C&O Canal

Outdoor Activity / Park
C&O Canal The C&O Canal in Georgetown, Washington, DC extends 185 miles to Maryland. Come hike, bike, & fish your way to Virginia from DC with Party Earth. Washington, DC United States 38.904309194466 -77.0598649978638
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C&O Canal - Outdoor Activity | Park in Washington, DC.
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Party Earth Review Parallel to the Potomac River, the C&O Canal provides an almost entirely uninterrupted trail that extends 184.5 miles from upscale Georgetown all the way to Cumberland, Maryland. Constructed in the 1800s primarily as a... ... read full review

  • Neighborhood:

  • Address:

    Georgetown Visitor Center
    1057 Thomas Jefferson Street NW Washington, DC 20007
    Trail: Parallels the Potomac River from Georgetown all the way to Cumberland, Maryland

    Get Directions

  • Metro:

    To Georgetown Visitor Center
    Blue Line, Orange Line: Foggy Bottom–GWU

  • Phone:

    202-653-5190

  • Links:

  • Hours:

    Park open year round during daylight hours
    Georgetown Visitor Center: Daily 9:30am–4:30pm (mid-April–September), F–Su 9:30am–4:30pm (October–mid-April)

  • Recommended as:

    • Day Spot

Party Earth C&O Canal Review

The Scene

The C&O Canal in Georgetown, Washington, DC extends 185 miles to Maryland. Come hike, bike, & fish your way to Virginia from DC with Party Earth.

Parallel to the Potomac River, the C&O Canal provides an almost entirely uninterrupted trail that extends 184.5 miles from upscale Georgetown all the way to Cumberland, Maryland.

Constructed in the 1800s primarily as a means to transport coal and lumber, the canal is now part of the long, meandering expanse of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park. The trail itself – actually a linear sequence of several trails that follow the original towpath – is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts from diehard runners to strolling families.

Many begin their trek at the Georgetown Visitor Center, making their way past historic structures like the old lockhouses and the C&O plaque marking the canal’s start, or from Great Falls Park fourteen miles away, where they can board a reproduction canal boat where rangers dressed in period garb use mules to pull the boats upstream.

Although large sections of C&O have been drained, fishermen still frequent the banks where possible, and kayakers regularly use portions to shuttle their gear upstream before tackling the Potomac’s heady rapids.

The truly dedicated, however, are in for the long haul, as large packs of cyclists and diehard hikers head up past the Great Falls of the Potomac, through lush forests, and along the base of the Appalachian Mountains to Cumberland, most of them stopping to camp at the many free campgrounds along the way.

Whether for passing an afternoon or exploring during a multi-day excursion, the C&O Canal is a true DC gem.

And a Virginia and Maryland one, too.

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Tip from Emma:

About 150 miles along your journey, you’ll come to what is maybe the coolest manmade portion of the C&O Canal: the Paw Paw Tunnel. Completed in 1850, the tunnel extends more than 3,000 feet through a small mountain, and is still one of the longest canal tunnels in the world. Bring a flashlight, because you’re going through it and out the other side!

  • Crowd

    Cyclists, joggers, hikers, walkers, fishermen, fisherwomen, birders, sightseers, kayakers, a few horseback riders, and naturalists of every stripe. All ages.

  • Entertainment / Music

    About 184.5 miles of bliss…and a few blisters.

  • Food / Miscellaneous

    Although the towpath is close to urban areas, there are no food options directly along the trail itself except for the snacks stocked at the seasonal visitor centers. Water is plentiful, but anyone looking to do large portions of the towpath would be wise to pack plenty of food and a water purifier.

    Although the entire towpath is fairly flat, beginning the trek in Cumberland enables a net-downhill journey for those looking to avoid some of the burn.

    Other Visitor Center Hours:
    Brunswick: F 10am–2pm, Sa 10am–4pm, Su 1–4pm (year round)

    Great Falls Tavern: Daily 9am–4:30pm (year round)

    Ferry Hill Place: Daily 9am–4:30pm (Memorial Day–September)

    Williamsport: W–Su 9am–4:30pm (year round)

    Hancock: M, Th–Su 9am–4:30pm (Memorial Day–mid-October)

    Cumberland: Daily 9am–5pm (year round)

  • Prices

    Mostly free to enter, but visitors planning to do large portions of the trek should get a park pass. Three-day park passes $5/private non-commercial vehicle or $3/person 16 or older when entering on foot or bicycle. Annual pass $20, valid from the month of purchase.

  • What to Wear / Dress Code

    Depends entirely on the activity in mind.

  • Hot Nights / When to Go

    The first twenty miles of the trail out of Georgetown are the most trafficked, with sunny weekends the busiest, while those venturing further will find few crowds to contend with during most of the journey.

  • Close By

    Near the start of the trail in Georgetown is the Thompson Boat Center (2900 Virginia Avenue NW), where kayaks, canoes, and bicycles can be rented by the hour or for the day.

C&O Canal User Reviews

Average rating:
The C&O Canal
Stephanie R. Apr 15, 2013
The C&O Canal stands for the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. It runs from Georgetown, in Washington DC. to Cumberland, MD. It is 184.5 miles long and runs parallel to the Potomac River. It was originally used to transport, via barges and locks, coal, lumber and agricultural products. It has existed for 100 years. Now the canal has a scenic path that runs parallel to the Potomac River and the canal. There are many things you can do during your visit to the canal. Walking and talking along the path is a fun activity to do with family members or friends. Taking the Billy Goat Trail near Great Falls is one place you should see. Great Falls has a magnificent view of MD and VA sides of the Potomac River. The dirt path is good for biking, jogging as well as walking. There is an abundance of wildlife there. You can spot turtles on logs, Canadian geese, ducks, herons, rabbits, raccoons, deer, squirrels and many other animals.
History and nature combined!
Christina W. Dec 11, 2012
I love wandering along the C&O canal. I'm a little bummed that it's listed in "Georgetown," because I grew up in the suburbs and used to go to Great Falls regularly (in Potomac, MD), and you could walk or bike along the canal for hours. It was awesome. Great Falls is also awesome (huge falls, awesome hiking, great trails), but that's not really the canal, so I digress. The point is, the C&O canal is tons of fun for 2 reasons. If you are into jogging/running or biking, it is the perfect spot to have your morning/afternoon exercise. But the canal itself has been around for so long! So it's like a history lesson and exercise in one! There are a few houses and museums along the canal in various places that have some pretty informative signs, so if you are at all into history it's worth checking out.
Nature walks at their best
Tara R. Dec 8, 2012
One of the first things I look for in any city is where I can go for long, contemplative walks or intense, uninterrupted runs. The Canal is definitely one of best in DC, and even though I haven’t been past the city limits on this particular trail, I imagine the beauty continues with the canal. Washington’s green spaces are superbly integrated into the city, and the Canal is no exception. It’s easy to forget it’s manmade as you pass the lush greenery surrounding the Potomac.
Great Running Trail or Walking Path
Jimmy D. Oct 1, 2012
I trained for a marathon on this beautiful trail. A flat dirt path alongside the canal and running parallel to the Potomac river, it's a peaceful trail for a nice fall walk or a terrific training course for longer runs. You can start out in Georgetown and run well into the Maryland suburbs. If you are visiting DC and looking for a running trail, the top two choices are the c and o canal and the monuments.
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