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Cumberland, Maryland, United States

C & O Canal Towpath trail, section #4

Bike or hike the history, scenery & wildlife of this fabled, classic trail from Little Orleans, MD to Cumberland, MD.

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Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 44 miles / 70 km
Duration: Full day
Family Friendly • Dog Friendly
 
Overview: This western section of the famous C & O Canal Towpath trail includes remote stretches along the Potomac River. In addition to the abundant wildlife, numerous campgrounds, and excellent biking & hiking, trail users will enjoy the incredible Paw Paw Tunnel, one of the most famous canal tunnels in the world.
Other unique and interesting stops along the way include numerous canal locks, historic lockhouses, the old Pollock Cemetery, and the town of Cumberland Maryland. In Cumberland, the C & O trail joins the Great Allegheny Passage trail. Combined, the two trails span all the way from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C. and make up one of the longest continuous biking trails in the world.
The C & O trail can be used all year long but is a special treat in the fall when weather conditions are ideal, trail traffic is lighter, and Mother Nature provides a beautiful display of fall colors.


Tips: - Bike riders are advised to use a mountain bike or hybrid bike with trail tires. Since the trail is hard-pack dirt, road bikes are not advised.
- This section of the trail has long stretches with no services, so water, food, & bicycle repair gear is essential.
- It is essential to take a light of some kind on this section of the trail. First of all, the Paw Paw Tunnel is very long and dark so a front and rear light is an important factor in remaining safe and visible. Secondly, it is possible to be caught out on the trail after dark. I rode for over two hours after dark on this section of the trail and was extremely glad to have both a bike and helmet light as well as a blinking rear light on the back of my panniers.
- Carefully plan lodging options in advance and make reservations as needed.
- If planning to do the entire C & O Trail, it is advised to purchase the C & O Canal Towpath trail bundle from Everytrail. It includes numerous campground recommendations and the information you will need while on the trail.
- If you plan to link the Great Allegheny Passage trail with your C & O trail trip, the GAP trail guides and bundle from Everytrail is also a must.

Points of Interest

Campground
map

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.
Landmark
map

Paw Paw Tunnel

This tunnel is unique in that it is not a railroad tunnel but a canal tunnel. You will definitely want to have some kind of a light going through this tunnel. Ideally, you'll want a bike light on front and a blinking taillight on the rear of your bike somewhere so you are visible to those behind you. This is a very long and dark tunnel. It's quite fun if you have a light.
If you don't have a bike-mounted light, a head lamp is the next best option and a flashlight is your last resort.
Make sure to read the signs about the history of this tunnel. It is the granddaddy of all cost-overruns and behind-schedule-projects. The trail on the east side of the tunnel is like a boardwalk in some places and is fairly narrow in spots.
Campground
map

Town Creek campsite

This is one of the numerous campgrounds you will find along the C & O Canal Towpath Trail. In this section of the trail alone there are at least a dozen campgrounds available. Some of them are fee based, but most are free hiker/biker camping areas with water, level ground, and portable toilets.
Campground
map

Potomac Forks campsite

Water and a portable toilet are available at this site. It is located just before mile marker 165 on the trail. This campsite is remote and quiet. It has no road access.
Building
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Lockhouse 70

It is possible to get a glimpse of what it was like to live along the C & O Canal by staying in the actual lockhouses where the lock attendants lived in days gone by. Many of the lockhouses, including lockhouse 6, are available for accommodations to trail users. Lockhouses 22 & 28 are pretty darned good replicas of how lockhouses actually looked in their heyday. See the canalquarters link that accompanies this guide.
Lockhouse 70 at Oldtown is open Saturdays and Sundays only through Sunday, October 29 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Lockhouse 70 is located off MD Route 51, 15 miles south of Cumberland.
Campground
map

Pigman's Ferry campsite

Pigman's Ferry campground is located just past mile marker 169 and is on a fairly remote portion of the trail with no vehicle access. It also has water and toilet facilities.
Campground
map

Irons Mountain campsite

Located between mile markers 175 and 176, this campgroud has vehicle access off of Route 51. Since it is not far from a railroad track, it can be a little noisy at times. As with most of the H/B campsites, it has water and a toilet available for campers.
Landmark
map

Lock 75

The locks were what allowed the canal to operate. As the canal boats moved westward, they were elevated by the locks filling with water and moving them gradually upward in elevation. It also allowed the barges/boats a smooth trip downward as they went from Cumberland to Georgetown.
Pictures for locks 70 & 75 accompany this POI.
Landmark
map

Historic Pollock Cemetery

This historic cemetery includes the gravesite of Confederate soldier James D. Pollock. The grave is located in the Pollock Cemetery near the C&O Canal trail in an area known as Mexico Farms.
Junction
map

Cumberland, Maryland

Named after the British Duke Cumberland and built on the site of the old Fort Cumberland, this town of 22,000 people is the western terminus of the C & O Canal. It is also the eastern terminus of the Great Allegheny Passage trail, so it is an excellent trail town.
Cumberland has numerous hotels, bed & breakfasts, campgrounds, restaurants, grocery stores, and bicycle shops.
Pictures in this guide taken by: trailsnet

C & O Canal Towpath trail, section #4 Trail Map


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