It's Friday night. And the moon should be full. So the Capital Hiking Club's monthly trek along Maryland's C&O towpath at Great Falls is on.

Aside from being "an excellent leg stretch," said club president Mark Tune, the four-mile "Moonlight Hike" along the C&O Canal towpath is one of the few ways to see the park after sunset, when it's closed to most of the public.

"It's definitely not a hike that requires boots," said Tune. The two-hour trip, open to all ages and ability levels, "is just walking." Hikers first tread a forested area along the towpath. Then they cross a few bridges (some 12 feet above the Potomac) to Olmstead Island, which, according to Tune, is "the best place to see Great Falls." After that, the group heads back.

What's so cool about the falls by moonlight? The hike "has a certain serenity to it at night," said Tune, who will host the next trip on Friday, July 22, at 8:30 p.m. (Hikers should arrive by 8:15 p.m.) In addition to a flashlight, suggested Tune, bring insect repellent and drinking water.

Although participants range from retirees to parents with children, "I'd say probably half of the people there are on dates -- or are single looking for dates," said Tune. The night hikes are held just about every 28 days, to keep them in synch with the full moon.

To learn more, call 703-401-2719 or see Hikers meet in the C&O Canal parking lot across from the Old Angler's Inn on MacArthur Boulevard in Potomac. The fee is $3 per person.

-- Samantha Sordyl

The Capital Hiking Club's "Moonlight Hike" is one of the few ways to see the Maryland side of Great Falls after dark.