The Pedalshift Guide to Bicycling the C&O Canal

The Chesapeake and Ohio National Historic Park is a bike touring paradise. Perhaps the skinniest of land run by the National Park Service, this ribbon of trail connects Washington, DC to Cumberland, MD over the course of 184.5 winding miles of trail. Bicycling the C&O Canal multiple times every year means I’ve been able to collect tons of information for your next trip here! This page is a work in progress. Stay tuned for more information and updates.

Latest update: July 2018

News

The washout at mile marker 52 has a workaround! Check out this video for more details and listen to episode 127 of the Pedalshift Project.

Segments

Washington, DC – Capital Beltway (MM0-MM9)

Capital Beltway – Great Falls (MM9-MM20)

Great Falls – Edwards Ferry/Leesburg (MM20-MM30)

Edwards Ferry/Leesburg – Dickerson (MM30-MM40)

Dickerson – Point of Rocks (MM40-MM50)

Point of Rocks – Harpers Ferry (MM50-MM60)

Harpers Ferry – Antietam/Shepherdstown (MM60-MM70)

Antietam/Shepherdstown – Taylors Landing (MM70-MM80)

Taylors Landing – Opequon Junction (MM80 – MM90)

Opequon Junction – Williamsport (MM90 – MM100)

Williamsport – Ft. Frederick (MM100-MM110)

Ft. Frederick – Little Pool (MM110-MM120)

Little Pool – Hancock – Leopards Mill (MM120-MM130)

Leopards Mill – Little Orleans (MM130-MM140)

Little Orleans – Stickpile Hill (MM140-MM150)

Stickpile Hill -Paw Paw – Town Creek (MM150-MM160)

Town Creek – Pigmans Ferry (MM160-MM170)

Pigmans Ferry – Cumberland (MM170-MM184.5)

Road detours

C&O unofficial road bypasses courtesy of Preston Paige Piper.

Preston notes, these are route notes with KOMOOT map links. He stresses the routes not bike tested and riders accept all risk. He himself would use them under low traffic.

Overview:
(Some Routes need researched further.  Info for case of emergency on the trail and MUST get off before conventional trailhrad)

▪Cumberland to Little Orleans area (roads)
      • Rt 51 (Oldtown Rd) is steep, curves, no shoulder
        (Rt 51 not bike friendly)
            •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
▪Paw Paw area
      •Tunnel open until Spring 2019, the use Tunnel Hill 
        trail detour
▪ Hancock to Williamsport (WMRT & roads)
▪ Williamsport to Shepherdstown (roads)
▪ Shepherdstown to Point of Rocks (roads)
       •Rt 464 Brunswick to Lander not bike friendly)
       •NPS mp 52.5 bridge work pending (Sep)
         …been too wet
▪ Point of Rocks to Swains Lock 21 (mp 17) (roads)
      
=======================================

Bypassing C&O by roads due to mud or downed trees.may be possible if research further for safety.
▪▪▪▪▪▪▪▪▪▪▪▪▪▪▪▪▪

Hancock area -Western Maryland Rail Trail (WMRT)
Mp 114 to 136 (Parallels C&O mostly):

▪C&O Bypass mp 115 to 136
(WMRT where intersects east end)
https://www.komoot.com/tour/47462667?ref=atd
21 miles 
Eastern half is 1% up/down
5 miles west of Hancock 1-3% 2-3 hills 
4 miles on western part about 1% uphill
Note: it is 1 mile farther east to parking lot where with outlet to C&O (Rt 56 passes by)

▪WMRT near C&O MP 115
This is where C&O comes nearest to WMRT on east end
https://www.komoot.com/tour/47463612?ref=atd
(1 mile farther to WMRT parking lot with no outlet to C&O … except by road Rt 56 east 1 mile uphill and then on right thru Fort Frederick down to mp 112.5 )
========================================

Hancock to Williamsport
   (WMRT to Dam 5)
Bypass C&O mp 114 to 107 to 99:

▪WMRT (eastern parking lot) to Fort Frederick (road)
https://www.komoot.com/tour/47397344?ref=atd
      Rt 56 east
       1 mile with 3/4 mile 4-6% hill
        right entrance (read above)

