Tuesday, June 8, 2010

C&O: Angler's Inn to Great Falls at Sunset

A couple of weeks ago, Matt and I took one of the most beautiful hikes we've taken in quite a while. It wasn't so much the location -- though this is a pretty section of the canal -- but the timing.

sunset at Great Falls
Sunset at Great Falls from Vicki Ashton
We left the Angler's parking lot at about 7:30 pm and walked the mile and a half to Great Falls along the canal. (See the park map - pdf.) Along the way there was lots of bird activity as the day was winding down, including a family of geese with lots of goslings, two pileated woodpeckers, and lots of songbirds and dragonflies. At our slow, stopping-to-look-at-everything pace we reached Great Falls just after sunset, with pink still in the sky. There were at least half a dozen great blue herons fishing below the falls, and more flying overhead -- they must roost somewhere upstream.

On the way back it got quite dark, but the towpath is wide, mostly level, and light colored -- as long as you're reasonably careful it's really not challenging in the dark. And the world is transformed: there are frogs croaking, and thousands of fireflies dancing. And, if you stay out long enough, there are some wide sections of the canal that will give you a patch of open sky for stargazing, with no lights nearby to ruin the view.

Sunset on the C&O Canal
Sunset on the C&O Canal by Vicki Ashton
Given our pace, I would have started a half hour earlier to catch more of the sunset at the falls. Your mileage may vary. You can also check the sunset time here and adjust accordingly -- but remember, the color peaks before the time of actual sunset. For a more rigorous hike, give yourself some extra time and take the Billy Goat A trail on the way out to the falls (it parallels the canal here). It's stunning -- I'm hoping to get a minute to write about it soon. 

Here's a map to the Angler's parking lot -- it's directly across the street from Old Angler's Inn. Unlike the lot up at Great Falls, there's no fee, and no closing time. (There's a bus stop nearby -- but it's the 32 Ride On bus, which only runs during rush hours on weekdays.)


View Anglers in a larger map