Billy Goat Trail

Coordinates: 38°59′38″N 77°14′45″W / 38.9938°N 77.2458°W / 38.9938; -77.2458 (Billy Goat Trail Head)
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Billy Goat Trail
Scrambling over boulders on Section A. Mather Gorge at left.
Length4.7 mi (7.6 km)
LocationMontgomery County, Maryland, United States
TrailheadsC&O Canal
Bear Island
UseHiking Trail Running
DifficultyStrenuous (Section A)
Moderate (Section B)
Easy (Section C)
SeasonAll year
SightsChesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park

38°59′38″N 77°14′45″W / 38.9938°N 77.2458°W / 38.9938; -77.2458 (Billy Goat Trail Head)

The Billy Goat Trail is a 4.7-mile (7.6 km) hiking trail that follows a path between the C&O Canal and the Potomac River within the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park near the Great Falls in Montgomery County, Maryland. The trail has three sections: Section A, the northernmost, is 1.7 miles (2.7 km); Section B is 1.4 miles (2.3 km); and Section C, the southernmost, is 1.6 miles (2.6 km)


The Billy Goat Trail was laid out by the YMCA Triangle Club in 1919.[1]

Section A of the trail, by far the most popular, is on Bear Island and traverses rough and rocky terrain, including a steep climb along a cliff face along the Potomac River's Mather Gorge. At another point in the trail, hikers are required to scramble over and around huge boulders. Sections B and C are less strenuous; section B requires only one brief scramble, and section C has none. Most of the trail is well marked with light blue trail blazes.

Currently, Section B is closed due to trail damage.[2]

Section A is best accessed from the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center.[3] Section B and Section C are best accessed from the Carderock Recreation Area. All sections of the trail are free, although an entrance fee ($20 per car in 2021) is charged when entering and parking near the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center. No fee is charged when parking near Carderock. Dogs are not allowed on Section A, nor on Olmsted Island (location of the Great Falls overlook), but are permitted on a leash at all times everywhere else in the park. It takes about 2 1/2 hours to walk the Section A loop from the parking lot.

The three sections of the trail do not directly connect with each other, but are connected to each other by the towpath along the C&O Canal. The end point of section C is about 2.75 miles (4.4 km) southeast along the towpath from the starting point of section A.

Section A gallery[edit]

Pictures are approximately upstream to downstream on the trail.

Section B gallery[edit]

Section C gallery[edit]


  1. ^ Hahn, Thomas (1993). Towpath guide to the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal; Georgetown Tidelock to Cumberland. American Canal and Transportation Center. p. 40. ISBN 9780933788664.
  2. ^ "Current Park Conditions - Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park (U.S. National Park Service)".
  3. ^ "Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center - Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park (U.S. National Park Service)". U.S. National Park Service. Retrieved July 22, 2019.

External links[edit]