Billy Goat A Trail Hiking Review

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Billy Goat A Trail Hiking Review
  • Length
  • Elevation
  • Historical Value
  • Scenery
  • Terrain
  • Trail Markers


The Billy Goat A Trail is a great rock trail that you'll never forget with a 50 foot climb up a traverse and scenic views of the Potomac River. A must for anyone who is in shape and craves a challenge.

Hike Details

Length: 4.21 Miles
Hours: 2:47.38
Average Speed: 1.5 MPH
Maximum Speed: 6.9 MPH
Maximum Positive Gradient: 3.1%
Maximum Negative Gradient: -4.6%
Total Ascent: 586 Feet
Total Descent: 666 Feet

User Rating: 4.5 (4 votes)

Park Information

Billy Goat A Trail Map
C&O National Historical Park Home Page


C&O National Historical Park
11710 MacArthur Blvd.
Potomac, MD 20854


8am – Sunset

Entrance Fee


The Billy Goat A Trail is located at 11710 MacArthur Blvd. Potomac, MD 20854. There is a $10 entrance fee and the park is managed by the National Park Service.

Growing up in the Washington, DC area, you hear about Great Falls a lot. It’s one of the most beautiful scenes in the area. Along with the scenery comes hiking, strenuous hiking and rock climbing. Billy Goat A Trail is the best in the local area.

My hike started off with two friends on a Sunday morning. It was going to be 60 and sunny that day (November). We set off along the C&O towpath and then made a right onto the trail.

The trail is split into 2-mile sections. The first 2 miles are nothing but rock climbing & hiking and then you loop North, hit the towpath and hike back for the remaining 2 miles. Remember, there are rocks everywhere and you climb all over them for the first 2-mile stretch. The views are fantastic as you feel like you’re on vacation out West hiking great trails.

There is one point on the trail that requires you to climb up a 50-foot traverse. I had looked up reviews on this trail a week in advance, knowing how difficult it can be. I read reviews that the climb was easy to extremely hard. I’d have to say it’s somewhere in between depending on how you do with heights. Physically, if you’re in good shape, it’s no problem. However, if you don’t have the right boots (not shoes) or it’s wet then it can be an issue. The park service has an exit point before reaching the climb.

The National Park Service issues a stern warning that reads:

  • Many hikers are injured every year on this section of the Billy Goat A trail.
  • The terrain includes sharp drops, requires jumps across open areas, walking along the edges of rocks, and a climb up a 50′ traverse.
  • Beyond this point, the next available exit is at the mid-point, up to a one hour hike over difficult terrain.
  • If you are tired, low on water, or unprepared for a very strenuous hike, please turn back.

Great warning and it’s all true. This isn’t an easy walk or hike but if you’re prepared for it and in good shape, you’ll do just fine.

Billy Goat A Trail Hiking Suggestions

  • Bring a half-gallon of water (I use my Camelbak)
  • Bring a lot of snacks (You’ll burn a lot of calories)
  • Wear hiking boots (not shoes – boots will protect your ankles – this is important)
  • Long pants with layered clothing (I used long johns too)
  • A camera (You won’t regret it)


Chris spends his time photographing and taking video of wildlife and nature. He spent 2 years in high school studying forestry (Gainesville, FL) and is currently studying to be an Advanced Master Naturalist at the University of Florida. His mission is to inspire others to get outside and learn.