▪WMRT to McCoy Ferry to C&O
https://www.komoot.com/tour/47405639?ref=atd
     Rt 56 east – McCoy Ferry Rd
      3 miles after Fort Frederick
      Mostly down hill after Fort Frederick

▪WMRT to Four Locks to C&O
https://www.komoot.com/tour/47405835?ref=atd
     Rt 56 east to Four Locks Road
     4 miles after Fort Frederick
     1 more 1/2 mile 4-5% hill after Fort Frederick

▪WMRT to Dam 5 
https://www.komoot.com/tour/47403705?ref=atd
       (Big Pool Rd-Ashton Rd-Two Locks-Dam 5 Rd)
      8 more miles from WMRT
       1 more 1/2 mile  4-5% hill
       +2 more shorter hills

▪WMRT parking lot to C&O mp 112.5
thru  Fort Frederick  park area
https://www.komoot.com/tour/47398264?ref=atd
1 mile to Fort Frederick road entrance
(Has 3/4 mile hill 4-6%)
Then 1/2 mile dowhill coast to mp 112.5 towpath

▪Bypass C&O mp 114 to 99
WMRT  (Rt 56 parking lot) to Williamsport
https://www.komoot.com/tour/47410525?ref=atd
Rt 56 east – (right) Big Pool Rd  – (right) Rt 68 east
13 miles
3/4 mile hill 4-6% to Fort Frederick
1/2 mile hill 4-5% 
Couple more short hills 2-3% 
Short 5-6% hill.into Williamsport
========================================

Williamsport to Shepherdstown area
Bypass C&O Mp 73 to 99:

☆C&O revommended DETOUR 
mp 89.x / mp 84
[Big Slackwater area]
west of Lock 42 & Dam 4 area
7 miles
Few rolling 1-2% &   short 3% hills

▪Lock 42 to Dam 4 (West to East):
   (Mp 89.x to 84)
https://www.komoot.com/tour/47590536?ref=atd
•Spring Dell Rd  (0.4 miles)
•right on Neck Rd  (0.7 miles)
•right on Dellinger Rd (2 miles)
•right on Dam 4 Rd (3.67 miles)
•follow to C&O
   
▪Dam 4 to.Lock 42 (East to West)
   (Mp 84 to 89.x)
https://www.komoot.com/tour/45793850?ref=atd
•Dam 4 Rd  (3.67 miles)
•left on Dellinger Rd  (2 miles)
•left on Neck Rd   (0.7 miles)   
•left on Spring Dell Rd  (0.4 miles)
•straight to C&O
======================================

More Williamsport to Shepherdstown 
C&O bypass mp 99 to 73:

▪Bypass C&O mp 80.x to 73
Taylors Landing to Shepherdstown
   (thru Sharpsburg)
https://www.komoot.com/tour/47411409?ref=atd
Bowie Rd – Mondel Rd into Sharpsburg –
(right) Rt 34 west
7 miles
   1 mile hill 0-6%
   3/4 mile hill 3%
   3/4 mile hill 1-2%
   1/4 mile hill 1-2%

▪Bypass C&O mp 73 to 76.5
Shepherdstown to Snyders Landing
  (thru Sharpsburg)
https://www.komoot.com/tour/45877026?ref=atd
Rt 34 east – (left) Alley 9 – (Campline Street area) –
Snyders Landing Rd
4.5 miles
.2 mile switchback to bridge 4%
.2 mile 4-8% hill
Rolling 1% into Sharpsburg then downhill
1/4 mile 2% after Alley 9
1+ mile 3-4% downhill to C&O (couple ups)

▪Bypass C&O mp 73 to 99.5
Shepherdstown to Willamsport
(Thru Sharpsburg)
https://www.komoot.com/tour/45877979?ref=atd
Rt 34 east – (left) N Church St (Rt 65) – (left) Lappans Rd into town
14 miles
Rolling hills 1-2%

▪C&O bypass mp 84 to 99.5
Dam 4 to Williamsport
https://www.komoot.com/tour/45801427?ref=atd
Dam 4 Rd – (straight) Downsville Pike – 
(left) Lappans Rd into town
10 miles
    3.5 mile uphill 1%
    Steeper uphill climb out of C&O

