C&O Towpath – Beyond Barricades

IMG_0823On October 2nd I mounted my bike and departed Cumberland MD on the C&O Canal towpath with full intentions of riding 184.5 miles east to Washington DC. The C&O as well as all national parks was closed due to the government shutdown, at some unknown point I fully expected to meet an official of the NPS or local law enforcement that would ask me to leave the towpath, if so I would abide and make other plans to finish the trip.

IMG_0824As I rode past the farms in Western MD the debate continued in my head…turnaround or preservere…the land(s) known as national parks belongs to me and all tax paying U.S. Citizens…I continued.

IMG_0835C&O Lock Keepers house


IMG_0848All water pump handles had been removed due to the shutdown, a stop in the town of Paw Paw West Virginia was necessary for water and lunch. My bike became a water wagon and felt like it with the added weight.

IMG_0853Paw Paw Tunnel, 3,118 feet from end-to-end

IMG_0864Devils Alley Hiker Biker camp, H/B camps are located along the towpath approximately 5-10 miles apart, shady with picnic tables, firepits,  water pumps when working and a view of the Potomac River.

IMG_0865Gossamer Gear tent the One would be home for the night

IMG_0870Morning fog over the Potomac River

IMG_0880Foundation and chimney are all that remains of this lock keepers house




IMG_0906Paw Paws are mighty tasty and welcomed treat


IMG_0913Round Top Cement Mill remains

IMG_0921C&O Bicycle shop in Hancock, MD, excellent shop and nice owner…thanks for the water


IMG_0931Williamsport, MD

IMG_0933Desert Rose Cafe in Williamsport, good eats here…thanks for the water.

IMG_0937Removing dust from bike components was a daily event…dust is much like water…it gets into everything.

IMG_0942Half way there mile 92

IMG_0946West bound bikers at Big Slackwater

IMG_0949McMahon’s Mill at Big Slackwater


IMG_0968Another peaceful riverside camp

IMG_0977Morning view of West Virginia across the Potomac River

IMG_0983Harpers Ferry, WV

IMG_0988Sunrise over the Potomac

IMG_0989The Outfitter in Harpers Ferry, more tourist souvenirs this time of year than hike/bike, still it’s a good stop…thanks for the water

IMG_0990From this point back to Harpers Ferry the Appalachian Trail joins the C&O for 3-miles


IMG_0994Giant Maple tree


IMG_0997White’s Ferry store and grill…good BBQ here…thanks for the water.



IMG_1029Tavern as it appears today a NPS office…and closed

IMG_1037Upper end of Great Falls, the observation deck was closed due to the shutdown




IMG_1053184.5 miles from where I started I found mile marker 0 in Georgetown MD at the waterfront.


IMG_1066Maryland crab cakes on the waterfront for lunch and the end of a great trip.

For the record I did meet a NPS Ranger, I stopped and was asked if I was aware the C&O was technically closed, I answered yes, the Ranger waved me on and wished me a good trip.   COOL!

Full photo set can be viewed by clicking here

13 thoughts on “C&O Towpath – Beyond Barricades

  1. Great trip and great photos! About how many miles did you ride per day? I’d like to do this trip some day. I’ve heard you can’t do it on a road bike, so I’ll need something with wider tires.

    • thanks Bill- I made a lot of stops to read the historical markers, look around and take photos, my shortest day was 43 miles and longest was 47 miles. Some riders were riding from town to town rather than camping and doing 60+ miles per day. It all depends on what kind of ride you want. My bike is a hybrid I changed my rode tires for Kendra Happy Medium tires, these gave me enough bite without any slip on the gravel and dirt surface.

  2. Great commentary on what looks like a wonderful trip I’d like to do….and gorgeous photos! Please tell me what camera and lenses you used, and what settings…

    • thanks Karen and a very nice write up of your trip. I’m guessing the BIG rat snake you saw may have been the same one I saw near the Paw Paw tunnel, it was well over 6-feet and very well fed. I’m hoping to ride the GAP from P-burg to Cumberland in a couple of years, maybe by then Amtrak will allow bikes to be loaded at Cumberland.

      here’s the link to Karens C&O ride

  3. Great chronicle of a great ride. I rode it in 1998 with a boy scout troop. We took a day side trip through Antietam battlefield. Your photos brought back a bunch of great memories.

  4. Great article and photos about a great trip! I’m glad you continued your journey and went beyond the barricades! I hope to bike the canal this fall, perhaps. And I want to do the GAP as well. If you’re looking for a riding buddy let me know!

    • thanks, it was a great trip and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys riding. The GAP won’t be for another couple of years, too many other things to complete before then.

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