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Williamsport, Maryland, United States

C & O Canal Towpath trail, section #2

Cross the Appalachian Trail as you explore this historic and scenic canal path from Point of Rocks, MD to Williamsport.

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Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 52 miles / 84 km
Duration: Multiple days
Family Friendly • Dog Friendly
 
Overview: Civil War history comes alive on this section of the C & O Canal Towpath trail. Civil War enthusiasts will recognize such names as Harpers Ferry, Antietam, Falling Waters, and Williamsport. Trail enthusiasts will recognize the names of a couple famous trails that intersect with the C & O Canal Towpath in this section including the Appalachian Trail and Maryland Heights Hiking Trail.
Although the trail is plenty remote and peaceful throughout this section, it also passes near some well known towns such as Brunswick, Harpers Ferry, Shepherdstown, and Williamsport. It is fairly easy to find food and drinks along this section of the trail, but it's still a good idea to come prepared.
As with the rest of the C & O Canal Towpath trail, camping sites are plentiful in this region, but they are heavily used on summer weekends, so plan ahead. Fortunately, in addition to camping, are numerous lodging options along this 52 mile stretch of the trail. It is advisable to reserve your lodging in advance. For more information about camping and lodging along the trail, check out the website links included with this guide.
If you just want to hike or ride this section, you will need to arrange for transportation to and from points on the trail. Both the MARC and Amtrak trains serve this area, but bikes may not be allowed on either, so be sure to check in advance. It is, however possible to get a ride here by train or car and then rent bikes in Williamsport or Brunswick.
Of course the best option is to ride the entire trail from Georgetown to Cumberland or even add on the Great Allegheny Passage and go all the way to Pittsburgh. I assure you, it is an incredible ride.


Tips: - If you are biking, you will want a trail bike such as a mountain bike or hybrid w/ trail tires.

- Although this stretch of trail has a few towns along the way, do not depend on those for all your provisions or bike repair needs. Come prepared with food, water, and a rudimentary do-it-yourself repair kit.

- Even if you plan to do all your trail use during the day, it is a good idea to bring lights of some kind. This way, you're prepared if you get caught out on the trail after dark.

- Give yourself plenty of time to explore. There are many wonderful natural and historic sites along the way with signs to read, animals to see, and pictures to take. Enjoy at a leisurely pace.

- If you are going the length of the trail or all the way to Pittsburgh, this section may be a good one to stay at a campground with a shower since there are a couple private campgrounds with bathroom/shower facilities more readily available on this stretch than on some of the others.

Points of Interest

Campground
map

Bald Eagle biker hiker campsite

When you see H/B on the signs along the C & O trail, it stands for hiker/biker campsites. There are plenty of these camp areas, approximately five miles apart throughout most of the trail route. Most of these campgrounds are in nice locations, have fairly level tent-sites, and have water pumps to provide cooking water.
Some of the sites are accessible by car and others are not. Although many of them are fairly remote and peaceful, a few are near railroad tracks or roads. This particular campground is near a busy railroad and has a tendency to be a bit noisy throughout the night. However, if you like the sound of trains or are completely exhausted, then you'll probably sleep just fine.
Campground
map

Brunswick Family Campground

This is one of the privately owned campgrounds along the towpath trail. It has shower facilities and is located between the trail and the river.
Shopping
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Brunswick, Maryland

Brunswick, Maryland is a good place to stop and refuel, but the nearest businesses are a ways off the trail and you'll have to cross a pretty busy railroad hub. The good news is that this is another possible spot to start/stop your trail ride if you want to utilize the MARC train service. I have included a link to the MARC website with this guide.
Food/Dining
map

Mommer's Diner

Not too far off the trail, as you head up the main road from the train station, you'll find this totally unpretentious eating establishment. It isn't fancy, but it has good food, reasonable prices, and friendly service. And remember, you're getting lots of exercise, so go ahead and eat dessert! You've got my permission - nay, my blessing.
Junction
map

Appalachian Trail junction

Near this site is where one of the greatest hiking trails in the world joins, temporarily, with the C & O Canal Towpath trail. It's easy to miss, so keep your eyes peeled.
Only 41 miles of the Appalachian Trail wanders through Maryland and 3 miles of that runs along the C & O Canal Towpath.
Junction
map

Harper's Ferry, West Virginia

Utilize the footbridge located near this spot in the trail in order to access the town of Harper's Ferry; in the town, you will find lodging, and Amtrak station, the John Brown Wax Museum, and the Appalachian Trail headquarters.
Landmark
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Lock 34, Harpers Ferry

One of many historic locks along the trail.
Campground
map

Antietam Creek Campsite

Located between mile markers 69 and 70 on the trail, this camping area is also known as Antietam Creek Recreation Area. There is a ($10) fee for camping here and the area offers vehicle access.
It is very near the Antietam Creek Aqueduct and other historic sites.
Landmark
map

Lock 38

Hotel
map

Shepherdstown, WV

Cross the Highway 34 bridge to access Shepherdstown and the lodging available therein.
map

Mercersville

Mercersville is also known as Taylor's Landing. Although there was a general store here for many years, this area is not a great place to find trail provisions.
Junction
map

detour

At this point you will leave the normal route of the canal/river and detour on the following roads: Dam 4 Rd., Dellinger Rd., & Avis Mill Rd.
The road and shoulder is fairly narrow and it's a good idea to have a blinking light somewhere on the back of your bike. Assuming none of the signs have been removed, this detour is fairly well marked, but be careful and pay attention at all times.
Junction
map

Detour

If you are headed from Georgetown to Cumberland, you will rejoin the normal canal towpath at this point after your detour.
Campground
map

Opequon Hiker Biker Campsite

This is a fairly remote campsite with no vehicle access. It is a fairly peaceful place to spend the night with the ubiquitous water pump available for your H2O supply.
Landmark
map

Falling Waters

The Potomac River crossing at an area known as Falling Waters was both a low point and a high point for General Lee during the Civil War.
Food/Dining
map

Williamsport

Williamsport is one of the bigger towns located along the C & O trail. Trail users can find lodging, food, & beverages here.
This is also another important historical area for Civil War buffs.
Pictures in this guide taken by: trailsnet
Reviews
trailsnet
This trail, when combined with the Great Allegheny Passage, makes for the bike trip of a lifetime.

by trailsnet on Apr 28, 2013

C & O Canal Towpath trail, section #2 Trail Map


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trailsnet
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I am a recently retired teacher whose new "career" is to explore as many trails as possible. I am especially...

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