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Williamsport, Maryland, United States

C & O Canal Towpath trail, section #3

Highlights of this incredible trail include historic waypoints, trailside towns, abundant wildlife and gorgeous scenery.

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Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 41 miles / 66 km
Duration: Full day
Family Friendly • Dog Friendly
 
Overview: You will have so many trail options on this section of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath trail, that you will want to come back and try them all. For example, one of the unique options for this section of the trail is to ride or hike a loop using the C & O trail combined with the Western Maryland Rail Trail. This makes for a nice mix of a dirt trail with a paved trail and also gives you a nice loop ride with different scenery each way.
You can also ride the entire C & O Canal Towpath from Washington D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland (or the other way, of course). This is a 184 mile ride.
Or for a real challenge, you can tack on the Great Allegheny Passage trail which runs from Cumberland to Pittsburgh, PA. This could easily make a five day adventure that you'll never forget.
It is hard to ride this trail and not enjoy the history, scenery, and ambience of a true American classic. Take your time and read the historical signs, observe the wildlife, and take lots of pictures. This is the ride of a lifetime, so give yourself plenty of time to savor it.


Tips: - If you are biking this trail, you'll probably want to use a trail bike. Suspension is not necessary, but helpful. Trail tires are by far the best. If you utilize the Western Maryland Rail Trail, you could probably get by on a road bike, but it's not recommended.
- Although you can usually find stores available in Williamsport, Hancock, and Little Orleans, you'll still want to pack plenty of water and some snacks.
-You will find bike shops in Williamsport and Hancock, but pack along some basic bike repair equipment and supplies with you on the trail.
- If you want more of a social experience to meet other outdoorsy types, then the weekend is best for you. Weekday travel is best for a slightly more quiet and peaceful trail experience.

Points of Interest

Food/Dining
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Williamsport

Williamsport is near the half-way point on the C & O Canal trail. It is a good stopping spot to find restaurants, lodging, and trail supplies although many of these services are a ways off the trail.
Campground
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Jordon Junction Campsite

Jordon Junction Campsite is one of the many free, hiker/biker (H/B) campgrounds available along the towpath trail. As with most of the campgrounds, it has water available at a rustic water pump.
Information
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Dam 5

Of the original six dams built by the Canal Company, dam 5 is one of the only two left. These dams were built to hold water for use in the canal. They allowed the canal to continue operating in all but the most severe drought conditions.
Dam 5 was also a critical location for Stonewall Jackson during the Civil War. There are signs explaining the significance of Dam 5 located near the trail.
Landmark
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Lock 47

Even though there is a "lock 75," there were actually only 74 locks built on the C & O Canal. These locks were the means by which boats/barges were able to navigate from Georgetown to Cumberland with relative ease.
Campground
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McCoy's Ferry historic landmark

McCoy's Ferry is one of the many historic landmarks along the trail. There is a sign near here that reads, "On May 23, 1861, Confederates attempting to capture the ferry boat at McCoy's Landing were driven off by the Clear Spring Guard. Here, on October 10th, 1862, J.E.B. Stuart crossed the Potomac on his second ride around McClennan's army."
There is a campground in this area; it is inexpensive, but not free.
Landmark
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Fort Frederick and Big Pool

Fort Frederick was built in 1756 to protect frontiersman during the French and Indian Wars. Big Pool is a water storage area along the old canal. It is stocked with fish and has trails around it for fisherman access.
Junction
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Western Maryland Rail Trail east access

The Western Maryland Rail Trail parallels the C & O trail from here to to a little past mile 136. Trail riders have an option to ride either trail or ride both if you want to do a sort of loop ride. The Western Maryland Rail Trail is paved, therefore much smoother and easier to ride on than the C & O. The trails are usually close together and both go through the town of Hancock (Trail Town).
To join the Western Maryland Rail Trail from this point on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath trail, you will jump on Ernstville Road. The eastern terminus (temporarily anyway) is about a mile east of this point.
Food/Dining
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Hancock, Maryland

Hancock bills itself as a "Trail Town Community," and I must say, it works hard to live up to that reputation. It has not one, but two major trails running through it, and local businesses work hard to cater to trail users.
C & O Bicycle is a one stop shop for bikers coming from the C & O trail and the Western Maryland Rail Trail. They provide food, gear, rentals, and even showers. If you are there in late summer or fall, they have the best apples under the sun.
Junction
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Western Maryland Rail Trail

This is the western access point for the Western Maryland Rail Trail. The two trails are very close together at this point, and it's easy to find the WMRT from the C & O Canal Towpath trail at this spot. You can either ride the Western Maryland Rail Trail as an alternative to the C & O (WMRT is smoother) or you can ride them both as a loop trail.
Campground
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Indigo Neck Campsite

Indigo Neck Campsite is located just past mile marker 139.
Campground
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Bills Place and 15 Mile Creek Campground

Bills Place and the Little Orleans Bed & Breakfast are located just north of the trail after going under a quaint stone bridge. Bill's Place is a bar with a few snack-type groceries. The 15 Mile Creek Campground is also near here. It is a fee area and is heavily used on weekends by both trail users and motorists. It does not have showers. However, the Little Orleans Campground is a quarter mile off the trail near here, and it has showers. It also has a pool and a store. It is a private campground.
Pictures in this guide taken by: trailsnet

C & O Canal Towpath trail, section #3 Trail Map


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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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