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Billy Goat Trail A (C & O Canal National Historic Park)

The Billy Goat Trail A at Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park is one of the most beloved and challenging trails in the metropolitan DC area. The hike takes you over angled rocks and rough terrain while providing great views of the Potomac River. Start the hike by visiting the Great Falls Overlook and snapping some pictures of the Falls. Though fun and beautiful, the hike is considered physically strenuous and is not for everyone.
Distance: 
4.3mi
Difficulty: 
Challenging
Scenery: 
Excellent
Photo Op: 
Take the Olmstead Island Bridges out to the Overlook where you will be rewarded with Great Views of the Falls.
Trail Map: 
Location: 
Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center
11710 MacArthur Boulevard
20854 Potomac, MD
Metro Accessible: 
No
Additional Directions: 
Be careful when punching in directions to a phone or GPS. If you want to hike the Billy Goat Trail A, you do not want to end up on the Virginia side of the Falls in Great Falls Park. Make sure that you are headed to the Park entrance on MacAurthur Blvd.
What to Bring: 
Trail Map. Water and snack. Bug spray. Money to enter the park ($5 per car).
Food Options: 
There is a place to purchase food (hamburgers, hot dogs, ice cream, etc.) and drink south of the parking lot but north of the Visitor's Center. However, the hours seem somewhat sporadic during the week. You are best served bringing your own water and a snack.
Additional Information: 

As stated above, this trail is not for everyone. Dogs are not permitted. The trail (see pictures below) requires some climbing over angled rocks. If you are not careful you could be seriously injured. Speak to a member of the ranger staff in the Visitor Center to discuss your suitability for the hike.

While the entire hike is only ~4 miles, it can take five hours because of the rough terrain and large number of hikers on busy days. If you are hiking on a weekend, get there early (9AM or earlier) if you want a more pleasurable experience.

Begin by walking south from the parking lot. You will pass a white building with picnic tables in front that serves food and drink, followed by a set of bathrooms before getting to the Visitor's Center. Cross the bridge at the Visitor's center to access the tow path and continue to walk south until you reach signs for the Great Falls Overlook/Olmstead Bridges. Make a right and cross the bridges on your way out to the Overlook (~0.25mi). The Overlook provides great views of the Falls. Return to the tow path the same way you came.

Continue on the tow path until you reach signs for the Billy Goat Trail A on your right (~0.35 miles from Overlook) . You will see a bridge crossing the canal to your left when you get to the trail head. Heed the warning signs and continue.

In many places along the trail, there is no discernible path. Follow the blue markers (see picture below) on the trees and rocks to stay on course. You should see these markers roughly every 50 yards or so. There are many places along the hike to take a break and enjoy the view of the river. Several pictures found below highlight what to expect along the path in terms of terrain. It is worth looking them over ahead of time to know what you are getting into.

Eventually you will conquer the rough terrain and make your way to the tow path. Make a left to head back to the Visitor's Center and enjoy the flat towpath along the Canal.

Disclaimer: 
Environmental conditions in cities, parks, etc. can change rapidly and without our knowledge. We do not make any claims as to the accuracy of information presented on this page. Further, hiking can be a dangerous activity that may result in bodily harm and possibly death. We hope the information that we provide will help you prepare for your hike, but do not imply that the information provided is complete. It is your responsibility to prepare yourself for whatever challenges you may face. If you decide to use any of the information on this page, you do so at your own risk.
Images: 
Great Falls Park Maryland Olmstead Island Bridges
Great Falls Park Maryland
Billy Goat Trail A
Billy Goat Trail A
Billy Goat Trail A
Billy Goat Trail A
Billy Goat Trail A

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