▪C&O bypass mp 88 to 99.5
McMahon Mill to Williamsport
Big Slackwater
https://www.komoot.com/tour/45795200?ref=atd
Avis Mill Rd – (right) Dellinger Rd – 
(left) Dam 4 Rd – 
(straight) Downsville Pike – 
(left) Lappans Rd into town
8 miles
  3.5 miles gradual 1% uphill

▪C&O bypass mp 88-89.x
McMahon west to Lock 42
Big Slackwater area
https://www.komoot.com/tour/45793908?ref=atd
Avis Mill Rd – (left) Dellinger Rd – 
(left) Neck Rd –
(left) Spring Dell Rd – keep straight to C&O
3 miles
  Few rolling 1-3% hills

▪C&O bypass mp 84 to 93
[Big Slackwater)
Dam 4 to Potomac Game Club pavillion
East to west
https://www.komoot.com/tour/45793770?ref=atd
Dam 4 Rd – (left) Dellinger Rd – (right) Neck Rd – (left) Falling Waters Rd – (left) Club Rd – cross C&O
9 miles
   1/2 mile hill 6% out of C&O Dam 4
   Rolling 1-3% hills
   3/4 mike hill 3-4% 
   1/2 mile Steep hill 6-10% DOWNhill to Potomac Club

▪C&O bypass mp 93 to 99 (center of town)
Potomac Game Club to Williamsport
https://www.komoot.com/tour/47412445?ref=atd
Club Rd (10% hill) – (right) Falling Waters Rd –
(left) Spielman Rd – 
(left) Rt 63 is Conococheague St) into town
7 miles
  1/2 mile steep 5-10% uphill
    Then few rolling 1%
=========================================

Shepherdstown to Point of Rocks area
Bypass C&O Mp 73 to 48:

▪C&O Bypass mp 72.5 to 69.5
Parking lot to Antietam Aqueduct almost
https://www.komoot.com/tour/47468513?ref=atd
3 miles
Mostly flat

▪C&O Bypass mp 69.5 to 64.9
Antietam Aqueduct to Dargan Bend Boat Ramp
https://www.komoot.com/tour/47470636?ref=atd
5 miles
Really hilly
.3 mile 1-2% hill
1/4 mile 6-8% hill
1.5 miles 1-3% hill
1.5 miles 10-13 to 17% hill
Downhill then .2 mile 2%

▪C&O Bypass mp 64.9 to 61
Dargan Bend Boat Ramp to HF Road parking
https://www.komoot.com/tour/47473699?ref=atd
3 miles
1/3 mile 6-8% hill
1/2 mile 1-2% hill
3/4 mile 4-8% hill
1.5 miles downhill

▪C&O Bypass 61 to 59
HF Rd parking to AT entrance to C&O
https://www.komoot.com/tour/47475184?ref=atd
3.25 miles
1/2 mile 1-2% hill
1/3 mile 1%
3/4 mile 6-11%
1 mile downhill
[Note…no real safe way if had to bypass C&O farther eastm…except to Rt 340 to Knoxville Rd to Brunswick mp 59 to 55.
Also no safe way to bypass Brunswick to Lander to Point of Rocks mp 55 to 48.  Only road route Rt 464 which is very steep hilly with little to no shoulder, guard rails & blind curves]

▪C&O Bypass mp 59-55
Map shows starting at Knoxville Rd.
KOMOOT app would not route to US 340.
https://www.komoot.com/tour/47478070?ref=atd
4 miles
No real safe way if had to bypass C&O farther east than HF AT trail @mp 59…except to Rt 340 (not safe) to Knoxville Rd (narrow) to Brunswick mp 59 to 55
Mostly 1%

▪C&O Bypass mp 55 to 50.8
Brunswick MARC to Lander Parking Lot
https://www.komoot.com/tour/47479073?ref=atd
(Not bike friendly)
Little to no Shoulders, blind curves, guardrails
7.5 miles
1.3 miles 2-4% up to 7% spots
3/4 mile 1-2%
3/4 mile 2-5%
1/3 mile 2-3%
3/4 mile 4-8%
1/4 mile 2%
Not sure if Komoot estimated % correctly.
Hills in person look much steeper.

