First, the good news. This is one of the cooler parts of the towpath. Now the bad. If you’re biking this in the spring and summer of 2018, you might miss a part of it. The Paw Paw Tunnel is closed for rock scaling work, which is fancy talk for preventing big ass boulders from coming down the sides of tall mountains and squishing nice bike tourists. So there’s that. Upside? You get to push your ride up the mountain rather than through it. That is not much upside.

The tunnel may seem to be a rundown relic of days past (I mean, it is) but don’t let the musty smell and horror movie vibe fool you. This was a technological marvel for its time. Consider the alternative for boats was to traverse a relatively impassible section of the Potomac as it cut through the mountains and you’ll understand why the powers-that-be of the day decided to blow a mile long tunnel through the Catoctin mountain range and line it with bricks created on site by a specially-built brick factory. A big project in the 21st Century… one of a kind for the 19th.

If you are able to go through the tunnel, be prepared for dark conditions and uneven footing. It’s possible to ride through it, but not advised. A headlamp and a bit of patience are your two best tools for getting to the other side.

If your aim for biking the C&O is to get away from it all, this section is your crown jewel. There’s not a lot of people outside of the tunnel campground and the northern/western entrance, and cell phones have nothing to connect with. In other words, perfect.

The small town of Paw Paw, WV is easily accessible by bridge over the river. There are limited services, but if you’re after some food this is the only option for a while.


MM 149.4 Stickpile Hill

Cell reception: NS

MM 154.1 Sorrel Ridge (note, this is unsigned)

Cell reception: NS

MM 156.9 Purslane Run

Cell reception: NS