 - Now turn left on the C&O Canal heading back towards Great Falls. In 1.1 miles reach the Anglers Parking Area bridge over the C&O Canal.
  • Mile 5.5 - Cross the Anglers parking area bridge and ascend the wooden steps to the Berma Rd Trail. Turn left on the Berma Rd Trail for 1.4 miles to the intersection of the white blazed Overlook Spur Trail.
  • Mile 6.9 - Turn right uphill on the Overlook Spur Trail for 120 yards to the intersection of the yellow blazed Overlook Trail. Turn Left on the Overlook Trail. You will pass a unmarked side trail to an overlook of Great Falls, then continue to the main overlook at a switchback on the trail. Continue now downhill to the Lock 19 Trail intersection.
  • Mile 7.5 - Turn left at the Lock 19 Trail and follow it back down to the main Great Falls Park area. Continue past the Great Falls Tavern and Visitors Center back to the parking area.
  • Mile 7.8 - Arrive back at the parking area.
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Hiker Reviews For The Billy Goat Trail Hike (5 Most Recent)
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By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 24, 2017
First time doing the Billy Goat A trail from beginning to end. The 50 foot wall is a challenge but doable. If you like rock hopping you will love this hike. Stunning views! I went on a Saturday afternoon and while there were many people on my he trail I was hadn't call for t crowded. Very little waiting time. Next time I'll wear my gloves.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, June 10, 2017
This was an amazing hike! You get a great workout in and the views are spectacular. I arrived at the parking lot at 8 am and the lot across from the Old Anglers Inn was full, I got lucky that someone was leaving as I was pulling in, so definitely get there early. When I started the trail there was already 3 groups ahead of me and about 5 groups behind me. I expected that due to hiking on the weekend, but if you want a quiet trail you have to get there earlier.

The trail itself was tons of fun, I am in shape, but in no means a hiker so I was nervous doing this trail but it wasnt bad! Plus, there were other people who were also doing the trail that helped other hikers out. There were already people sitting on the overlooks when I got there but I was still able to find some spots to sit.

Overall this was an awesome hike, arrive early and have fun!

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, April 15, 2017
Re Section A: Wonderful trail, but follow these simple rules for maximum enjoyment for yourself and others.

Arrive early, especially on nice weekends. The trail gets very crowded and by 10 am, there can be long waits at certain spots on the trail.

Leave your pet at home. Pets are not allowed on Section A of the Billy Goat Trail.

Stay on trail by following the blue blazes. BGT-A is on Bear Island, full of rare and endangered plant species. You'll also avoid the ticks, chiggers, copperheads, and northern water snakes.

Do not enter the river. The Potomac is very dangerous and entering the water is illegal. Even wading can be deadly.

Bring plenty of water and wear appropriate clothing. Injuries are frequent, rescue is difficult, and caution is appropriate.

By: Rating: Date of Hike: Sunday, January 22, 2017
Started the trail on a foggy Sunday morning at 8:30 and empty car park.

Took a leisurely walk round the trail, one technical bit that is fine don't let it stop you if are nervous, take it slow and dont let ppl pressure you, there plenty of hand holds and the rocks arent slippy

Definitely go the rotation as described as one technical bit would be tricky going down.

-easy to get to
-well marked
-AWESOME VIEWS, needs stated twice to have a such a view so close is really lucky
-interesting trail with lots of technical like scrambles that are really enjoyable

-i can see this trail being packed very quickly a problem of its location and amazing views, but its to be shared with all
-Nothing else

I can't tell you how much i really enjoyed the hike, really beautiful.

By: Mark Rating: Date of Hike: Saturday, November 26, 2016
We went the Saturday after Thanksgiving around 10 AM and parking lot wasn't too full at that point, but started to get busy quickly. The trail is one of our favorite ones in the area and is quite a workout if you do it quickly. Starting at the Great Falls Parking area and doing the full Billy Goat Trail A and coming back along the tow path takes about 2.5 hours if you go at a good speed and it's not overly crowded. Once you get onto the trail just past the Falls you will find a nice easy trail into the woods which seems like it will be a piece of cake, but then the rock hopping begins. Quite a variety of rock hopping which added to the fun of it (especially for kids) over the 1.75 mile section A. Some of it is fairly easy hopping from one rock to the the other while other sections require both hands as well. Some pretty good climbing sections especially the 50 foot traverse about midway through (that can become a bottleneck). Great views along with the whole hike of the river and the people doing a similar hike on the Virginia side. Water levels were really, really low this trip. Have always done the hike starting from the Great Falls Park end (and not the Anglers Inn side), but it's about the same number of people doing it each way. You certainly will have no solitude at all on the weekends as it can be very, very crowded so definitely try and go early. Have never been on a weekday, but hope to do that soon. Overall one of the best hikes in the area, a great workout and spectacular views.

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Early April
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