Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Loop
ElevationAscent: 51' 15 m
Descent: -50' -15 m
High: 174' 53 m
Low: 132' 40 m
GradeAvg Grade: 1% (1°)
Max Grade: 4% (3°)
Current trail conditions
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“A beautiful family-friendly loop that mixes history with breathtaking scenery.”— Karl W
Family Friendly This is a completely accessible trail that combines history with beautiful views.
In front of the tavern is Lock 20 (the 20th lock out of 74). A bridge just below the lock offers access to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Tow Path - a trail that stretches for nearly 200 miles along the historic canal. Head north on this trail to the Washington Aqueduct Observation Deck. This elevated platform offers excellent views of one part of the Aqueduct, which began full operations in 1864 and is listed as a National Historic Landmark.
Head back south along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Tow Path, back past Lock 20, and then past Lock 19 and Lock 18. Look for Olmsted Island Bridges on your right/west. This short trail crosses over a unique "floodplain terrace" environment made up of a few islands. The islands are connected by two bridges that cross over narrow ravines through which the Potomac river rushes. These bridges alone offer views that are worth the trip. However, at the end of the trail you'll come to an observation deck for Great Falls - a series of falls that drop the Potomac nearly 80 feet. Sections of the Potomac Gorge have class V+ rapids that are popular with kayaks.
Return to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Tow Path and head back north. This time cross the canal at Lock 19 to shake up your vies of the canal and locks. Finally, pass back by the tavern (or stop in) and return to the parking area. There are bathrooms along this last section too. You can also take a boat ride during spring/summer along the canal.
Land Manager: NPS - Chesapeake & Ohio Canal