WJ area offers many great locations for hiking


Photo by Hannah Markov

The Potomac River rushes past a rock scramble in Section A. The Billy Goat Trail has been one of most popular day hikes in the DC-Maryland area for years.

There are many great hiking spots in the DC-Maryland area. Some easier and some more difficult, some family-friendly and others requiring a certain level of skill. Most are scenic and all are great places to get some fresh air and exercise. Below are just a few of the great places for outdoor exploration near WJ.

Billy Goat Trail Section A
The Billy Goat Trail has three sections: A, B and C. Section C is the easiest, and Section A is the most difficult. It’s made up of numerous rock scrambles and a cliff, as well great views of the Potomac River. The section itself is 1.7 miles long, but after returning via the C&O Canal towpath, hikers will have completed a total of 3.7 miles. Section A is a very demanding trail, and isn’t the best for people with small children or dogs. Hikers planning on completing the trail should wear hiking shoes, drink plenty of water and come with a friend just in case any difficulties arise from slippery rocks and boulders.
Locust Grove Nature Trails
The trails at Locust Grove Nature Center are moderately difficult and great for families with children or dogs. The trails are located along a creek with sandy banks great for picnicking. They range in length, and feature white oaks, tulip trees and a 200-year-old sycamore tree. Before or after completing the trails, children can play in the Nature Exploration Area or learn more about the environment through the nature center’s window exhibits.
Brookside Gardens
The paths at Brookside Gardens don’t offer much of a physical challenge, but are still a great activity for people looking for more leisurely outdoor activities. Brookside Gardens features a large variety of plants, flowers and gazebos. It’s also a very family friendly place and hosts some of the best fall foliage in Maryland.
Cabin John Regional Park Trails
Cabin John Regional Park is one of the most popular parks in Montgomery County. It features around four miles of natural surface trails, as well as two miles of hard surface trails. Great for families, hikers and bikers, the park offers activities for people of all different ages and skill levels. It also operates a miniature train and surrounds a large playground.
Great Falls
Great Falls, located in Virginia, has 15 miles of hiking trails, which range from easy to difficult, and include rock scrambling and a falls overlook. Wading and swimming are prohibited, and certain paths, such as the Matildaville Trail, are open to horseback riders as well as hikers. In these trails, people on foot are asked to yield to horses. Trails that allow dogs require them to be on a leash. The River Trail, similar to the aforementioned Billy Goat Trail, runs along the scenic Mather Gorge.

These trails are just a small sample of all the available hiking spots in the WJ area. Those looking for more great spots can visit the National Park Service, Montgomery Parks and Visit Maryland, among other sites. Hikers should also check on any COVID-19 restrictions in effect prior to traveling to their chosen trail.
Hiking is a great outdoor activity, and like any other form of cardio, offers many health benefits, such as lowered risk of heart disease and improved blood pressure, as well as reduced stress and anxiety—two issues that have only worsened since the beginning of the pandemic. It improves both mental and physical health, and with the plethora of great trails available in our area, is a great avenue for lessening boredom and increasing positive energy.