Have you ever heard of First Day Hikes? It’s an initiative to get people outdoors and enjoying state and national parks on the very first day of the year. J and I have been doing it for four years now! This year I wanted our first hike to be something special so we did the Billy Goat Trail in Great Falls National Park for the very first time! Guys I cannot believe it’s taken me so long to do this hike because I absolutely LOVED it. It definitely isn’t for the faint of heart but I felt so strong and alive while clambering over the rocks. Let’s check it out!
THE HIKE: Billy Goat A (Great Falls National Park)
Length: 5 miles
Elevation Gain: 174ft
Time: 2.5 -3 hours
Trail use: Hiking Only (No Dogs)
Parking: Large parking lot at trailhead. $20 per vehicle or free with National Park Pass
Great Falls is one of the most popular areas to visit in Maryland. It’s not very far from DC and there are trails on both the Virginia and Maryland sides. Technically Great Falls National Park is in Virginia and the Maryland side is part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park. But the section we’re looking for starts at the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center. This is a hugely popular area for hikers, bikers, and walkers since the trails branch off from the C&O Canal (a 184.5 river path connecting Harpers Ferry to Washington DC). If you go any time when the weather’s nice, expect full parking lots and busy trails.
The entrance fee to the park is $20 per vehicle which might seem steep but I highly encourage you to invest in the yearly NPS pass if you hike or travel a lot. It’s called the America the Beautiful pass ($85/year) and it gets one vehicle into all National Parks, Battlefields, Historic areas and more! Our pass quickly paid for itself after going to Harper’s Ferry, Shenandoah, and Catoctin.
There are three sections of the Billy Goat Trail (A,B,C). Before heading out to hike, check to see which sections are open. When we went, section B was closed due to flood damage. Our loop took us from the Visitor Center along the canal to the Section A trailhead and then back along the canal after doing the hike. Combined with a couple offshoots to see the overlooks, this loop was about 5 miles.
The Billy Goat section of the trail is difficult. Make sure to be prepared! Bring plenty of water, wear shoes with good grips, and have clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty. After leaving the C&O Canal, the trail is almost completely rock scrambles and even one daunting climb up a cliff face. It was super fun but we were definitely exhausted by the end! My best advice is to take your time. Let the speed demons pass you and don’t be afraid to slide down rocks on your bum. I did that a lot! Oh and make sure you take SO many pictures. This is some of the most beautiful landscape in Maryland, maybe even the whole country!
THE BEER: 7 Locks Brewery
Address: 12227 Wilkins Ave, Rockville, MD 20852
Distance from Trail Head: 11 miles, 20 mins
H&H Rating: 5/5
7 Locks Brewery is located in a large warehouse space in the Rockville area. They have plenty of tables in addition to a large bar. We were there early in the afternoon so we nearly had the first to ourselves! 7 Locks opened in 2015 and has been making a name for themselves ever since! They pride themselves in making excellent beer (and have the awards to prove it!) as well as being a gathering place for the community. We’ve been here several times and the beer never disappoints! Honestly, this time around it’s hard to pick a favorite beer. As usual, we tried a variety of styles and they were all so good! I think my favorite has to be the Billy Goat Tr-Ale since it paired so perfectly with our hike! Also the Bitch Monkey with Cranberry was awesome. I’m such a sucker for something cranberry flavored. It’s just so wintery!
Overall, I’m always very pleased with 7 Locks! It’s not easy to stand out in an area with several breweries to choose from but 7 Locks always manages to impress. Definitely Check them out next time you’re in the Rockville area!
- Redland Lager – Red Lager – 6.3%
- Bitch Monkey w/ Cranberry – Fruited Gose – 5.2%
- Blockhouse Point Stout – Oatmeal Stout – 5.7%
- Billy Goat Tr-Ale – Session IPA – 4.5%
SUM UP: The Billy Goat trail is a famous (infamous?) trail along the C&O Canal in Potomac, MD that is very popular and is also difficult in some sections. It features incredible rocky landscapes with raging waterfalls and quiet river beaches. The hike itself requires rock scrambling and even scaling a short cliff wall. There is a $20 entrance fee and check trail openings before leaving. Only 20 minutes away is 7 Locks Brewing in Rockville. They have a huge space and offer a wide variety of delicious brews.