C&O Canal National Historical Park: Billy Goat Sections ‘A’ and ‘C’ Plus Olmsted Island (Great Falls) with Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group! An Easy-Side-of-Strenuous 9.5 Miles
Unlike most popular hiking trails, Billy Goat Trail 'Section 'A' offers up lots of scrambles around or over boulders, plenty of rocky terrain, a short but steep scramble up a cliff face, and heaps of breathtaking views of the Potomac River. We are going early to beat the crowds due to the popularity of this fantastic hike. Because of where we begin today's planned hiking route, we will be able to enjoy the scenic overlook of Great Falls, MD from Olmsted Island and is a not-to-miss experience!
We begin this adventure along the towpath of the historic Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, completed in 1850 after 22 years of work and mishap, and operated for 73 years between Georgetown and Cumberland, MD. The blue-blazed Billy Goat Trial turns toward the Potomac River at Widewater (a natural wide basin where the barges were able to pass) and leads backward in history 180 million years to the time when the palisades of the Potomac were first forming. The trail skirts the edge of Bear Island, passing giant potholes as it follows along the top of the cliffs of Mather Gorge. This portion of the hike is quite rugged and necessitates a good bit of rock scrambling, however, it is optional and the remainder of the hike is on along the very scenic, easy and newbie friendly towpath!
What is Rock Scrambling?
What is rock scrambling you might ask? Anytime you have to use your hands to get over rocks or steep parts, we call it rock scrambling and it rocks (pun intended-grin) Please note that this is not rock climbing and no special gear is necessary for scrambling. Additionally, the scramble is only a portion of the hike. Please contact the leader(s) or myself, with any questions for this hike at the numbers below with any questions or concerns you might have as that is part of what we are here for. Remember there was a first time each of us, so if you are up to the challenge, we welcome you to RSVP and look forward to seeing you there for this adventure!
What are the Billy Goat Trails and What is the Difference Between the Sections (‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’’)?
The Billy Goat Trails have been popular with hikers since the mid-1800s. Comprised of three separate trails, all accessible from the towpath, and designated as Sections “A”, “B”, and “C”, the Billy Goat Trails offer beautiful views of the Potomac River. Please choose the appropriate trail by its difficulty level as we offer Billy Goat Trail hikes frequently and are sure to mix and match the three sections (our hikes vary from offering only one or all the sections) so there is a Billy Goat combination for everyone!
Section “A” (This Section is Part of Today's Hike Plan) is strenuous and involves a lot of rock scrambling and the need for good balance. With its difficult terrain, the 1.7-mile hike, while short, is much more challenging than other trails of the same distance. Hikers in less than optimal health or those not experienced or properly outfitted, should consider other trail hiking options. NOTE: Dogs are NOT permitted in this area (section A) of Billy Goat trail.
Section “B” (NOT Part on Today's Hike - Included for Informational Purposes) is a moderate hike. Located just downstream from section ‘A’, and is located in the Marsden Tract area. Section “B” contains fewer and smaller rock scrambles and provides a quieter atmosphere than section “A”. NOTE: Dogs ARE permitted in this area (section B) of Billy Goat trail.
Section “C” (This Section is Part of Today's Hike Plan) is more like a “regular” hike in our area. Although there are still a few rock outcroppings, most of the trail is wooded (a great section for when it is hotter outside). It is located just downstream from “A” and “B”, in the Carderock area of the park. NOTE: Dogs ARE permitted in this area (section C) of Billy Goat trail.
Special Note About Bear Island
Section ‘A' traverses one of the most biologically diverse areas in the country, Bear Island. Topography, geography, and regular flood events have created some of the rarest and most sensitive habitats. Because of this, the National Park Service and The Nature Conservancy jointly own and manage Bear Island. Please lessen your impact by remaining on the blazed trail and staying off the island when the trail is closed. This precaution will help preserve the uniqueness of the island and the trail for future generations of hikers.
