Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park

The C&O Canal follows the route of the Potomac River for 184.5 miles from Washington, DC to Cumberland, MD.

The canal operated from 1828-1924 as a transportation route, primarily hauling coal from western Maryland to the port of Georgetown in Washington, DC, Hundreds of original structures, including locks, lockhouses, and aqueducts, serve as reminders of the canal's role as a major Chesapeake transportation system during the Canal Era.

The canal's towpath also provides a nearly level, continuous trail through the spectacular scenery of the Potomac River Valley. Every year millions of visitors come to hike or bike the C&O Canal in order to enjoy the natural, cultural, and recreational opportunities available.

Enter Your Location

Hours

The park is open all daylight hours. Some of the park's six visitor centers operate on a seasonal schedule. Contact one of the visitor centers for current hours of operation.

(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)

Fees

Entrance fees are only collected at the Great Falls Entrance Station. All other access to the park is free.

History

Preserving America's early transportation history, the C&O Canal began as a dream of passage to Western wealth. Operating for nearly 100 years the canal was a lifeline for communities along the Potomac River as coal, lumber and agricultural products floated down the waterway to market. Today it endures as a pathway for discovering historical, natural and recreational treasures!

Activities

Hiking, bicycling, and horseback riding (from mile 16.6 to mile 184.5) are the most popular ways to travel through the park. There are many access points to the park. Hiking and bicycling are available along the length of the towpath, which is very close to level. Interpretive trails are available in some areas. Trail guides are available at the Georgetown and Hancock visitors centers.

Canal boat rides: Rides in canal boats are available at Georgetown and Great Falls.

Camping: There are numerous camping sites along the canal. Most are on a first-come, first-served basis. More information is available at the park website.

Water-related activities: Several boat ramps are available along the canal. Canoeing should be undertaken by experience canoeists only. Swimming is not permitted in the canal. Fishing is permitted in the park subject to state fishing regulations. More information is available at the park website.

Facilities

C&O Canal National Historical Park has six visitor centers:

BRUNSWICK VISITOR CENTER

Open All Year; Hours Vary.
Phone - 301-834-7100
Location - 40 West Potomac Street Brunswick, MD 21716
Special Programs - Ranger led programs offered on many weekends. Call ahead.
Exhibits - Exhibit interprets canal and local history. Short films also present canal history.
Available Facilities - Restroom.

CUMBERLAND VISITOR CENTER/WESTERN MARYLAND STATION

Open All Year 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Phone - 301-722-8226
Location - Room 304 13 Canal Street Cumberland, MD 21502
Closures - Closed Thanksgiving Day, December 25, and January 1
Special Programs - Ranger led programs offered on many weekends and some weekdays. Replica canal boat. Excursion steam train nearby. Call ahead.
Exhibits - Displays interpret canal and local history and the geology of the Great Falls of the Potomac.
Available Facilities - Restroom and bookshop.

GEORGETOWN VISITOR CENTER

Open All Year; Days and Hours Vary
Phone - 202-653-5190
Location - 1057 Thomas Jefferson Street, NW Washington, DC 20007
Special Programs - Ranger-led walks and talks. Mule-drawn canal boat rides.
Exhibits - Displays interpret canal history.
Available Facilities - Restroom and bookshop.

GREAT FALLS TAVERN VISITOR CENTER 

Open All Year 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (extended summer hours)
Phone - 301-767-3714
Location - 11710 MacArthur Boulevard Potomac, MD 20854
Closures - Thanksgiving Day, December 25 and January 1
Special Programs - Ranger-led walks and talks. Mule-drawn canal boat rides.
Exhibits - Displays and short films interpret canal and local history and the geology of the Great Falls of the Potomac.
Available Facilities - Restrooms, snack bar, bookshop

HANCOCK VISITOR CENTER

Open All Year; Days and Hours Vary
Phone - 301-678-5463
Location - 326 East Main Street Hancock, MD 21750
Special Programs - Ranger led programs offered on many weekends. Call ahead.
Exhibits - Displays and short films interpret canal and local history
Available Facilities - Restroom and bookshop

WILLIAMSPORT VISITOR CENTER

Open All Year 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Phone - 301-582-0813
Location - 205 West Potomac Street Williamsport, MD 21795
Closures - Mondays and Tuesdays; Thanksgiving Day, December 25, and January 1
Special Programs - Ranger led programs offered on many weekends and some weekdays. Call ahead.
Exhibits - Displays and short films interpret canal and local history and the geology of the Great Falls of the Potomac.
Available Facilities - Restrooms and bookshop

Accessibility

Much of the park’s 184.5 mile towpath and the Olmsted Island trail to the Great Falls of the Potomac are wheelchair accessible. Mule drawn canal boat rides in Georgetown are also wheelchair accessible. Please contact one of the park’s visitor centers for more information.

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