Wandering along the historic C&O is a fantastic adventure in any season. The flat, graveled path is shady and cool in the summer, and when the leaves come off the trees, it offers wonderful vistas of the Potomac River, fields and farmhouses along the way. Throughout the year, deer and birds are plentiful. Stretching for 185 miles from Washington, DC to Cumberland Maryland, the Canal offers fantastic hiking/biking/riding opportunities, and the sections in the Blue Ridge Gateway are particularly scenic.
For history buffs, the C&O gives a nostalgic look into a time when Washington DC received goods by mule-pulled barges, and evidence of that time are everywhere along the canal. Many of the locks, aqueducts, and staff houses are still in great shape, making it easy to see what life might have been like from 1831-1924 when the Canal was thriving.
Depending on your energy level, you can make your adventure short or long, on foot or by bike. I love the stretch of Canal from Shepherdstown to Antietam Aqueduct, and along the Potomac near Harper’s Ferry or White’s Ferry. These, and many other stretches like them, offer great views, glimpses of the Potomac, and lots of history along the way. It’s a great adventure for kids, dogs on leashes and people at any fitness level, and parking is readily available at numerous points along the way.
I’d recommend getting a map and planning a hike that works best for you. Whether you’re a local resident or a lucky visitor, you’ll love meandering down a sycamore lined corridor with the Potomac sparkling through the trees.