C&O Canal Towpath

The C&O Canal Towpath is 185 miles of incredible history and bustling energy that has become a popular self-guided biking route. It also connects with the Great Allegheny Passage for those wanting a longer adventure.

sunrise over GAPCO trail
Boat on the C&O canal
Evening view on the river near the CO
5 Day Self-Guided Tour

C&O 5 Day Tour

The C&O Canal Towpath is a must-ride trail for all bike travelers. Book your 5 day vacation and have plenty of time for relaxing and riding!

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Two bike riders at mile marker 0 on C&O
Boat on the C&O canal

C&O Canal Towpath

Go at your own pace, build your own bike tour, make your next trip on the C&O Canal Towpath your very own! Bike Tour Blueprints give you all the tools a rider needs to create an exceptional journey.

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About the C&O Canal Towpath

Sunset over the C&O Towpath Trail

What’s the C&O Canal Towpath?

Hugging the north bank of the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal operated from 1831 to 1924 to transport coal from the Allegheny Mountains. In 1954, 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.

Picture of the C&O Towpath gravel trail near a lake.

Riding the C&O

The C&O Canal Towpath is a dirt surface and bumpy, similar to a forest road, and is managed by the National Park Service. There is little to no grade on the towpath beyond the slight elevation changes at each lock. The majority of the trail is shaded and it is entirely off-road.

Cushwa Basin barn Williamsport

Trail Highlights

The C&O Towpath lead through Civil War-era national parks and battlefields; historic stone aqueducts; and the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.

Interesting place to stop along the C&O trail.

A Comfortable Pace

Our C&O Canal Towpath itineraries are designed to give you ample time to take in the sights along the way and experience the region’s natural beauty. It’s also possible to add on an extra time around sites like Antietam National Battlefield.

Looking for Something Different?

We are proud to offer a wide variety of curated tour itineraries on many of the nation’s best trails.

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