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C&O Canal Path
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mini location map2019-04-20
30 by photographer avatarkingsnake
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C&O Canal PathDC, DC
Hiking avatar Apr 20 2019
Hiking12.63 Miles 374 AEG
Hiking12.63 Miles   4 Hrs   10 Mns   3.03 mph
374 ft AEG
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Sorry for babbling on. Lots of detail! 😉


Last year ( [ photoset ] ), after hiking my second segment of the C&O Canal, I mused about the possibility of doing the whole thing. This winter, I looked closer as possible planning, eventually breaking the remaining 168 of 184.5 miles up into 17 segments of 8-15 miles. I will day hike the segments, with my wife shuttle driving, doing one or two segments every Easter and Halloween visit, to my son & his family in Hagerstown, through Easter 2025. I'll throw in a few side hikes, just off the C&O Canal, such as Maryland Heights (overlooking Harpers Ferry) and Fort Frederick. All the segments are anchored by trailheads accessible by paved road.

The only problem I had to puzzle over was the huge gap of nothingness in the Green Ridge State Forest, between Little Orleans and the [ C&O Canal Towpath - Paw Paw Tunnel ] . It's 20 miles from pavement to pavement, with only 4x4 accessible dirt trailheads in between. I was able to get it down to 16 miles, which I will hopefully still be able tto manage when I am 60 years old in 2023.

Yes, this is my next long range project, now that my four years long Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway survey hike project ( [ photoset ] ) is nearing its end. (Btw, ADOT is already planning a 202 expansion spur west along Baseline, or something like that, to Avondale / Buckeye.)

So, today's hike was from Georgetown (MP 0) to Carderock Recreation Area (MP 10.5ish) ...


I didn’t realize C&O Canal mile 0 is at the Thompson Boat Center, just south of the Rock Creek Park trailhead, so instead I started hiking north along Rock Creek Parkway to where the towpath actually begins.

There’s lots of traffic on the C&O Canal Path, more tourists and joggers in Georgetown, tending towards bicyclists further out. Dog walkers too. I should have lived my young professional life in Washington D.C.: There’s eye candy for everyone! 😍

There’s so many historical markers along the C&O Canal Path that I did not have time to read them all.

There’s so many interesting things along the C&O Canal Path’s first ten miles that despite my best intentions I shot 119 photos and 94 video segments. The first cut of my hike video -- 📽 [ youtube video ] 📽 -- was 13:30, but I managed to whittle it down to 5:45. Less is more. 😉

The Locks 1 to 4 are located on the first ¼ mile of the towpath, between Rock Creek Parkway and Wisconsin Avenue, in the shadowy canyon between Civil War era factories & warehouses, converted to lofts, tech businesses & restaurants. There’s an insignificant detour around Lock 3 and Lock 4 which are fenced off for restoration work. The memorial to Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas — who led efforts to prevent turning the C&O Canal into a roadway — is currently behind the fence.

Adjacent to the Potomac Boat Club, there is a small trailhead at the terminus of the Capital Crescent Trail. (The Capital Crescent Trail is a paved trail which parallels the C&O Canal Path for 3.3 miles, until it crosses over the Arizona Avenue Bridge, heading north to Silver Spring.) There’s a number of crossovers, so you could easily head out on one, then back on the other.

There’s audible heavy flow in the C&O Canal in Georgetown, but the flow is normally placid west of Lock 4. Instead of the soothing sound of flowing water, I was accompanied by the cacophony of traffic along Canal Rd. NW and Clara Barton Parkway all the way to I-495 at MP 9.5.

The Abner Cloud House & Mill (c. 1801) and Fletchers Cove are located at MP 3.1. There’s clean, flush toilets, picnic tables, grills, watercraft & bicycle rentals, a bait shop / snack bar, water fountain, and lots of parking. I took an ice cream break. (Drumstick! :y: )

To minimize my luggage, the only gear I typically carry with me on a fly away hike are my GPS, my pocket camera and a bottle of water. I had intended to bring some Off!, but forgot the bug juice in Hagerstown. Luckily, despite the rain, and abundant vegetation, there were few gnats and absolutely zero mosquitoes. happy dance icon

It was a beautiful day. Perfect.

The Chain Bridge (MP 4.4) is the last pedestrian crossing to the south bank of the Potomac River for the next thirty-one miles to White’s Ferry.

Lock 5 (MP 5.0) has an adjacent guard lock. Also known as an “inlet lock”, it was designed to maintain flow in the C&O Canal. Lock 5 has a small parking area, a couple of porta potties, a water fountain and a bench. It’s a good place to turn around if you are hiking from Georgetown and don’t have a shuttle driver waiting at Carderock Recreation Area like I did.

There were lots of turtles sunning themselves on the logs. 🐢

there were lots of flowers along the C&O Canal Path. But the most impressive flowers were not down low, but up high, amongst the trees: Endless thick clusters of pink & purple blooms. Despite all the flowers, unlike Arizona, no allergies!

Lock 6 (MP 5.4) has the first lockhouse on the C&O Canal. Lockhouse 6 is one of six lockhouses which can be rented for $110-160 / night from the National Park Service under their Canal Quarters program ( ). Before they became rustic hotels, the lockhouses served as the home & office for each lock’s operator.

The dam at Little Falls (MP 5.8) was the original start point of the C&O Canal. It looked like a still active facility, and there were warning signs about dangerous undertow. 🚫🚣🏻‍♂️

I took my second break at Lock 7 (MP 7.0). Though not for rent, Lockhouse 7 is one of 26 still standing lockhouses on the C&O Canal. Lock 7 was the first lock where there were well preserved gears I could get a close up look at, and even turn an inch or two.

Lock 8 (MP 8.4) is the first of the Seven Locks, which raise the C&O Canal fifty feet in just over a mile to Lock 14 on the west side of I-495. Fifty is not even noticeable elevation change when you are hiking, but fifty feet is a lot for moving water. Thus, the Seven Locks. There is a picnic table in front of Lockhouse 8.

Lockhouse 10 (MP 8.8) is the second lockhouse the NPS rents out overnight. The C&O Canal Path diverts to the north bank for a ¼ mile, to Lockhouse 11, due to restoration of Rock Run Culvert, which flows under the canal. Lock 10 has a picnic table, water fountain, and parking area.

Lock 12 under I-495 to Lock 14 (MP 9.3 to 9.5) are now basically dry locks. There might be some pooling, but the only flow is that of the constant traffic on the Capital Beltway.

The Billy Goat Trail (MP 10.0) splits to left. That can be taken to the Carderock parking area, but I stayed on the C&O Canal Path for another half mile where there is a dirt towpath access road for maintenance vehicles that is the most direct route to the Carderock Recreation Area, which has picnic tables, grills, restrooms, water fountain, and lots of parking.
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