Great Falls (C&O Canal Maryland)

I have been looking forward to the Great Falls Maryland side for months.  After visiting the Virginia side last October and hearing about the Billy Goat trail, I really wanted to experience the other side of the falls.  This is the only part of the C&O Canal with an entrance fee, and it is $10 per vehicle, if you park in the National Parks area.  Accidentally, Cacia and I found free parking along the C&O Canal Towpath by Section A of the Billy Goat trail so we did not pay to park, even though we were prepared with the parks pass.

It is an absolute must to arrive to the Maryland side early, as parking is limited.  At 9:30 AM on a Saturday in August, we managed to snag a spot someone was leaving, but the parking area was already full otherwise.  After crossing a bridge, we walked along the towpath until we found the trail head for Billy Goat trail Section A, the most difficult of the three paths.  The Billy Goat trail goes up and down quite a bit, and between the views and jumping from rock to rock, you just will not want to miss any of it.

Sitting on top of a rock formation early in our hike

This path does not allow dogs, and it really should not allow children under 4 feet tall or adults who are not in average physical health.  The rock scrambles require a small amount of upper body strength and legs of a certain length.  We saw a few people get stuck and need assistance in various places.  This is a very moderate 3.7 mile loop hike, and the rock scrambles add some extra fun to the hike.

One of the rock scrambles we experienced on the trail.  The trail gets so crowded that lines back up trying to get up and down the path, but it is still really fun.

After finishing our hike, we took a walk down the C&O Canal to the Visitor’s Center, and we were surprised to see that it was free bike rental day at the park.  Volunteers supplied bikes and helmets of all sizes to anyone who wanted to ride!  It was a very cool volunteer event, even though we did not take advantage of it.  We walked inside the tavern bookstore to get Cacia’s stamps, filled our water bottles, and had a little snack before heading over to see the falls from the Maryland side.

What I really like about the Maryland view is that you take a winding boardwalk to see the falls, making it more exciting than the overlooks in Virginia.  Since the path winds around, we could see the little falls along the way too.  If this was Niagara Falls, Maryland is the equivalent of Canada.

Looking at Great Falls from Maryland.  This is across from Overlook #1 in Virginia.

After looking at the falls, we made our way back down the C&O Canal to the car.  The Billy Goat trail becomes a loop in its connection with the C&O Canal but do realize that even once you are off the trail that you will have a little walk back to your vehicle.  This park is not accessible from public transportation so find a friend or rent a car to get here.

I loved my visit to the C&O Canal to experience Great Falls, and I definitely recommend checking the Billy Goat trail out if you can.  There are three sections, with C being the easiest and A being the hardest.  This was my first real experience with rock scrambles, and now I am so ready to head back over to Shenandoah to try doing them at Old Rag too.

After we spent the morning in Maryland, Cacia and I took the trip over to Virginia to see the other side of the falls.  By the end of our Great Falls day, we exceeded 20,000 steps for the day, leaving us both content and tired.  A future blog will detail our visit to the other side.

I am looking forward to leaving for Utah on Friday and enjoying hiking by day and attending productions with the Utah Shakespeare Festival by evening.  I cannot wait to make my first trip to Utah, and I am so excited to take a week long vacation.  I will try to post an update to my blog next week from the airport about my trip to the Belmont Paul Equity House located here in Washington, D.C.

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