Hike Great Falls and the Billy Goat Trail

Maryland Billy Goat Trail, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal

  • Activities:

    Photography, Hiking, Fitness

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Year Round

  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    4.5 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    250 Feet

Easy Parking

Billy Goat is a great hike and rock scramble close to Washington DC. Enjoy beautiful views of waterfalls on the Potomac River.

Just outside of Washington DC is a great hike and rock scramble you don't want to miss. Great Falls lies in both Virginia and Maryland and has beautiful views of the Potomac River.

Start out at the Great Falls Tavern parking lot (Maryland side), and keep in mind it is $10 to park here if you don't have a National Park pass. When facing the river, go left on the C & O Canal Towpath. You'll soon come to a side trail on the right to Olmsted Island. Check out this short path with boardwalks leading to the best view of Great Falls-dogs aren't allowed on this section.

After you check out Olmsted Island, return to the C & O Canal Towpath and turn right. Walk about 0.7 miles to the "Billy Goat Trail Section A", which branches off to the right. This is a one-way, well-marked trail that is 1.75 miles long. This section is very difficult and has challenging rock scrambles with traverses of up to 50' vertically. The best routes are well-marked, so stick to the blazed routes to ascend the rock scrambles safely.

The end of Section A of the Billy Goat Trail intersects the C & O Canal Towpath again, so turn left at this intersection and follow the Towpath for 1.9 miles back to your car.

Pack List

  • Water
  • Camera
  • Sturdy hiking shoes
  • Snacks
  • $10 for entrance fee
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Overall rating: 

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This trail is incredibly fun and has amazing views for the DMV area. It's a very rocky climb that often feels more like a climbing experience than a typical trail hike. Great views for taking photos too.

29 days ago
29 days ago

Came here right before New Years and it was the perfect hike! Nice clean trails and some great rocks to climb your way around for some breath taking views. Gorgeous land!

9 months ago
9 months ago

It's amazing to have this trail so close to the city! The hike is so fun with great views and rock scrambling -- it's the perfect day trip for a work out and some fresh air. It has gotten INCREDIBLY crowded ever since President Obama visited -- sometimes a two hour wait to drive into the parking lot on the weekends. Try to go on a weekday if possible!

11 months ago
11 months ago

Very easy trail with boardwalks and beaten paths! the view from the outlook is beautiful! we saw guys on kayaks out in the middle! A group of people with a stroller were behind us and they managed the trail no problem!

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

Trail was very tough in terms of footing and it was also very dusty! Lots of wildlife on the trail we saw numerous lizards, a snake, and a lot of tree frogs. The vertical climb wasn't to bad and if you take the tow road back to the visitors center you only have to go up and not down! Overall good trail, very challenging, just the right distance for a good workout.

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

Great view of waterfalls. Something to add to a wish list

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

Rock formations are beautiful I photographed some of them. The hike was so nice although a bit tiring but it was all worth it! I hiked along the rock it probably would have been easier to hike the trail. It was a lovely drive to get there. Surprisingly easy to find! 10 out 10 would recommend

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

Beautiful drive to get there, Easy Parking and not too crowded, Hike by the river is very calming and relaxing, Cool way to spend my Saturday outdoors close to home :)

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

Did this hike and the view of the waterfalls from the outlook was awesome, the Billy goat A trail was closed due to flooding , so I did the Billy goat B and it was still a great hike. Will have to come back and do the A when I get a chance.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

I've been hiking this trail since I was in high school and haven't gotten bored yet! Scrambling over the rocks is a challenge, but doable for all skill levels. Just be prepared for a crowd on summer weekends. There's free parking across the street from Old Angler's, on the west side of MacArthur Road.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

You can't go wrong with this hike. It's one of the most fun and most beautiful ones in all of the DC area. The rock scrambling is a lot of fun and can be tricky in parts so be sure to wear sturdy shoes. I've seen countless people here try to hike it in sandals with not so great results. The only downside is this place really draws in the crowds.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

This is one of my favorite hikes! There is a lot of rock scrambling which requires using your hands to get up and around all of the rocks. The hike is right along the Susquehanna river is amazing views of the river as well as waterfalls. This is definitely one of the most beautiful places I've seen in the Mid-Atlantic region!

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

Elyse ClarkExplorer

Explorer. Hiker. Photographer.

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