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C & O Canal Towpath Trail is a 47.9 mile heavily trafficked point-to-point trail located near Washington, District of Columbia that features a river and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail.

Length 47.9 mi Elevation gain 521 ft Route type Point to Point
Dog friendly Backpacking Camping Hiking Mountain biking Walking Bike touring Running Forest River Views Wild flowers Wildlife
Description
Waypoints (19)
Contact
Tips

From Georgetown to Calico Rocks Campground, this 48 miles is the first of four sections on the C & O Canal Towpath trail This portion of the C & O Canal Towpath trail runs from Georgetown, near Washington D.C., to Point of Rocks, Maryland. Whether you are riding/hiking out and back or plan to go the distance on the C & O Canal, you will find plenty of camping, scenery, and wildlife in this first 50 mile stretch of trail. There are 30 hiker/biker campgrounds located along the entire length of the trail with eight in this section alone. These campgrounds are free on a first-come-first-served basis. Water is available at most of the campgrounds and dispensed with a good ol' fashioned hand pump. Lodging is also available at Cabin Quarters; these are restored versions of the original lockhouses that were used to house canal employees. Information about these Canal Quarters is available online at the link provided with this guide. There are not many hotels available near the trail, but one of the great experiences of the trail is to cross the ferry near Leesburg if you want to stay in a hotel in Virginia for this portion of the trip. You will find an abundance of historical charm along this trail from the shops in Georgetown to the locks along the canal. You may also take historic barge rides along portions of the canal in either Georgetown or near the Great Falls (Tavern) area. These tours are available through the National Park Service from mid-April until the end of October and are quite inexpensive and fun. Another major attraction along this trail is the Great Falls area. There is a beautiful, short hike out to the viewing area. Depending on the time of year, you may see a beautiful series of cascades along the river or a stunning, raging torrent. This trail has something for all levels of bikers/hikers. You have the option of traveling just a couple miles to see the sites of Georgetown and Washington D.C., 4.7 miles to the Maryland State Line, 14 miles to the Great Falls Overlook, 185 miles to explore the entire C & O trail, or 320 miles if you connect the C & O with the Great Allegheny Passage trail. Hopefully you enjoy at least a portion of this great trail now; you can always do the rest later. It's well worth it.

trailsnet C & O Canal Towpath page http://www.trailsnet.com/canal_towpath_trail.html National Park Service http://www.nps.gov/choh trails network blog about C & O trail http://trailsnet.blogspot.com/2010/10/c-o-canal-towpath-trail.html C & O Canal Quarters Lodging http://www.canalquarters.org/ C & O Canal Bicycling Guide on the Bike Washington website http://bikewashington.org/canal/

- Although there are many places to stop for drinks & snacks along this first stretch of the trail, be sure to bring plenty of emergency provisions because some of the stops are spaced pretty far apart and stores/shops aren't always open when you need them. - If you are riding a bike, bring a basic tool kit & spare tire. You will not find any places to buy bike parts/tires near the trail. - Bicyclists will want to ride a trail bike and not a road bike. - If you plan to stay in the Canal Quarters, be sure to reserve well in advance on the website link provided with this guide. - You may want to plan to arrive at the campground of your choice early to make sure you get a spot. Water is available at most of the campgrounds, but still bring plenty of your own for drinking.

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Reviews (51)
Photos (58)
Recordings (39)
Completed (140)
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Jammal Barker
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Hiking
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Joy Chanelle
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Nice path - We walked the stretch between Key Bridge and Lock 6. Lots of nice side trails and river views. We also had a stroller - not as smooth as an asphalt path but honestly not that bad (a little bumpy because of the gravel). But it's totally doable with a sturdy stroller. There was moderate bike traffic but it was still a nice walk for all of us.

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jalyna cisneros
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Hiking
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Lisa Menzies
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HikingMuddy

I wanted to take a short stroll along the canal but it had recently rained and it was very muddy. Made it about a mile before I gave up on the mud and trying to find a way around very large puddles.

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James Jones
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Mountain biking

Awesome trail! I’m making plans to ride from DC to Cumberland, MD.

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Robert Keith
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Hiking

Did all 185 miles. Only saw one other backpacker. I made the mistake of going after heavy flooding and it was mosquito season. But the historic aspects boggle the mind. Every 1/4 mile is a historic site. Going into Cumberland it becomes a horse trail and gross. But the accomplishment of doing the whole thing is great.

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Zac Trautman
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Mountain biking

not a biker at all, with no training and mop buckets as panniers I made it a lowly 23 miles and camped at riley's lock. super windy.. saw a black coyote which was the highlight

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Péo Van Wijnstekers
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Mountain bikingBlowdown
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Karen Naumann
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HikingOver grown

Urban, overgrown weeds along polluted dried up canal.

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Audrey Brooks
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HikingMuddy
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Cayla Johnson
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Fairly busy on the tow path. At times shoulder to shoulder with someone. On the trails off of the tow path there is not a soul in sight. I would recommend the mining trail.

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Natasha Kanagat
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Running

Nice trail with a fair amount of shade which helps on a summer day when it hits 90!

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Elena Tate
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Mountain biking

The amount of elevation gain may surprise you if you are expecting level all the way. But it was a nice ride.

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Alan Bourne
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Mountain biking

Beautiful rail trail. There were several others on bikes.

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Nsatsanga S
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Mountain biking

The wife and I biked 15 miles North from Great Falls, which made the whole ride 30 miles. Pretty flat trail which didn't provide any time to coast. This intensified the workout because we were initially only going to ride 10 miles North, but because it was so flat we pushed it an additional 5 miles. The scenery was nice; trees, river, creek. Your typical hiking environment. But, I would prefer more visual stimulation. We'll try the section starting from Cumberland next time.

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Daniel Pollack
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First to Review

Fun short hike. The tunnel is interesting. Great for small kids if they don't mind the dark tunnel. Be sure to bring a flashlight. The rest of the hike is nice for a fall afternoon. It was worth the trip from northern Virginia.

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Michael Scanlin
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Mountain biking
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Russell Cestone
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Bike touring
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James Jones
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Mountain biking
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Duncan Fitzgerald
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Running
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Duncan Fitzgerald
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Running
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Duncan Fitzgerald
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Running
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Ellen Howes
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Hiking
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Alonnah Creswell
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Bike touring
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Tel McGaha
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Hiking
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Anna Drescher
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Hiking
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Stephen Rickard
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Hiking
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Stephen Rickard
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Hiking
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Salar Kayyal
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Running
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Salar Kayyal
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