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Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath

Easy/Intermediate
 4.6 (12)

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


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Map Key

191.9

Miles

308.8

KM

Point to Point

627' 191 m

High

28' 9 m

Low

952' 290 m

Up

361' 110 m

Down

0%

Avg Grade (0°)

8%

Max Grade (4°)

Dogs Leashed

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

Description

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.

Flora & Fauna

Typical Eastern forest flora and fauna. Oaks, maples, beeches and poplars. Deer and many species of birds.

Shared By:

Brian Smith with improvements by Jean-Claude Linossi

Trail Ratings

  4.6 from 12 votes

#1

in Georgetown

#470

Overall
  4.6 from 12 votes
5 Star
67%
4 Star
25%
3 Star
8%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Trail Rankings

#1

in Georgetown

#470

Overall
117 Views Last Month
4,730 Since Dec 26, 2014
Easy/Intermediate

75%
0%
25%
0%
0%
0%

Photos

Very easy trail the majority of the way. I saw a few road bikes that werent struggling at all.
Aug 3, 2020 near William…, MD
The mighty Potomac River.
Feb 9, 2015 near Potomac, MD
The ruins of a C&O Canal Lockhouse stand outside of Harper's Ferry.
Jan 7, 2017 near Brunswick, MD
Great Falls locks (and fugitive waterfall).
Jun 30, 2016 near Great F…, VA
The 3,118-foot Paw Paw Tunnel is lined with 6 million bricks.
Jan 7, 2017 near Bel Air, MD
Dam 5 offers some interesting scenery along the Potomac River.
Jan 7, 2017 near William…, MD

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Check-Ins

Jun 29, 2020
Scott Bostic
6mi — 2h 45m
Aug 31, 2019
Josh Fox
Dec 17, 2018
Joy Granados
2.5mi — 2h 00m
Oct 13, 2018
Jpietr03 P
20 miles from lock 6 to Great Falls
Jul 2, 2018
LostDuck Hiker
Dec 23, 2017
Doug Goldring
4mi
Sep 30, 2017
Tim D
Sep 16, 2017
Laura Fisher
24mi