username
X
password
register help

C&O Canal Path, DC

details
drive
no permit
forecast
route
stats
photos
triplogs
topics
location
52 3 0
Guide 3 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List DC > DC
Rated
2
2 of 5 by 1
 
0
Statistics
clicktap icons for details
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
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Collective Slideshow
15  2018-11-01
C&O Canal MP 69-77
kingsnake
17  2017-10-31
C&O Canal MP 61-69
kingsnake
35  2013-03-23
Georgetown Loop
kingsnake
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Radar
Expand Map
Preferred   Oct, Apr, May, Nov
Sun  7:19am - 4:47pm
openimportsetbegin
Route Scout App
20930followactivity
Official Route
 
3 Alternative
 
Water
Nearby Area Water
Georgetown Loop
Georgetown Loop
0.4 mi away
7.1 mi
647 ft
Roosevelt to Roosevelt
0.6 mi away
9.3 mi
Lincoln Memorial to Lincoln Park
1.1 mi away
8.6 mi
DC Mall Loop
2.0 mi away
4.0 mi
100 ft
Potomac Park
2.0 mi away
8.2 mi
Columbia Island
2.3 mi away
3.9 mi
Capital Crescent Trail
2.4 mi away
10.2 mi
600 ft
Glover - Archbold and other Northwest Trails
2.7 mi away
8.0 mi
Brookland
3.2 mi away
8.0 mi
800 ft
Cabin John Creek Parklands
3.2 mi away
14.3 mi
2,200 ft
[ View More! ]
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Early Interstate Highway
by kingsnake

History
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).

Hike
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.

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.

    Permit $$
    None


    Directions
    Map Drive
    or
    Road
    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
    help comment issue

    end of page marker