Hike Great Falls and the Billy Goat Trail

Potomac, Maryland

based on 14 reviews



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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Easy Parking


If you're local to the DC area, this is a great hike that close to home if you don't want to undertake the drive out to the Shenandoah region. That also means its far more crowded with families and others looking for a slice of nature. Start early! And although its family friendly, there are a couple sections that are steep and require a little bit of hand over hand scrambling, so keep that in mind when bringing along children/elderly.

The billy goat trail is challenging, but completely worth the trek. Stunning views of the waterfalls and the river. If you haven’t done this yet, I highly suggest it!

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.

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!

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!

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!

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

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 :)

Leave No Trace

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


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