Sunday, November 21, 2021

C&O Canal Towpath–Great Falls

   Construction on the C&O Canal began in 1828 and ended in 1850. When completed it connected the tidewater of Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland, a distance of 184.5-mile. Fish, salt, bricks, and potatoes went upstream; pork, lumber, grain, coal, and stone headed downstream on the return trip.
   By the 1920s the railroads became the major cargo carriers and the canal fell into disrepair. In 1938 the US government became the  owner of the canal and young men of the CCC were put to work repairing the canal and locks. Additional repairs have been sporadic over the years, slowed by flooding and changes in political parties but by 1960 the entire 184.5 miles could be hiked and biked. The canal became a National Historic Park in 1971.
   We took a walk along the towpath from the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center south for about 1 1/2 miles to where the canal widens at Turtle Rock. We also detoured to the Great Falls Overlook Trail which has great views of the rocky Potomac River. There’s no way that a boat full of cargo could navigate those waters!
  The canal path is surfaced with finely crushed rock and is accessible. The Great Falls Trail is a combination of sandy soil and boardwalk. Wheelchair users may need assistance on a steeply arched bridge. The view at the end of the trail is blocked by the top of the railing. The visitor center was closed but it is accessible.
  The parking lot is very large. RVs can be parked lengthwise across the spaces. Towpath  39.00483, -77.24554



  1. This is a trail that appeals to both Jimmy and me. I wish we still had our bikes! I'd love to bike the entire distance, but walking part of it would be a nice, too.

    1. We biked part of it years ago - packed our tent and sleeping bags and stayed overnight at one of the hiker/biker campgrounds along the way. Fun!