50 miles, Multiple days
This portion of the C & O Canal Towpath trail runs from Georgetown, near Washington D.C., to Point of Rocks, Maryland. Whether you are riding/hiking out and back or plan to go the distance on the C & O Canal, you will find plenty of camping, scenery, and wildlife in this first 50 mile stretch of trail.
There are 30 hiker/biker campgrounds located along the entire length of the trail with eight in this section alone. These campgrounds are free on a first-come-first-served basis. Water is available at most of the campgrounds and dispensed with a good ol' fashioned hand pump. Lodging is also available at Cabin Quarters; these are restored versions of the original lockhouses that were used to house canal employees.
Information about these Canal Quarters is available online at the link provided with this guide. There are not many hotels available near the trail, but one of the great experiences of the trail is to cross the ferry near Leesburg if you want to stay in a hotel in Virginia for this portion of the trip.
You will find an abundance of historical charm along this trail from the shops in Georgetown to the locks along the canal. You may also take historic barge rides along portions of the canal in either Georgetown or near the Great Falls (Tavern) area. These tours are available through the National Park Service from mid-April until the end of October and are quite inexpensive and fun.
Another major attraction along this trail is the Great Falls area. There is a beautiful, short hike out to the viewing area. Depending on the time of year, you may see a beautiful series of cascades along the river or a stunning, raging torrent.
This trail has something for all levels of bikers/hikers. You have the option of traveling just a couple miles to see the sites of Georgetown and Washington D.C., 4.7 miles to the Maryland State Line, 14 miles to the Great Falls Overlook, 185 miles to explore the entire C & O trail, or 320 miles if you connect the C & O with the Great Allegheny Passage trail.
Hopefully you enjoy at least a portion of this great trail now; you can always do the rest later. It's well worth it.
- Although there are many places to stop for drinks & snacks along this first stretch of the trail, be sure to bring plenty of emergency provisions because some of the stops are spaced pretty far apart and stores/shops aren't always open when you need them.
- If you are riding a bike, bring a basic tool kit & spare tire. You will not find any places to buy bike parts/tires near the trail.
- Bicyclists will want to ride a trail bike and not a road bike.
- If you plan to stay in the Canal Quarters, be sure to reserve well in advance on the website link provided with this guide.
- You may want to plan to arrive at the campground of your choice early to make sure you get a spot. Water is available at most of the campgrounds, but still bring plenty of your own for drinking.