Editors' pick

Billy Goat Trail


Editorial Review

Dogs are no longer allowed on the trail's A section, near the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center. Dogs (who must be leashed) are still allowed on the towpath in sections B and C. All sections of the trails are currently open.

Miles: 4.2 miles round trip (shorter hikes possible by taking shorter circuits back to the towpath)

Time: approximately two hours


Elevation change: minimal, 20 to 60 feet

Terrain: dirt, rocky, some rock scrambling over angle-faced rocks

Trail markings: blue blazed

Access point: near Great Falls Tavern

One of the favorite short hikes in the D.C. area, the Billy Goat Trail winds along the Potomac River and offers rich vistas and beautiful floral and woodland surroundings. The trail lies where the actual old bed of the river used to be before the river carved an immense gorge where it now lies. As the trail starts at the Great Falls Tavern, it winds in a crescent shape toward the Old Angler's Inn. Instead of heading back the direction you came, you can return on the towpath (look for signs or obtain a map before starting the hike).

Be sure to wear hiking boots or sturdy shoes and be prepared to get on hands and knees to climb over some large and inclined boulders. Many areas may also be muddy. The views are worth the scramblings.

-- Laura Fravel

Be aware there are some steep ravines and large boulders to traverse.

Maps are available at the visitors center and from the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club.

Restrooms are at the visitors center.

Water is available in spring and summer.

This excursion is day-hiking only.