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“Fabulous Bike Ride”

C&O Canal Historical Park
Ranked #361 of 1,327 things to do in Maryland
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Attraction details
Owner description: The C&O Canal was proclaimed a national monument in 1961 and named a national historical park in 1971.
Reviewed 24 September 2011

A sturdy bike is all you need to explore this gem of American history. As you ride along the Potomac on a canal path you get to explore history and nature all rolled into one. Pick up a Canal Map at the Visitor center in Cumberland and ride any section of over 200 miles of path.

1  Thank bikerchik59
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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"great falls"
in 15 reviews
"quiet serenity"
in 2 reviews
"access points"
in 2 reviews
"bike path"
in 2 reviews
"avoid the crowds"
in 2 reviews
in 8 reviews
in 4 reviews
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33 - 36 of 36 reviews

Reviewed 17 January 2011

It was way too crowded when we were there. We went on a Saturday afternoon and it was a nice day, but there were far to many people there. It costs money to go in and we didn't stay long so I didn't feel that I got my money's worth. If you have a lot of time to spare, it is probably worth it.

Thank Nina T
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 13 April 2010

In Williamsport Md. near the Conococheague creek is a little place called Cushwa's Basin. At the site is the ruins of the Conococheague aquaduct from the C & O canal which you can walk across. In 1929 a boat hit the side of the aquaduct and one side of it fell into the creek along with the boat and cargo. Also at the site is the only canal train lift, Lock house, canal lock, museum and visitors center. The park also hosts a biking trail. It's a nice stop off if you have a couple of hours.

2  Thank only1kirk
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 29 June 2009

This particular write-up is from the unique perspective of "seeing all of the trail" with an aggressive, multi-day bicycle trip during the wet season.

Bicycling the path? Different and valuable experiences can be had in many ways. So to consider this option, you should be particularly fit to ride a bike, and not be adverse to "roughing it." In fact, that could be THE reason to do this. The challenge is part of the package.

The C&O Canal Trail is a 185 mile-long east-west linear park that is administered by the US National Park Service. For the most part, it follows the original towpath of the mule teams that pulled the canal boats.

Most visitors opt to bicycle the trail one direction from start to finish. The trail begins in Georgetown, Washington DC near the Kennedy Center / Watergate Hotel, and ends in Cumberland Maryland. Many bicyclists do only a portion of the trail at a time. Some are more ambitious and do it all. Some people go even farther, as this trail connects to a very different north-bound trail - the Great Allegheny Passage (or GAP) - a Rail Trail that connects from Cumberland, Maryland to near-Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. While many bicyclists take the trail in one direction only, others (as in my case) will double back to their point of origin. My ambitious goal was to accomplish 185 x 2 = 370 miles in the space of a week. I almost made it.

MAJOR highlights of the trail include
• Washington, DC with its numerous sights,
• The Great Falls of the Potomac - stunningly dramatic and beautiful,
• Numerous historic sights associated with the American Civil War, including Antietam Creek,
• The Canal itself in its many incarnations along the way. sometimes as a clear long lake for kayaking, sometimes a greenish murky swamp, always a repository for an abundance of life,
• Paw Paw Tunnel - an amazing experience as you and the canal cut through a mountain.
• The end of the trail in Cumberland with its beautiful visitors center, which takes you to even more history, including its tribute to both the canal and the beginning of US Route 40 - America's first national highway. Cumberland, Maryland is also the connecting-point for the Great Allegheny Passage Bicycle trail, mentioned earlier. (The GAP Trail is another and quite different trip experience.)

The C&O Trail parallels two waterways - the C&O Canal and the Potomac River. The natural beauty of the C&O trail includes an abundance of wildlife - I surprised a Beaver grooming himself on the trailside, also encountered Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, Black-capped Night Heron, Great Horned Owl, Grey Fox - all of these within 10 feet or less.

The history of the canal with its canal lock houses is explained in depth with preserved residences and explanatory kiosks along the way. Sometimes, you can camp near these locks. Free "Hiker-Biker" (Biker. . .they do NOT mean motorcyclists) camping is provided roughly every five miles. These are small primitive sites to pitch your tent that include a chemical toilet, picnic table, grill or fire pit, and a standing hand-pump for drinking water.

The trail is completely separated from motor vehicle traffic except for one "new" six-mile section, effectively replacing the original trail that was destroyed by flooding. That re-routed section follows a semi-rural / residential area on local roads. The local traffic was light.

