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C&O Canal Path, DC

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Guide 4 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List DC > DC
2 of 5 by 1
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Difficulty 2 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 184.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 12 feet
Elevation Gain 615 feet
Avg Time One Way 1-7 days
Kokopelli Seeds 186.55
Interest Historic, Seasonal Waterfall, Perennial Waterfall, Seasonal Creek & Perennial Creek
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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30  2019-04-20 kingsnake
15  2018-11-01
C&O Canal MP 69-77
17  2017-10-31
C&O Canal MP 61-69
35  2013-03-23
Georgetown Loop
Author kingsnake
author avatar Guides 83
Routes 182
Photos 7,946
Trips 637 map ( 5,893 miles )
Age 57 Male Gender
Location Sunnyslope, PHX
Historical Weather
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Preferred   Oct, Apr, May, Nov
Sun  5:51am - 6:14pm
Official Route
3 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Early Interstate Highway
by kingsnake

Originally conceived of by George Washington -- yes, that one -- who spent his pre-hero days surveying much of the area between the Virginia Tidewater and what is now known as PIttsburgh. In 1785, Washington's Potowmack Company began building four "skirting canals" around the Potomac River's major rapids: Little Falls, Great Falls, Seneca Falls, Payne's Falls and finally House's Falls at Harpers Ferry.

The Erie Canal, in upstate New York, which began operation in 1821, began taking shipping business from locations further down the Atlantic Seaboard, prompting the construction of a full canal paralleling the Potomac River. (Sometimes the C&O Canal and the river are only yards apart, other times as much as a quarter mile.)

Construction began on the Chesepeake and Ohio Canal began in 1828 and ended in 1850. Within two decades, it began losing business to railroads, which could move more freight, quicker. It was finally shut down in 1924. Construction cost $20 million -- in 1830s dollars! -- or roughly 4x estimates.

The C&O Canal ran 184.5 miles from Georgetown, Washington D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland. (The vast majority of the mileage is in Maryland, but as the start is in D.C., that's where I've designated the 'state'.) A planned section to connect to the Ohio River at Pittsburgh -- and thus, to the Mississippi River and the American heartland -- never got off the drawing board.

The C&O Canal had 74 locks, 11 aqueducts, hundreds of culverts, and even flowed through a half mile long tunnel (the Paw Paw Tunnel, between milepost 155-156 at the Bevan Bends).

The maximum length of a canal boat was 90 ft., and the maximum beam (width) was 14.5 ft., which could carry a load of over 100 tons. A typical trip from Cumberland to Georgetown was seven days, but the fastest trip was only 62 hours (with a 128 ton load).

Nowadays, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park contains and maintains the old canal and its associated tow path. The hike, or more commonly bike, is still 184.5 basically flat miles from Georgetown to Cumberland. There are numerous access points, so section hikes & day hikes are easy.

For the most part, the path is hard packed gravel & sand. It can be a bit bumpy in spots, but nothing major, though you'd probably want to avoid riding a street bike on it. The surface drains well, but it can be muddy where ruts have formed. West of Georgetown, the canal itself is now mostly dry or swampy, with many fallen trees. Views of the Potomac River are often obscured by trees, so you may need to beat brush down a muddy incline to get a better view.

From personal observation on several occasions at different locations, it is almost entirely used by dog walkers, joggers, and bikers. However, there are campgrounds, and regular access to nearby towns with places to sleep & eat. (In some cases, like Hancock, the trail goes through town, in others like Sharpsburg, it may be a few miles into town.)

The Appalachian Trail, between Harpers Ferry and the Weverton Cliffs, shares three miles with the C&O Canal Path.

There is a lot of Civil War history nearby to the C&O Canal, particularly at Harpers Ferry and Sharpsburg. In addition, besides the canal locks, there are other interesting tidbits to check out here and there, such as the lime kiln near milepost 65.

The western end of the C&O Canal Path is at the visitor center in Cumberland, where the Great Allegheny Passage begins. (The Great Allegheny Passage is a 150-mile rail trail to Fort Duquesne at the Three Rivers confluence in the middle of Pittsburgh.)

Water Sources
You can get water, and other supplies, from one of the nearby towns, but there are also well hand pumps every few miles.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2017-11-03 kingsnake

    One-Way Notice
    This hike is listed as One-Way.

    When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    C&O Canal Path
    rating optionrating optionrating optionrated 2rated 2
    C&O Canal MP 61-69
    On previous Easter visits, I’ve hiked [ Antietam National Battlefield ] and completed the Maryland segments of the Appalchian Trail.

    I have roughed out some ideas for hiking the Appalachian Trail south of Harpers Ferry, and also in Pennsylvania, but the drives to those hikes are getting longer than I’d prefer. I want to keep the driving to a minimum, so my wife & I have time to do what we actually visit Maryland to do: Visit family.