Nearby City: Potomac, MD
Scenery: Mather Gorge and Great Falls from the Maryland Side
Distance: 9.5 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 200 ft. (although there is not a lot of elevation gain on this hike, the optional rock scrambling makes it seem more challenging)
Difficulty: Very Easy on the towpath to more of an Easy-Side-of-Strenuous if you join the optional rock scramble
Trail Condition: OK, but a few difficult spots
Hike Type: Loop
Park Entry Fee
There is no park entrance fee.
Click Here (http://midatlantichikinggroup.org/gear-information.html) for suggestions regarding what to wear and what not to wear for hiking the trails.
We hike rain, snow, or shine. Click Here (http://www.weather.com/weather/local/USMD0325?lswe=Potomac,%20MD&lwsa=WeatherLocalUndeclared&from=searchbox_typeahead) to view the forecast for the area where we will be hiking.
The goal for this hike is to maintain an average moving pace of ~ 2.5 mph. This speed is frequently used in popular hiking publications to represent the pace of an average hiker. We welcome you to please sign up for another hike if you know that this is not a comfortable pace for you. We strive to offer a variety of hikes and pace options so we can always have something for everyone no matter their interest and ability.
Our RSVP and Group Etiquette
Click Here (http://www.meetup.com/Maryland-Hiking/pages/RSVP_Rules_and_Etiquette/) to review our RSVP policies and group etiquette.
Carpool Suggestions and Information
Note that you are responsible for knowing how to get from carpool locations to the venue. Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group is not responsible for transportation to and from events or carpools. Suggested carpool times and places are provided as a courtesy because many members are either new to the area or unfamiliar with a particular hike or venues location. Please use the 'Comments' section below, or reach out via e-mail to make arrangements for carpooling needs and offerings.
Baltimore Area Carpool Suggestion - Savage Station
To carpool or caravan from the Baltimore area, people can arrange to meet at Savage Station. Click Here (http://www.meetup.com/Maryland-Hiking/pages/Carpool_Directions_for_Savage_Station/) for directions and additional information regarding carpooling from the suggested Savage Station location.
If you can drive or want to carpool from additional locations, please post your location and needs in the comment section below. Click Here (http://www.meetup.com/Mid-Atlantic-Hiking-Group/pages/Suggested_Carpool_Locations/?name=Suggested_Carpool_Locations) for a list of suggested carpool locations complete with directions and other details including other carpool information. For those who need a ride, reach out to the drivers. Make friends, and support the environment — by just offering a ride!
Directions to the Trailhead
Click Here for Directions (http://midatlantichikinggroup.org/gfp---carderock-3.html) to Where We Meet for this Hike
Meet & Greet and Sign-In — 8:45-8:55 a.m.
The Hike is at 9:00 a.m.
Carpool Time from Savage Station — 8:15 a.m.
Please remember we are a volunteer supported organization that values fellowship and camaraderie while practicing good hike etiquette (http://midatlantichikinggroup.org/hike-and-trail-etiquette.html)and Leave No Trace (http://midatlantichikinggroup.org/leave-no-trace.html) principles. Our hikes are led by generous, dedicated, and qualified MAHG members who volunteer (http://www.meetup.com/Mid-Atlantic-Hiking-Group/pages/9595722/How_To_Join_Our_Leadership_Team!/) as leaders for Mid-Atlantic Hiking Groups volunteer leadership team. Hikes also have a volunteer “sweeper” to help ensure that no hiker is left behind. MAHG volunteers and members are very supportive, encouraging, with a focus on safety while enjoying the excellent camaraderie and benefiting from the many health benefits of hiking and unplugging from the stress of day-to-day life. Sharing what we know and learning from each other is an important part of MAHGs core values, as is our dedication to the conservation of our natural resources and our commitment to the organization's mission. Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group is a volunteer supported tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization, and Donations ARE Tax Deductible. Tax ID:[masked] (http://midatlantichikinggroup.org/mahg-charity.html).
Fido is Not Welcome on the Optional Billy Goat Section 'A' (Rock Scrambling) Portion of this Hike, Per Park Rules. However, Fido is Welcome on all other parts of our hike, including Billy Goat Section ‘C’. Please note that if bringing your dog, you will need to wait while we complete Billy Goat Section ‘A’.
Be sure to take the hike leader's numbers with you just in case!
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