Did you know there are no entrance fees to the National Parks on Martin Luther King Jr. Day? Let's celebrate with a hike on Section A of the Billy Goat Trail! We'll get off to a slightly early start to avoid the crowds and bicycle traffic along MacArthur Blvd.
The route: From in front of the restrooms just off the Visitor Center traffic circle, we’ll walk a little over half a mile south/downstream along the C&O Canal towpath to the entrance to Section A, where we’ll turn right to enter the trail. We’ll follow the blue blazes downstream along the trail to where it rejoins the C&O Canal towpath parking lot near Sherwin Island. From there we’ll return to our starting point along the C&O Canal towpath.
The hike is not quite 4 miles of smiles; 1.7 difficult miles along the trail, and the rest is easy walking along the towpath. Plan for 3-4 hours, although we will probably finish sooner.
This is a strenuous hike: the trail surface is very rocky with large boulders and a scramble up a seam in a 50-foot cliff face about halfway along.
Google map: http://tinyurl.com/j3rr4to
How to get there: From the I-495 Beltway (either direction), take exit 41 and follow signs for Carderock/Great Falls, merging onto Clara Barton Parkway west. After driving about 1.5 miles, turn left onto MacArthur Blvd. (There’s sign with an arrow pointing left, marked Great Falls/Cabin John.) Follow MacArthur Blvd about 3.5 miles without any turns until you reach the Great Falls Tavern entrance booth, where normally you would pay Ranger Rick. Bear to your right in the traffic circle and park. The meetup point is located on the other side of the traffic circle on the way to the Visitor Center at GPS[masked], [masked]
Sorry, this is not a Metro-accessible hike.
Weather: The forecast is mostly sunny, a high temperature of 25 degrees, and 10-20 mph WNW winds. (With wind chill, around 11-15 degrees.) Updates here: http://tinyurl.com/q6s64kc
What to bring: Water and hiking shoes or boots with some tread on them. Sorry, your furry friend is not allowed on Section A. Sunscreen, lip balm, gloves, and ear protection are recommended. Consider the layered look: it will be chilly as we start, but you'll warm up fast.
Advisory: As a reminder, this is an adult group, and you are ultimately responsible for your own safety and well-being during events. No one under 18 years of age is allowed at this event, either as members or as guests, to include babies in carriers and/or strollers.
Administrative stuff: The Visitor Center is normally closed on Mondays, but they may be open for MLK Day; we'll see. In any case, the adjacent public restrooms should be open.
• Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center, 11710 MacArthur Blvd., Potomac, MD 20854 [masked]). http://tinyurl.com/378syo
• Entrance Fee-Free Days in 2016: http://tinyurl.com/z7amz7j
• Trail map: http://tinyurl.com/kyevvmr
• Trail closure announcements: http://tinyurl.com/8967quo