Hike Great Falls and the Billy Goat Trail



4.5 miles

Elevation Gain

250 ft

Route Type


Added by Elyse Clark

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.

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Know for

Easy Parking



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over 4 years ago

toughie but goodie

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.


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


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

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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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