Billy Goat Trail A, C&O Canal NHP, MD

After my day of meetings in the DC area last Thursday, I headed over to the hotel and changed, and headed east along the Dulles Tollway. I had a fast cruise right up to the point I was about a mile from the Capitol Beltway, I-495. My Facebook post while sitting still:

Bill Hensley: There are approximately 1 billion cars trying to get on the Capitol Beltway. There are *4* lanes for them to funnel into. In short, this sux.

It took an hour and a half to drive about 20 miles. Eventually I found the Anglers Inn and parked. The parking area was full of kayakers.

The Billy Goat Trail is located on the north (Maryland) bank of the Potomac River. Things like Google Maps show it to be part of the Great Falls of the Potomac National Park, but that’s on the other side of the river, in Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park. I headed down to one of the canal towpaths that serve as a backbone trail, and immediately turned left towards the Billy Goat Trail – “B”. Not so good, since I was looking for segment “A”.

The towpath is a lot like a road, and it parallels what is left of the C&O Canal.

Eventually, I found the Billy Goat “A” segment. The trail starts out as a wide, hardpacked dirt trail.

I’m going to review the trail and then put up some pictures. 10% of this trail is relatively flat. The rest of it reminded me a hike through Robbers Cave State Park in eastern Oklahoma. There were a couple places where you needed to pull yourself up 3-4 ft (or let yourself down), there was some large rock scrambling, or walking along a knife or narrow edge.

It was warmish (85F) when I hiked, and fairly humid, and I got significantly sweaty quickly. I put on my Croakies glasses holder immediately.

There were a lot of people walking this trail in sneakers, but I was darn glad I had my boots.

This last photo shows the hardest part of the hike. It took some real balance to go down that far on the rock face.

Every once in a while you would see some really nice views of the water.

There were some dynamite views of the Potomac also.

Saw some birds, but no small mammals. Did run across this nice deer.

Eventually I ran across this trail marker.

Eventually I got to the end of the Billy Goat “A” trail, back on the towpath. I walked a hundred yards or so to find a bridge over the canal, and picked up an upper trail back to the Anglers Inn.

This was an amazing hike, to find this rough terrain so close to a major metropolitan area. I saw tons of people out, singles, doubles, threes, and fours. I got off the trail about 2000, for about a two-hour hike,. Fighting to get their through the traffic wasn’t fun, but it was worth it.

Here is my GPS trail superimposed on a Google Earth image of the area.

I am already looking forward to hiking the remaining “B” and “C” segments, and some of the rest of the trails in the Historical Park.

One thing I really wish were available – a bridge over the Potomac from the Great Falls NP side. That would allow a peaceful drive to the south side, and a quick walk over to the north side, avoiding the Traffic From Hell on I-495. Or maybe I could go NW and drive down the north side to the east. Hmmm….

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4 Responses to “Billy Goat Trail A, C&O Canal NHP, MD”

  1. rambleonhiking Says:

    Thanks SO much for this awesome description. I randomly ran into your blog today through wordpress doing a search for “hiking”. My husband and I plan on hiking this very trail in a few weeks and this is the best description I have seen yet.

    Did you see any snakes? We hiked at Great Falls NP on the Virginia Side of the Potomac last year and saw a few northern water snakes. We thought they were copperheads at first!

  2. Bill Hensley Says:

    Thank you for the kind comments. I hope you enjoy hiking the Billy Goat as much as I did.

    I didn’t see any reptiles at all. I expected to see more wildlife, but this is a fairly heavily walked area.


  3. Hiking C&O Canal Historical Park, MD « Bill Hensley’s Random Blog Says:

    […] able to hike the Billy Goat A trail here at the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park about a year ago, and wanted to come back and do some more hiking, in particular the B and C trails. Good idea, but […]

  4. Hiking Billy Goat Trails B and C, C&O Canal NHP, MD « Bill Hensley’s Random Blog Says:

    […] but so accessible. In May 2010, I was able to experience the Park for the first time, hiking the rugged and wonderful Billy Goat Trail “A” segment. Then last April 2011, I tried to hike the “B” and “C” segments, […]

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