    So, in order to avoid burning out the nearby A.T. segments, I’ve decided to do those during our Easter visits, while doing some other hike during our Halloween visits. The historical Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Path fit the bill.

    The C&O canal itself, is now mostly dry or swampy, with many fallen trees, and only scattered pools. For the most part, bluffs & small cliffs line the side of the canal oppposite the towpath and Potomac River. In the old days, when the canal was still in operation (1834-1924), the space between the towpath and canal would have been free of obstacles, so boats could actually be towed, now there are many trees in that narrow strip of land.

    After crossing the footbridge at Maryland Heights, the towpath parallels the final set of Potomac River ‘falls’ (really more like rapids) to a cluster of points of interest: Inlet Lock 3, Lock 35, the ruins of Dam 3, and Lock 36, at MP 62. Dam 3 was first built in 1799, to provide power to the Harpers Ferry Armory.

    The Huckleberry Hill Campground, at MP 63, is 1.6 miles into the hike. There are a number of camping spots, grills, picnic tables, a well hand pump and, most importantly, a portapotty. (Note: Camping on the C&O Canal is only allowed at designated sites.) The Dargan Bend Boat Ramp is 3.6 miles into the hike and has a pit toilet. Those are the only designated pee stops from MP 61-69 (inclusive).

    A third of a mile past the boat ramp, at MP 65, is an old lime kiln, on the bluff side of the canal. It consists of an old coal bin, on the verge of collapse, and two ovens. The ovens are faced in stone, and lined with red brick. Just a few hundred yards past the lime kiln was the quarry from which the limestone was extracted. The quarry includes a tunnel that is maybe 100 ft. deep.

    After rounding Dargan Bend, Lock 37 and its lockhouse, are located at MP 67. Unfortunately, the lockhouse is not only boarded up, but screened, making it impossible to peer into, or take zoomed photos of the interior. :?

    The final two miles, from the lockhouse to the Antietam Aqueduct, at milepost 69, there are no points of interest to speak of. Just mellow trail walking.

    The Antietam Aqueduct was a water bridge over water. In other words, a way from the canal to cross Antietam Creek without interfering with the creek’s flow, or the passage of boat traffic on the C&O Canal. I didn’t realize it at the time, but there is another lime kiln, just up Antietam Creek, which was where an ironworks was built in 1764. Antietam Creek, itself, gave its name to the Civil War battle, which remains the bloodiest day in American history.

    After my wife picked me up at Antietam Aqueduct, we headed back to our hotel for a shower & post-hike libation, before heading off to trick-or-treat with our grandaughter Boo. (Appropriate nickname, no? :scared: )

    Hike Video: [ youtube video ]
    C&O Canal Path
    rating optionrating optionrating optionrated 2rated 2
    Trip to the east coast to visit family in Philadelphia and Hagerstown (for Easter with our 3-year old grandaughter), so decied to stop for a few days of touristing in DC as well. As driving in DC is so difficult, me and my wife either walked or took public transportation. In three days, I logged (on my GPS) over 16 miles walking; my wife, with the bad feet, half that. (She's a champ!) First morning, I went on a solo tour around Georgetown, where we were staying, to see some of the local sites, such as the Exorcist Steps, Georgetown University, some cemeteries, Embassy Row, the Watergate Hotel, the Potomac River Walk, the C&O Canal path, and the Francis Scott Key Memorial, among others. Most of what there is to tell is in the description I created and the photos I uploaded.

    Things that stood out to me:

    1) Georgetown is like a combination of 1860s border-south and San Francisco in many ways: Architecture; cost; traffic; restaurants; hills; attractive, athletic, professional members of the opposite sex, etc. (If you are single, move there!) 8)

    2) Lots of people ride bikes (there is a bike share), jog, or walk dogs -- noticeably more so than in Phoenix. :wlift:

    3) They love beeping their car horns, often for no apparent reason. :oplz:

    4) There are cops everywhere, even well away from the White House. (I didn't take as many embassy photos as I planned, because I got paranoid someone would freak out.) :scared:

    5) Once you get into the parks, you don't hear traffic noise like you would on, say, Trail 100. (Probably because the trees abosorb it.) :FG:

    6) People wait in line, all day long for cupcakes. :roll:

    ... two weeks later ...

    7) p.s. Forgot to add that the Georgetown U campus has hand cleanser dispensers *everwhere*. You can't walk more than 100 feet without bumoping into one. :D

    Permit $$

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    There uncountable access points to the C&O Canal Path. If you are on the Maryland side of the Potomac River, simply head towards the river and you will probably find one.
    page created by kingsnake on Nov 03 2017 7:19 am
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