Crag X is located along the first and most rugged section of the Billy Goat Trail. This section of the popular hiking and scrambling trail travels Bear Island from Great Falls of Maryland south almost to Old Angler's Inn. Bear Island forms the eastern (Maryland side) side of Mather Gorge, and the gorge is where the best climbing crags in the Great Falls area are concentrated.
This page's namesake crag is a small one with a handful of routes. The climbs are also short ones, most of them in the 30' range. Crag X is in a vegetated area set back several yards from the river.
10-15 minutes' worth of hiking on the towpath and the Billy Goat Trail from the parking area gets you to a rocky section with a dropoff on the left. From here, look for a small, upstream-facing outcrop whose base is populated with sand and scrub. That is Crag X, and some Class 3 scrambling will get you there. The river is visible from the rocks, but the river won't be close enough to be a factor in climbing considerations unless flood conditions are occurring.
Crag X has 10 toprope routes in the 5.6-5.10 range (if interested in them, please consult one of the guides in the links section), but the routes are only 30-35'. On the plus side, many of the routes are clustered enough so that one good setup will allow for the climbing of several different routes.
Crag X also has considerable bouldering appeal. The ends of the outcrop are particularly suitable for bouldering and scrambling, but the crag's short height and sheer faces also make just about anywhere on it crashpad-friendly.
Crag X is nothing exciting, but it is a place to go if you want a crag to yourself. As the Billy Goat Trail does not pass directly beneath this crag, few hikers visit the rocks at Crag X. The same most certainly cannot be said of Purple Horse and Spitzbergen a little bit upstream.
From I-495, take Exit 41, just north of the Virginia line, heading west on the Clara Barton Parkway and then onto MacArthur Boulevard. About 3 miles from the interstate, look for Old Angler's Inn on the right side of the road. Across the road from the inn is a parking area. Park.
The parking area fills early on nice weekends. Do not park at Old Angler's Inn. If the parking area is full, look for roadside parking along the south side of the road or continue along MacArthur until you reach the entrance to C&O Canal National Historical Park. There is more parking here, but you have to pay a $5 admission fee, and you will also have a longer hike to the crag.
Red Tape, Camping, and Links
No admission fees if you start at Old Angler's Inn, but the area is on NPS land and all regulations for C&O Canal NHP apply (see links section).
The park closes at dark. Do not alter the rock in any way to place gear. Beware poison ivy and copperheads.
C&O Canal NPS site
An excellent resource for the area is Eric Horst’s Rock Climbing Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland
. The section on Great Falls provides one-sentence overviews of the routes. Also, consider the PATC Climbers' Guide
. It focuses just on the Great Falls area and details more crags and routes than the other guide does.