Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath
ElevationAscent: 952' 290 m
Descent: -361' -110 m
High: 627' 191 m
Low: 28' 9 m
GradeAvg Grade: 0% (0°)
Max Grade: 8% (4°)
Current trail conditions
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“A nearly 200-mile long path running along side a nearly 200 year old canal.”— Brian Smith
The final section of the canal, which terminated at Cumberland, opened October 10, 1850. A joyful crowd gathered to celebrate the long awaited opening of the C&O. A procession of citizens and officials marched to the locks at the mouth of Wills Creek where five coal boats waited to start the run down to Georgetown. Even during its contruction, the C&O was competing with a powerful new form of transportation--the railroad. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad had begun its East-West route on the same day as the canal, but it reached Cumberland eight years earlier. Handicapped by dry spells, floods, and winter freezes, the canal could not match the speed and dependability of its rival. Loss of business to the railroad combined with costly flood damage forced the canal the close in 1924.
Hundreds of original structures, including locks, lockhouses, and aqueducts, serve as reminders of the canal's role as a transportation system during the Canal Era. In addition, the canal's towpath provides a nearly level, continuous trail through the spectacular scenery of the Potomac River Valley. Every year millions of visitors come to hike, run or bike the C&O Canal in order to enjoy the natural, cultural, and recreational opportunities available.