Over four million people visit the C&O Canal each year. From spectacular views of Mather Gorge and Great Falls, peaceful walks or bike rides through nature, tours of lock houses and other historic structures, special events, or boat rides on the watered sections of the canal, the C&O Canal offers something for everyone.
Going up to the rock overlook (called "The Point") above the Potomac River bridge is a short, steep hike, but doable by most average hikers. The really steep part is a few 100 feet long, so not too bad. I went up with my wife, two 12 year old boys, and two dogs. Coming down is a bit more challenging if you don't have on good hiking boots because you tend to slip on the steep, loose trail. To reach the trailhead, go north from the Point of Rocks parking lot on the towpath till you're under the car bridge, and then turn right to walk through the old canal over to the railroad tracks. The tracks are very active and 3 trains came by while we were there. Once you cross the tracks, just look for the graffiti on the concrete bridgeworks and there's the trailhead going uphill to your left. It's about 25 yards in front of the train tunnel. Once up top, the view is spectacular of Virginia, Maryland, and the river. Then the trail peters out quickly into the woods, so just turn and come back down the same way you went up. Can't beat the views on this hike!
Awesome view once you reach the top. For a shorter hike you can park at the boat ramp and walk up the trail by the Parking lot, then cross the train tracks under the bridge. It's extremely steep for the first couple hundred feet but after that it's a steady incline
Nice trail within reach of Washington DC. The trail is hilly when you start at Chain Bridge and head west and eventually flattens out as it runs by the river. The trail was well marked and ran along side GW Parkway for a short distance and at one point you have to cross a road. The trail starting from about 3 miles west of Chain Bridge looked less used as there were many trees that had fallen across the trail that you had to climb over. At one point, within about a mile from Chain Bridge, you have to cross a stream by hopping stones if you don't want to get your feet wet. Overall an enjoyable hike and not very crowded, especially if you go earlier in the morning.
Excellent, very little elevation. Dirt and crushed rock. Beautiful with plenty of wildlife and many miles to cover. Majority of the ride is within sight of the river through some foliage. Dam 4 & 5 are a short distance in either direction.