The canal, once in operation from 1828-1924 as a route for transporting coal from Maryland to Georgetown, is a 184-mile stretch that offers natural, cultural and recreational opportunities. Hikers and bikers enjoy the C&O's towpath, which provides a soft sandy or gravel and nearly level trail and winds through the scenic Potomac River Valley. The towpath has access points to many natural sites (Great Falls, Point of Rocks) and historic places (Antietam, Sharpsburg) and is quite amenable to being enjoyed one small bite at a time.
There are six visitor centers within the park:
Georgetown at 1057 Thomas Jefferson St., NW, 202-653-5190
Great Falls Tavern at 11710 MacArthur Blvd., Potomac, Md., 301-299-3613. There is a $5 fee for cars and a $3 fee for cyclists and walkers at the Great Falls area of the canal.
Brunswick at 40 West Potomac St., Brunswick, Md., 301-834-7100
Williamsport at 205 W. Potomac St., Williamsport, Md., 301-582-0813
Hancock at 326 E. Main St., Hancock, Md., 301-678-5463 (closed for the winter season)
Western Maryland Station at Room 304, 13 Canal St., Cumberland, Md., 301-722-8226
Campgrounds, limited and primitive
Canal boat rides, mule-drawn, at Georgetown
Horseback-riding trails (permitted from Swain's Lock to Cumberland House)
Snack bars at various points along the canal
During Winter Months:
Showshoeing and ice skating are permitted -- at your own risk. When enough snow accumulates, canine-driven sleds are permitted as well.
Motorized boats are prohibited.
Maps and special programs are available at the C&O Canal visitor centers in Georgetown, Great Falls, Williamsport, Hancock and Cumberland.