C & O Canal National Historic Park


Biking along the towpath is an excellent way to see the park. Campsites are located from Cumberland to Seneca at various intervals (see Camping), making multi-day trips a viable alternative. Several park areas have interpretive trails and other hiking opportunities for side trips. Trail guides are available at Georgetown, Great Falls Tavern, Williamsport, Hancock Visitor Center, Western Maryland Station Center, Antietam National Battlefield Park, or by mail order from Parks and History Association 202-472-3083.

Bicycle riding at C & O National Historic Park is permitted on the towpath, but not on park trails. The surface is generally 12' wide and made of packed dirt and gravel. The condition varies from excellent to rough due to tree roots, rocks, chuckholes, and weather conditions. Avoid using the towpath for at least two days after heavy rains. Due to the recent flood there are several areas that are not currently open to bicycling. Check with a visitor center for closed areas. Bicyclists should yield right of way to pedestrians and horses. Sound devices are required to warn those ahead of your approach. Individuals should carry tools and materials for repairing flat tires, broken chains, and spokes.

Suggested Bike Trips

Ride #1: 28 MILES. Start at Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center, and ride from Great Falls (mile 14) to Georgetown (mile 0). Points of interest include Widewater, Cabin John Bridge, Glen Echo, Abner Cloud House, Georgetown, and Tide Lock. Group camping (mile 11) at Marsden Tract (for permit call 301-299-3613).

Ride #2: 34 MILES. Start at Edwards Ferry. Use Westerly road or White's Ferry road out of Poolesville, MD, to Edwards Ferry and ride from Edwards Ferry (mile 31) to Great Falls (mile 14). Points of interest include Goose Creek River Locks, Seneca Aqueduct, Violetts Lock, Swains Lock, end Greet Falls. Camp at Swains Lock (mile 16.6), Horsepen Branch (mile 26.1), and Chisel Branch (mile 30.5).

Ride #3: 40 MILES. Start at the Lander Lock 29 area. Use Lander road off Rt. 340 or Rt. 464 and ride from Lander Lock (mile 51) to Edwards Ferry (mile 31). Points of interest include Point of Rocks, Monocacy Aqueduct, Whites Ferry, and Broad Run Trunk. Camping at Turtle Run (mile 34.4), Marble Quarry (mile 38.2), Indian Flats (mile 42.5), Calico Rocks (mile 47.6), and Bald Eagle Island (mile 49.9).

Ride #4: 32 MILES. Start at Mountain Lock parking area on Lime Kiln road off of Harpers Ferry road, south of Sharpsburg, MD. Ride from Mountain Lock (mile 67) to Lander Lock (mile 51). Points of interest are Iron Ore Banks, Harpers Ferry, Dam 3, Weverton, Brunswick, and Catoctin Aqueduct. Camping at Huckleberry Hill (mile 62.9).

Ride #5: 36 MILES. Start at the Big Slackwater parking area, 1 mile west of Dam #4. Use MD Rt. 632 out of Downsville, MD. Ride from Big Slackwater (mile 85) to Mountain Lock (mile 67). Points of interest include Ferry Hill Plantation, and Antietam Creek Aqueduct. Camping at Antietam Campground (mile 69. 65), Killiansburg Cave (mile 75.2), Horseshoe Bend (mile 79.7), and Big Woods (mile 82.7).

Ride #6: 24 MILES. Start at Cushwa Basin in Williamsport. Ride from Williamsport (mile 100) to McMahon's Mill (mile 88). Points of interest include Cushwa Basin, Lock 44, Falling Waters, and McMahon's Mill. Camping at Opequon Junction (mile 90.9) and Cumberland Valley (mile 95.2).

Ride #7: 28 MILES. Start at the end of Ernstville road, off Rt. 56. Ride from Big Pool (mile 114) to Williamsport (mile 100). Points of interest include Fort Frederick, McCoys Ferry, Four Locks, Dam #5 and Conococheague Aqueduct. Camping at Jordan Junction (mile 101.2) and North Mountain (mile 110.0).

Ride #8: 40 MILES. Start at Pearre. Use Woodmont road off I-68. Ride from Lock 54 (mile 134) to Big fool (mile 114). Points of interest include Roundtop Cement Mill, Hancock, Tonoloway Aqueduct, Licking Creek Aqueduct, and Big Pool. Camping at Licking Creek (mile 116), Little Pool (mile 120.6), White Rock (mile 126.5), Leopards Mill (mile 129.9), and Cacapon Junction (mile 133.6).

Ride #9: 32 MILES. Start at Bonds Landing. Use Kasecamp road off Mertens avenue. Ride from Lock 60 (mile 150) to Lock 54 (mile 134). Points of interest include Fifteenmile Creek Aqueduct, Little Orleans, Sideling Hill Aqueduct, and Dam #6. Camping at Indigo Neck (mile 139.2), Devils Alley (mile 144.5), and Stickpile Hill (mile 149.4).

Ride #10: 24 MILES. Start at Oldtown, MD. From Oldtown (mile 167) to Lock 60 (mile 150). Points of interest include Twiggs Lock, Town Creek Aqueduct, Paw Paw Tunnel (bring a flashlight), and Lock 60. Camping at Sorrel Ridge (mile 154.1), Purslane Run (mile 157. 4), Town Creek (mile 162.1), and Potomac Forks (mile 164.8).

Ride #11: 35 MILES. Start at the Western MD Station in downtown Cumberland. Ride from Cumberland (mile 184.5) to Oldtown (mile 167). Points of interest include Evitts Creek Aqueduct, North Branch, and Oldtown. Camping at Pigmans Ferry (mile 169.1), Irons Mountain (mile 175.3), and Evitts Creek (mile 180.1).

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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