The C&O Canal Towpath runs 185 miles along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal paralleling the Potomac River from Washington, DC, to Cumberland, MD. Although the canal is mostly drained, it is now a National Historic Park and the towpath a popular recreational trail. A ride on the towpath is a ride through history including the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and tracks a central component of transportation history. Sights range from urban to wilderness areas, and the 3,000+ foot Paw Paw Canal Tunnel. Activities along the towpath include hiking, camping, biking, kayaking, horseback riding, skiing, and visiting historical sites. (Detailed map and photos below.)
C&O Canal Towpath
Location: Cumberland, MD to Washington, DC (See map)
Distance: 185 miles
Surface: Clay and crushed stone
Support and Advocacy:
C&O Canal Trust
The path runs between the Potomac River and the canal, which is mostly overgrown with vegetation. (June 2018)
Water has been restored here, an example of how the canal used to
look. At the lock, the old building is now the Hancock
At Cumberland, the towpath joins with the Great Allegheny Passage to continue 150 miles to Pittsburgh, PA. Other trail connections include the Western Maryland Rail Trail, the Mount Vernon Trail, and Appalachian Trail. Hint: as a break from the towpath, at Lock 56 (Pearre Road in Hancock) cross over to the paved Western Maryland Rail Trail and ride for 22 miles to Big Pool.
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