2013 Project 365

Project 365/141 – Billy Goat Trail

It’s thrilling to be back on the trail after such a long absence. A friend wanted to scout out a hike on a fantastic trail just outside of Washington D.C. Along the Potomac River is the National Park Service Great Falls Park. This park covers both the Maryland and the Virginia sides of the river.

The Billy Goat Trail on the Maryland side is well known for its rock scramble along the water. Next to the Old Rag Mountain Hike in Shenandoah and the Mason Dixon Trail in Pennsylvania to Maryland this is just as fantastic.


The trail snakes through the woods with rocky terrain and sections of boulder scrambling. Paralleling the C&O Canal the trail is abundant with wildlife. Multiple birds including Cedar Waxwings, Yellow Throat Warblers, Red Eye Vireo, Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers, Eastern Phoebes, Wood and Hermit Thrushes, woodpeckers and even a Louisiana Waterthrush.

White Tailed Deer calmly walked through the forest, accustomed to mankind, along with many lizards, turtles, black squirrels, chipmunks and yes..a snake. I could have done without the snake. I don’t like snakes. I just assume that all snakes are poisonous and I prefer to run away from them.

This little guy was in a pool of water within the boulder scramble. His head facing this small rock that I would HAVE to put my foot on to continue past the pool. He wasn’t too pleased that someone was coming close to his home. I rushed past, but then he really started to get pissed and started to coil in the water as if to strike. Alas, my friend had to go around the really hard way to avoid him.

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The scenery along the trail is nothing short of spectacular. Whether you’re walking along the C&O Canal, or high on the rocks overlooking the Potomac River. It is mid-May and all of the wild flowers were in bloom. For more wildflowers in Maryland, check out this great website: http://uswildflowers.com/wfquery.php?State=MD

So we get to “Section A” which is the boulder scramble of this nine-mile hike. Halfway through the scramble, we come across this sign.


It was a really hot and muggy day, but as hardy trail girls, we were ready to tackle the second part of the trail. Come and scramble the rocks with me.

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The Great Falls Park on both the Maryland and Virginia sides are popular with hikers, rock climbers, kayak and white water rafters. While we were walking along the water’s edge, we happened to catch some white water rafters in the water. It appeared that their boat had capsized. Although they may have been practicing retrievals as well.

The boulders that we scrambled were works of art themselves. It is truly a wonderful hike, and an oasis within the hubbub of a busy metropolis. Sure, you are never far away from the city noise sometimes, but it is a hidden eden within a city.

37 replies »

  1. Now that’s my kind of place! Birds, flowers, all types of wildlife, beautiful scenery, and multiple ways to get around. On a hot day, I’d be one of the kayakers, I’d save the hiking for cool days. Thank you for the info, and of course, your wonderful photos.

  2. I love hiking the Billy Goat Trail! It’s definitely a local favorite for me. Makes me want to go out and see the flowers. What kind of lizard is the rough-scaled one? I saw one of those out on a trail in Shenandoah River State Park last weekend. This weekend I will be in the Nassawango Creek Preserve on the Eastern Shore. Have you ever been there? Thanks for sharing the great photos!

  3. Looks like it’s a great place for a trek & wonderful photo opportunities! Great shots! Not fond of snakes either! 😦 Think I would’ve had to go the long way round & not even attempt to go past it! 🙂

  4. Wow Emily I love this series of photographs of your hike – the view down in the first is a spectacular find and gives us a fantastic perspective. I how cool that you were able to capture such creepy crawlers, although I am partial to the lizard.

  5. Beautiful photos and great blog, Emily. So many places to discover in this area. I’ll have to add this one to my list. I don’t like snakes either though.

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