Our guests who purchase the C&O Canal Towpath Bike Tour Blueprint receive the following:
The Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal was completed in 1850 after 22 years of construction. It was used for transportation between the Allegheny Mountains and urban areas of the Chesapeake Bay. Hugging the north bank of the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, the C&O Canal operated from 1831 to 1924. In 1954, after several decades of disuse, U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas led an eight-day hike along the C&O Canal Towpath to try and save it from being transformed into a parkway. His success saw the former canal designated as the Chesapeake & Ohio National Historic Park in 1971.
With much of the canal now reclaimed by the forest, the 184.5-mile towpath has become a popular hiking and cycling route, with clay and crushed stone making it ideal for biking. Occasional potholes, rocks, and mud can be expected in some sections but conditions are improving dramatically as a major trail resurfacing project is currently underway.
The C&O Canal Towpath descends around 600 feet from Cumberland to Georgetown in Washington, D.C., with the gradual change in elevation almost indiscernible. This makes the “Grand Old Ditch” (as it’s affectionately known) ideal for any cyclist, particularly those who aren’t keen on hilly terrain.
Difficulty: The C&O Canal Towpath is rated at medium to hard difficulty. The trail has little to no elevation gain, but most itineraries require biking at least 50-60 miles each day and the trail surface tends to be uneven and slow.