▪C&O Bypass mp 50.8 to 48
Lander Boat Ramp to Point of Rocks 
https://www.komoot.com/tour/47480980?ref=atd
4 miles
1/2 mile 1-3%
1.5 miles 3-7%
2 miles downhill
======================================

Point of Rocks to Swains Lock (21) area
Bypass C&O Mp 48 to 16:

▪C&O Bypass mp 48 to 44.5
Point of Rocks to Noland Ferry
https://www.komoot.com/tour/47481635?ref=atd
5 miles
1.3 miles 1-2%
3/4 mile 2-6%
1/2 mile 2-3%

▪C&O Bypass mp 44.6 to 39.5
Noland Ferry to Dickerson Conservation
https://www.komoot.com/tour/47482568?ref=atd
9 miles
Very Hilly
1.8 miles 2-3%
1.2 miles 3-4%
1/3 mile 3-6%
1 mile 2%

▪C&O Bypass mp 39.5 to 35.5
Dickerson Conservation to Whites Ferry
https://www.komoot.com/tour/47483739?ref=atd
6 miles
3.8 miles 1-2% (couple 7% )

▪C&O Bypass mp 35.5 to 30.9
Whites Ferry to Edwards Ferry
https://www.komoot.com/tour/47484705?ref=atd
near Chisel Branch area (30.5)
5 miles
Rolling hills 1-2%

▪C&O Bypass mp 30.9 to 16.7
Edwards Ferry to Swains Lock 21
https://www.komoot.com/tour/47485308?ref=atd
VERY HILLY
1/2 mile 3-6%
2 miles 1%
1/2 mile 2-3%
3.4 miles 1% with couple 4%
10 miles up/down no flats 3-4  & 6%
==================================

[Not too likely Bypass due to Rt 51]
Cumberland to Little Orleans area
Bypass C&O Mp 184 to 140:

▪C&O Bypass mp 179 to 173
Cumberland to Farms Airport area to Spring Gap
https://www.komoot.com/tour/47451082?ref=atd
hilly rolling hills
Rt 51 unreviewed (busy traffic)
9 miles 
1.5 miles 5-7% hill
few 1-2% &  3-4% hills

▪C&O Bypass mp 166.7 to 173
Oldtown to Spring Gap (west)
https://www.komoot.com/tour/47456132?ref=atd
7 miles
(Rt 51 unreviewed)
3.25 miles 1-2% hill
1/2 mile 5-6% hill
1/2 mile 7-8% hill
1/2 mile 5-6% hill

▪C&O Bypass mp 157 to 166.7
Paw Paw to Town Creek to Oldtown (west)
https://www.komoot.com/tour/47457954?ref=atd
(no access to C&O @ Town Creek?)
11 miles
1/2 mile 4-9% hill
2.75 mile 4% hill
1/2 mile 6-10% hill
1/4 mile 4-6% hill
1.5 mile downhill steep
4 miles 1-2 or 3% hill

▪C&O Bypass mp 136 to 140.9
WMRT (west end) to Fifteen Mile Creek (west)
https://www.komoot.com/tour/47459983?ref=atd
4.5 miles
1/2 mile 4-5% hill
1/3 mile 3% hill
2 miles 3-4% hill
[No real bypass beyond Little Orleans other than trek up to Rt 51 then all the.way into Cumberland]
(Not saying any of other bypasses are bike friendly)
========================================

These are unoffical bypass routes…not bike tested.
Use at own risk.

CAMPSITE REVIEWS + INFO

Reviews and pictures coming soon. I’ll be evaluating each of the 30+ official hiker/biker sites based on:

  • Physical location
  • Access to vehicle parking (for good and for bad)
  • Noise
  • Beauty
  • River access (for good and for bad)
  • Proximity to resources in nearby trail towns
  • Relative cell phone signal strength
  • Any other relevant factors unique to the site

These are the 31 free hiker/biker sites on the C&O. You see video and listen to my reviews for each of the 31 on the Pedalshift YouTube page, or right here:

 

For rules and more, check out the camping page on the C&O NHP website.