Updated on May 28, 2019
Hiking in Great Falls, Maryland
A post about my weekend hiking trip to Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park in Potomac, Maryland, where we hiked Billy Goat Trail B and visited Olmsted Island Overlook with views of the raging Potomac River.
After quite some precipitation during the week, weather during the last weekend of April turned out to be quite fantastic, so some of my outdoor-loving friends were suggesting sort of an excursion. They picked Great Falls for its proximity to Washington DC, and for its raging waters after a rainy week.
The sad news was that, there was probably too much rain in the week before, that the gorgeous
but flood-prone, at least by park rangers’ standards Billy Goat Trail A was closed. Since I already visited Billy Goat Trail C a week earlier, we decided to visit Trail B and Olmsted Island instead this time.
Billy Goat Trail B
It was about 11am that we, with our newly bought and packed lunch, arrived at an almost-full Billy Goat Trail B parking lot on Macarthur Boulevard, a sign of just how popular such weekend getaway was to residents of Washington DC. After that, we crossed Chesapeake and Ohio Canal into Billy Goat Trail B.
It had been just a week since I hiked among blossoming wildflowers in Billy Goat Trail A, but this time the wildflowers seemed to have all faded to lush grass.
And as a comparison, Billy Goat Trail B was rockier, which offered a sense of achievement navigating through the boulders, than mostly the mostly level Billy Goat Trail C.
That’s it about Billy Goat Trail B. We took Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath back to parking lot after that.
Nowadays Chesapeake and Ohio Canal might seem like a lifeless pond of stagnant water, but truth was that we found an unbelievable amount of turtles sunbathing in it.
Maybe University of Maryland should set campus here?
It was almost strange that I wasn’t harassed by mosquitos or bugs that day.
After that, we drove to the official location of this National Historical Park on Google Maps, and visited Olmsted Island.
Olmsted Island and Great Falls
Judging by how parts of islands were submerged in the previous photos, I sort of got it why Billy Goat Trail A was closed.
On the few bridges to Olmsted Island, we got better sights of the raging Potomac River.
And finally, the crown jewel of the day, overlook of Great Falls.
It turned out to be a quite invigorating hike along Billy Goat Trail B, where the right amount of rocks would provide just the right amount of pleasure both on the land and in the water (bring your own boat). I should be glad that I visited Trail C a week earlier, which, without decorating wildflowers that I accidentally bumped into last week, would be rated “boring” in comparison to its surrounding trails.
As for the Great Falls, it’s an awesome sight of the power of nature in such proximity to DC. The only downside was that, for those without national park passes, the park did charge entrance fees on its North entrance. One could still visit the overlook by parking at Billy Goat Trail B (which is easily filled like this morning) followed by a 3-kilometer walk along either canal towpath or Billy Goat Trail A, but when the latter is closed (which it often does), I bet it wouldn’t be the most pleasant thing to do.
By the way, just across the river there were a few overlooks on the Virginia side. Their parking lots were closer and (supposedly) free.