Hiking Project Logo

green Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath


191.9 mile 308.8 kilometer point to point


Ascent: 952' 290 m
Descent: -361' -110 m
High: 627' 191 m
Low: 28' 9 m


Avg Grade: 0% (0°)
Max Grade: 8% (4°)


Driving directions Take a virtual tour
Zoom in to see details
Map Key

Trail shared by Brian Smith

A nearly 200-mile long path running along side a nearly 200 year old canal.

Brian Smith

Features Birding · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife


Stretching almost 200 miles alongside the Potomac River between the nation's capital and Cumberland, Maryland, the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park preserves remnants of America's transportation history. For nearly a century the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was the lifeline for communities and businesses along its route as it floated coal, lumber, grain and other products to market from 1828-1924. Laborers began digging with picks and shovels in 1828. When finished 22 years later, the waterway averaged 40 to 60 feet wide and six feet deep and included handsome stone aqueducts and a remarkable 3,118 foot long brick-lined tunnel. Seventy-four lift locks adjusted water levels for a 605-foot difference in elevation between the western terminus in the mountains and tidewater in the east.

The final section of the canal, which terminated at Cumberland, opened October 10, 1850. A joyful crowd gathered to celebrate the long awaited opening of the C&O. A procession of citizens and officials marched to the locks at the mouth of Wills Creek where five coal boats waited to start the run down to Georgetown. Even during its contruction, the C&O was competing with a powerful new form of transportation--the railroad. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad had begun its East-West route on the same day as the canal, but it reached Cumberland eight years earlier. Handicapped by dry spells, floods, and winter freezes, the canal could not match the speed and dependability of its rival. Loss of business to the railroad combined with costly flood damage forced the canal the close in 1924.

Hundreds of original structures, including locks, lockhouses, and aqueducts, serve as reminders of the canal's role as a transportation system during the Canal Era. In addition, the canal's towpath provides a nearly level, continuous trail through the spectacular scenery of the Potomac River Valley. Every year millions of visitors come to hike, run or bike the C&O Canal in order to enjoy the natural, cultural, and recreational opportunities available.

Hiked this trail?

We need help with the following missing trail information:

Need to Know, Flora & Fauna

Is something wrong? Let us know. Have photos to share? Help fellow hikers know what's here.

Rate This Trail

Rate Quality

   Clear Rating

Rate Difficulty

Share This Trail

Check In


Oct 13, 2018
Jpietr03 P
20 miles from lock 6 to Great Falls
Jul 2, 2018
LostDuck Hiker
Dec 23, 2017
Doug Goldring
Sep 30, 2017
Tim D
Sep 16, 2017
Laura Fisher
Jun 7, 2017
Bonnie Sweigart
Apr 14, 2017
Larissa Kushnir
I grew up in this area and think this place is one of the best multi sport places in the US. From running to kayaking/fishing/biking. 15mi
Oct 26, 2016
Chris McCloud

Trail Ratings

  4.5 from 11 votes


in Georgetown


  4.5 from 11 votes
5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star
Trail Rankings


in Georgetown


98 Views Last Month
3,189 Since Dec 26, 2014
Easy Easy



Hiking Project is part of the REI Co-op family,
where a life outdoors is a life well lived.

Shop REI Hiking