Edwards Ferry – Dickerson (MM30 – MM40)
If you’re starting from the DC end of things, this is where the towpath really blossoms. If you’re ending your through ride in DC, this is the last bit of the wild trail before you start entering the influence of DC suburbia.
From mile marker 30-35 the trail is surrounded by tall trees close to the towpath. During the summer this can be a welcome bit of shade from the often oppressive heat you’ll encounter. The downside to the shade is the slower evaporation of pooled water following the frequent thunderstorms of the season. If rain has fallen within a few days of your ride, this can be one of the muddier stretches you’ll encounter, so be prepared. Of course, during peak foliage time this is one of the more stunning rides on the entire trail.
Midway through this section is White’s Ferry, the sole remaining cable ferry across the Potomac River. The Jubal A. Early runs from the crack of dawn (or earlier) to late at night, ferrying bikes, pedestrians and cars back and forth between Maryland and Virginia. If you need the amenities of a town during this portion of your ride, Leesburg is your spot, and only a short few miles away from the far side of the river. Be prepared for a bit of a shock to the system after hours or even days of car-free riding – although the road shoulders are wide and welcoming to bicycles, the highway that takes you into Leesburg is well-traveled. One other potential benefit to the ferry for those weary of the towpath and heading from or to DC is the easy connecton to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail, a paved path that takes one back to the suburb of Arlington, Virginia and connecting trails to DC. The ferry ride is worth it for the views alone, so even if your tour is set to remain on the C&O, consider taking a break for the ride. At $3 per direction it’s not inexpensive, but river crossings aren’t ubiquitous on this adventure, and this one’s unique.
From mile marker 35-40, it’s back into the wild. Excellent camping options in this stretch and usually excellent trail conditions greet you as a rider.