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C & O Canal Towpath trail, section #1

From Georgetown to Calico Rocks Campground, this 48 miles is the first of four sections on the C & O Canal Towpath trail
Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 50 miles
Duration: Multiple days
Family Friendly

Overview :  This portion of the C & O Canal Towpath trail runs from Georgetown, near Washington D.C., to Point of Rocks, Maryland. Whether you... more »

Tips:  - Although there are many places to stop for drinks & snacks along this first stretch of the trail, be sure to bring plenty of... more »

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Points of Interest

If you are starting from the Washington D.C. area, this will be your point of origin. The actual zero marker for the beginning of the trail is near Thompson's Boat House. That is also a good place for bike rentals and information.

2. Exit trail here to cross Key Bridge

From here, you can either continue on the C & O Canal Towpath trail or cross the Key Bridge to explore the Mount Vernon Trail toward Alexandria and George Washington's home.

Just a little bit past mile marker 3, Fletcher's Cove is a good place to grab a drink and a snack. It also has a picnic area, bike rentals, and boat rentals.

4. The Capital Crescent Trail

For the first few miles, the Capital Crescent Trail parallels the C & O Canal Towpath and at times is one and the same. Eventually the Capital Crescent Trail Heads east, deeper into Maryland.

5. Lockhouse 6

It is possible to get a glimpse of what it was like to live along the C & O Canal by staying in the actual lockhouses where the lock attendants lived in days gone by. Many of the lockhouses, including lockhouse 6, are available for accommodations to trail users. Lockhouses 22 & 28 are pretty darned good replicas of how lockhouses actually ... More

6. Billy Goat Trail A junction

In this portion of the C & O Canal Towpath, there are numerous trails. Some, like the Billy Goat Trail, are for hikers. Others, like the Capital Crescent Trail and the Western Maryland Rail Trail are for bikers and shared use.

7. Great Falls of the Potomac

After viewing all the man-made monuments in D.C., it's time to check out the handiwork of Mother Nature. The Great Falls of the Potomac is one of the most spectacular natural sites in the Washington D.C. area; and the best way to reach it is via the C & O Canal Towpath trail.

8. Lock 19

The locks were what allowed the canal to operate. As the canal boats moved westward, they were elevated by the locks filling with water and moving them gradually upward in elevation. It also allowed the barges/boats a smooth trip downward as they went from Cumberland to Georgetown.
You will see pictures of more locks when you get to the Lock 26... More

9. River Trail junction

Enjoy another of the many side hikes that intersect with the C & O trail.

10. Lockhouse 22

The full name of this structure is "Lockhouse 22 at Pennyfield."
This lockhouse is available for rent and contains authentic furnishings from the 19th century. It is one of the two lockhouses that have been restored to their original and authentic condition. It is reflective of how an actual working, functioning lockhouse may have looked while in ... More

11. Horsepen Branch Campsite

This is one of the numerous campgrounds you will find along the C & O Canal Towpath Trail. In this section of the trail alone there are over eight campgrounds available.
There is water available at this campsite.

12. Chisel Branch Campsite

This campsite is located at mile 30.5 on the trail. It is near the Edward Ferry Boat Ramp which has vehicle access. There is water available at this campsite.

13. Turtle Run Campsite

This campsite is located at mile 34.5 and also has water available. It is the closest trailside campsite to White's Ferry and Leesburg, VA.

14. White's Ferry and Leesburg

White's Ferry (aka General Jubal A. Early) is the last operating ferry boat on the Potomac River, and it's quite an experience to load your bike onto it and head over to Leesburg, Virginia where there are numerous lodging options. It is best to choose a hotel like the Best Western that provides a shuttle because the ferry is quite a ways from town... More

15. Marble Quarry Campsite

Water is available at this hiker/biker campsite. It is located just past mile marker 38.

16. Lock 26

Enjoy the accompanying photos of various historic locks along the canal towpath.

17. Monocacy Aqueduct

This is the largest of 11 stone aqueducts that were used to allow the canal to flow over larger rivers that ran into the Potomac. The Monocacy Aqueduct was built between 1829 and 1833.

18. Indian Flats Campsite

19. Nolands Ferry

This area serves as a boat ramp for access to the Potomac, but for trail users, it is a great resting area with picnic facilities and a restroom. If you are restocking on supplies or possibly ending/starting your journey here, there is also road access and a parking area.

20. wildlife on the trail

You will see an abundance of wildlife of all shapes and sizes along the trail.