The map below shows hikes that I have posted. Double click to zoom in on an area. Click on a hiker icon to discover great hikes! Red stars indicate long distance hikes.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Great Falls, Billy Goat Trail and C&O Canal

April 2014

The Great Falls area offers some of the best hiking in the metro DC area.  Great Falls is itself a unit of the National Park Service.  Nearby is the popular day hiking trail, the Billy Goat Trail with it's three sections that can be connected utilizing the historical Chesapeake and Ohio Canal which runs from Washington DC near Georgetown to Cumberland, MD.  I visited this area several times for day hikes as well as running.

For my first visit I came with my brother and we did a loop incorporating Billy Goat section A and Berma Road.  We parked on the side of the road up from Anglers Inn.  We began on Berma Road.

We crossed on a bridge over the canal.

We joined the Towpath briefly.

Then joined the Billy Goat Trail Section A from its northern terminus.

Section A is the most challenging as far as rockiness and steepness, but we were rewarded with great views overlooking the Potomac River.

Most of the trail was rock hopping, but the part below was the steepest.

After finishing Section A of the Billy Goat Trail we joined the towpath heading back to our car.

On our next visit we went to the main falls and also did Section B of the Billy Goat Trail.  We parked at the Great Falls visitor which does charge a fee.

One of the canal's locks with the Potomac River to the left

It was a short hike over to Great Falls over bridges and on a scenic boardwalk.

From the falls we hiked down the towpath and joined Billy Goat Section B.

We joined the towpath and returned northbound.

I later returned for some trail running, approximately 10 miles.  I started at the Carderock parking and headed north on the towpath until I joined Billy Goat section B.  After Billy Goat section B, I continued on the towpath to Billy Goat Section A, which was slower as running it is challenging.  I then continued on the towpath to Great Falls and turned around, heading back on the towpath to Carderock, where I did a counterclockwise loop of Billy Goat Section C.  It was a beautiful evening and great training for my upcoming half marathon.

This is one of my favorite day hiking areas in the metro DC area.  The towpath also offers extended opportunities for hiking and biking that I may pursue in the future.

Shenadoah National Park

May 2-4, 2014

Shenandoah National Park offers some of the finest outdoor opportunities near Washington DC.  The park is long and narrow but has over 500 miles of hiking trails with many opportunities for day hikes and short overnight or weekend backpacking adventures.  The Appalachian Trail pierces the center of the park and often parallels to the scenic Skyline Drive.  I spent the weekend here with my brother, Andrew. We did the famous day hike of Old Rag and then did an overnight, remote backpacking loop,  the Brown Mountain-Rockytop loop (as described here, but reversed: Brown Mountain-Rockytop loop)

Old Rag is difficult to access from Skyline Drive (unless backpacking) and the main trailhead is off to the East.  We reached the trailhead Friday night and after self-registering and getting our permit we walked up the road, started up the trail, and set-up camp for the night.  The next morning we packed up our gear and took it back to our vehicle so that we could hike light with only a small daypack.  We started early to avoid crowds and it was quite worth it.

There were spectacular Virginia views on the way to Old Rag.

Old Rag involves some fun scrambling and there are arrows painted on the rocks to direct your route.

There were few people on the top and we enjoyed the expansive views!

Old Rag is hiked typically as a loop and we continued down the other side with far less scrambling.  Soon we could view the summit through the trees.

We even saw some black bears on the way back, but I didn't get pictures worth showing.

As we neared the parking lot, we began to pass masses of hikers who were beginning their hike.  The parking lot was packed and we discussed how long it must take these hikers to complete the scrambling portion of the hike in a single file line.

We drove south in order to meet up with the southern end of Skyline Drive, passing additional views of Old Rag on the way.

We even took a little time to see the Blue Ridge Parkway which connects with Skyline drive to form 574 miles of view after view.

 We re-entered Shenandoah National Park and headed north on Skyline Drive.
 There were many scenic overlooks on both sides of the ridge.

We found the famous Appalachian Trail!

Soon we reached the lookout and the Brown Mountain trailhead.   It was time to get back on the trail.
 We did the route counter clockwise, opposite of the way described by midatlantic hikes.  It was beautiful hiking the Big Run area and we had several stream crossings.

 We set up camp near the south end of Big Run.  The next morning we began our climb up to some spectacular views to the west.

Great views from Rockytop

Massanutten Mt

We crossed the Big Run again, this time on a bridge.

We climbed up again to more views!

We went to the top of Brown and Rocky Mountains.  The views were classic Shenandoah!

Soon we were back at the Brown Mountain Overlook.  We continued north on Skyline Drive, enjoying the many overlooks.

We did a quick day hike to Bearfence Mountain that involved some fun scrambling.

The small loop used a portion of the Appalachian Trail.

As we drove north, we saw Old Rag from the West side.

There was even a bear by the side of the road.

Soon we reached the north entrance and it was time to leave one of the finest national parks on the east coast.

This was a fun weekend!  Old Rag is certainly one of the best day hikes near DC.  Make sure you start early to avoid the crowds.  Our backpacking loop was far less visited but equally scenic!  There were several other hikers on the trail, but nothing close to the multitude ascending Old Rag when we were returning.  The southern portion of the park seems to be less traveled.  Designing a loop can be difficult with such a narrow park, but check out midatlantic hikes for ideas. Don't feel that you have to stick to the famous AT.  Shenadoah National Park has so much more to offer.  You can save the AT for a thruhike or section hike :)

About Me

I've been born and raised in the great state of Michigan. I recently graduated from physical therapy school. I enjoy being active, playing sports, and running. Backpacking has become a great interest as it is a physical challenge that provides many rewarding views and experiences. I strive to make a difference in the lives of those encounter in every day life, on the trail, or even just on this blog. May God bless each of you. Now go find an adventure! It's only a few feet away!