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Map of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath

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Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath Maryland map area

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath

LENGTH:

184.5 miles

SURFACE:

aggregate / natural

COMMUNITIES:

Cumberland, North Branch, Oldtown, Hancock, Big Pool, Brunswick, Harpers Ferry, Potomac, Bethesda, Arlington, Washington D.C.

HIGHLIGHTS:

historic structures, canal locks, Paw Paw Tunnel, Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, Potomac River

Nearby Trails:

Great Allegheny Passage

Western Maryland Rail Trail

Appalachian Trail

Capital Crescent Trail

Rock Creek Park Trails

Related Links:

Washington D.C.

Arlington, VA

Northern Virginia

Pittsburgh, PA

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park is located throughout much of the State of Maryland, stretching from Georgetown to Cumberland. The park encompasses the C&O Canal that follows alongside the meandering Potomac River. The Potomac River forms the border between Maryland and West Virginia and Virginia.

History

The canal was constructed in the early 19th century to transport boats carrying cargo, especially coal and lumber from the Allegheny Mountains. The 184.5-mile long canal runs from Cumberland, Maryland to Washington D.C. and included 74 canal locks, 11 aqueducts and over 240 culverts for crossing the many incoming streams along the route.

The Towpath

The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath follows alongside the canal and was a pathway for the mules that tugged the boats. The towpath still exists, though much of the canal itself has deteriorated. Many of the locks and other historic structures remain. The route is very picturesque and historical. It is a great place for a family outing, learning about American history and for experiencing nature.

Trail Conditions

The surface of the trail is unpaved with compacted crushed stone or gravel. Some of the trail has a natural surface. The towpath is open for non-motorized use such as bike riding and walking.

Much of the route of the towpath is quite rural and there are miles between the different towns along the trail. Trail users should come prepared as there can be miles between facilities and emergency services. The towpath also goes through pastoral farmland and suburban residential areas as well as the very urban areas around Washington D.C.

Highlights

The highlights and other points of interest along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath include: visitor centers in Cumberland, Hancock, Williamsport, Ferry Hill, Brunswick, Great Falls Tavern and Georgetown, Gene Mason Sports Complex, Paw Paw Tunnel, Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, Georgetown Waterfront Park, numerous historic locks, aqueducts, stone bridges, historic homes, rocky gorges, boats along the Potomac, camping, wildlife and much more.

The Paw Paw Canal is a 3,118-foot long tunnel that was constructed to cut off a few sharp bends in the river. The towpath goes through the tunnel, so trail users are advised to bring headlamps or other lighting. The tunnel is located just northof Paw Paw, West Virginia and Route 51 in Maryland.

Communities

The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath goes past the following communities: Cumberland, North Branch, Oldtown, Hancock, Big Pool, Brunswick, Harpers Ferry, Potomac, Bethesda, Arlington and Washington D.C.

Connecting and Nearby Trails

Great Allegheny Passage: The north end of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath is located in Cumberland. The location is the southern end of the Great Allegheny Passage that extends as far north as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Read more about the Great Allegheny Passage

Western Maryland Rail Trail: The Western Maryland Rail Trail is a 23-mile long paved pathway that parallels the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath from Big Pool Station to the west.

Appalachian Trail: A total of 41 miles of the Appalachian Trail are located in Maryland. The Appalachian Trail intersects the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Trail at Harpers Ferry.

Capital Crescent Trail: The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath intersects the Capital Crescent Trail near the intersection of Arizona Avenue and Canal Road NW in Washington D.C. The two Trails also run parallel to each other for almost three miles to Francis Scott Key Bridge.

Rock Creek Park Trails: The eastern end of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath is as the intersection with the Rock Creek Park Trails, just north of the interchange between the Whitehurst Freeway and the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway NW in Washington D.C.

Custis Trail: The Custis Trail is located in Arlington, Virginia and can be reached from the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath via the pedestrian paths on the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

End Points

At 184-miles long, there are numerous places to connect to the towpath trail. There are also very long stretches between towns.

The northwest end of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath is located at the Cumberland Visitor Center on Canal Street south of the Baltimore Street Bridge in Cumberland. Trail users can also connect to the Great Allegheny Passage trail along Canal Street.

The southeast end of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath is located along the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway between Pennsylvania Avenue and Whitehurst Freeway in Washington D. C. This is also the intersection with the Rock Creek Park Trails. This area is near The Washington Harbor and Georgetown Waterfront Park.


Resources

Following are links to official off-site resources to find out more details about the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath in Maryland

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