Keeping in mind that bicycle camping is not for everyone, here are the nitty-gritty journal entries and observations from my trip of June, 2009:

• Launch: Sunday Night from Cumberland 8:30 PM, tent camped at MM 180 at nightfall - a short 5 mile jog.
• Day 1- Monday night - camped at MM 75 (that's 105 miles in one day - felt good.) At times my max speed reached 12 mph.
• Day 2- Tuesday - Made it as far as MM 4 (just outside DC). Flat tire slowed me down and used up daylight. Had to turn around and camped at MM 16. Trail conditions were extremely muddy, soft and soupy about 1/2 way between Harper's Ferry and DC, and otherwise just muddy and wet with many standing pools of water.
• Day 3- Wednesday - Rained all day, speed slowed down to 6 mph for much of the miles. Tent camped under a roofed shelter (lucky!) at McCloskey's Mill private campground - about MM 88. I was their only customer.
• Day 4 - Stopped in Oldtown, where the school closed in 2000, but the former school cafeteria continues to this day as a restaurant. Ordered a breakfast of pancakes topped with gravy - that was a new food combination for me. Returned to Cumberland about 1:30 PM. That calculates to Cumberland to DC and then back in about 4 1/2 days.

Really beautiful scenery in spots, also quite a bit of monotony which is par, and lotsa, lotsalotsa mud! I was amazed at the sight of people entering the trail with their clean pastel bicycling outerwear while riding on their narrow gauge road bikes. They may have been amazed at the sight of me, particularly the mud-encrusted version toward the end of the trip. Encountered many bicyclists – maybe 50, but only six hikers, one person with Nordic Walking Poles, and two women from Italy with no gear (???) except for a waist pack.

Mountain bike, knobbies with a "bob-like" Yakima trailer. Repair kit and tools. Tent camping all four nights. Changes of clothing. Personal effects. A good light to walk the bike through the Paw Paw tunnel. Energy bars, and plenty of water.

Advice and warnings:

#1 - Freshly cut long-grass that were left in clumps on the trail = Wipe-Out. My only tumble - lucky to not have been hurt. Like throwing a banana peel in your path.

#2 - The drivers in "lawnmower army" of the NPS do not necessarily understand that they should disengage their mowing blades to allow you to pass, nor do they necessarily understand that they need to pull over and stop. I got behind one and was shouting for him to "Let me pass please" for about 1/4 mile. He didn't see me or hear me until I got up close and was fairly screaming.

#3 – T-Mobile cell-phone signal was non-existent for most of the trip.

#4 - Mud and constant rains means your heavy-loaded bike might never be stable to park - it can collapse sometimes when you least expect it. The bike computer was destroyed on morning #3 when it was smacked against a post.

#5 -Take GOOD look at the weather report, and be skeptical. The 30 pct chance of rain predicted for Thursday morning morphed into 100% rain for Wednesday, Wednesday night, and part of Thursday. If there are rains on the C&O, you and the bike will be very muddy on the outside and your things will get wet inside. Constant rain and deep puddles means that water shoots UP into your bike from below. The convenient stretchy rain covers for your panniers will do no good from water coming from that direction, and will hold water where the material covers the bottom. Now, about the heavy-duty waterproof duffle bag in the trailer - with the extra-heavy waterproof zipper covers. . . it's the same story. The water splashes UP and in between the heavy flaps, through the zipper, and thus inside the duffle bag, AND since the bag is otherwise waterproof - it holds the water at the bottom, and soaks everything that is not separately waterproofed. I spent 2 nights without the wet sleeping bag. TIP: Zip-lock bags are your friend. My socks stayed dry because of zip-locks, I should have done that for my camera.

#6 YOUR TRIP does not need to be this rough. You can go during the drier time of the year. Towns along the way are a little sparse, but with good planning, you can find nice places to eat, shower each night and sleep in a bed. You can cover shorter distances each day. Near Hancock Maryland, The Western Maryland Rail Trail runs parallel to the C&O and provides 21 miles of a comfortable asphalt-paved bicycling.

Someday, I'll come back to MM 4 on the C&O and finish the trip to Georgetown. Maybe dress up a bit for the Capitol sights...?

Happy Bicycling!

35  Thank daytoncapri
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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