Carved through the countryside and spanning 184.5 spectacular miles from Washington D.C. to Cumberland, consider the C&O Canal a canvas waiting for you to paint your picture-perfect getaway. Take it easy and stroll a few miles, then stop at one of the welcoming towns along the way. Load up your panniers and bike the whole length of this “Grand Ol’ Ditch.” Or pack up the car for an afternoon or a long weekend and explore not just the canal, but the canal towns that surround it. Towns that once served the canal and the railroad now offer charming B&Bs, eclectic dining, shopping, antiquing and more. Museums and attractions open their doors and your mind to fascinating history and new possibilities.
Dive into the options below for a window into what awaits along the canal, but know that there’s more to do than we could ever list, and the adventure is overflowing the banks of the mighty and magical C&O Canal!
WESTERN MARYLAND SCENIC RAILROAD, CUMBERLAND
Photo courtesy of WMSRR Tyler Clayton
So Much Family Fun
Take a mule-pulled canal boat ride on the Charles F. Mercer, or set a course for fun on the Cushwa Basin boat rides. Take the whole family aboard for a ride on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. Bike through the remarkable Paw Paw Tunnel for an unforgettable experience. Explore the enchanting Crystal Grottoes Caverns in Boonsboro. And find fun in every one of the welcoming canal towns. Why not plan to stay overnight in a lockhouse? Seven of the unique Lockhouses along the canal are available for overnight rentals.
GREAT FALLS OF THE POTOMAC
Photo courtesy of Kara McNulty
Outdoor Adventures Await
For the outdoor lover in all of us, the C&O Canal is a surefire path to adventure. Bike the towpath for a few miles or all 184.5 on a bike-packing excursion. Make a detour for guided paddling adventures, ranging from newbie-friendly flat water, to class II and III whitewater at Mather Gorge, just below the Great Falls of The Potomac where you can watch white-water kayakers maneuver raging class V+ rapids. Or take a hike at your own pace and spend a day in the brush for some birding. You can even drop a line for fantastic river and lake fishing. For the outdoor adventurer, the C&O Canal is either where – or very near where – it’s at!
GLENSTONE ART MUSEUM, POTOMAC
Photo courtesy of @adventures_love10-Instagram
Arts & Culture Along the Way
Journey through a landscape that’s the home of DelFest, the best darned bluegrass jam on planet Earth. Enjoy funky, friendly Cumberland, terminus of the C&O Canal and start of The Great Allegheny Passage-- it's a mountain town full of galleries, eateries, and budding memories. Make a side trek to Hagerstown and visit the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, the Historic Maryland Theatre, and the Hagerstown Cultural Trail. In Potomac, Glenstone art museum is one-of-a-kind. The Arts & Entertainment areas along the way are home to creative placemaking public art that depicts the history, life, and culture of the region. Even catch a show at nearby Rocky Gap Casino. Along the C&O Canal, the arts and fun are such a complement to the great outdoors!
ANTIETAM NATIONAL BATTLEFIELD, SHARPSBURG
Photo courtesy of @joelovesroadtrips-Instagram
Journey Through History
The C&O Canal is a historical marvel all its own that revolutionized America. But there’s history at every turn along the C&O Canal. In Sharpsburg, visit Antietam National Battlefield; this notable Civil War battle inspired President Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. Explore the history of rail along the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, at the Point of Rocks Train Station, and at the Brunswick Railroad Museum. Visit unique attractions such as the Clara Barton House and Glen Echo Park, site of a 19th-century amusement park, sure to delight. And don’t miss the museum and visitor centers and their fascinating exhibits. Along the C&O Canal, every mile opens a window into history.
MAZZAROTH VINEYARD, MIDDLETOWN
Photo courtesy of Garry Cohen
Tastes Along the Way
The C&O Canal region offers a diverse palate, with cuisines that include Asian, Latino, Ethiopian, and Bavarian. Stop by the Princess Restaurant, an old-school diner where President Harry Truman sat at the Truman Booth. Experience fine dining and explore the region’s food trails, from an Ice Cream Trail to the Tastemakers Trail, which includes coffee roasters, wineries, breweries, and distilleries. There's even a C&O Canal Libations Trail! The region offers local creameries, cideries, meaderies, and a 93,000-acre Agricultural Reserve.