Europeans began arriving in the Hancock area as early as the 1730s. When the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal (C&O) came a century later, followed by a toll road on the National Road, followed by the railroads, Hancock boomed between the early 19th and early 20th centuries..
During the Civil War, troops from both sides frequently crossed the river and the C&O Canal. Soldiers traded volleys across the water and skirmished in and near Hancock. Confederates attacked canal boats and trains, destroyed locks, and once tried to take Hancock during a brief winter battle.
From town, walk or bike along the C&O Canal Towpath to explore important sites associated with the Canal and the war. Hancock is also the midway point for the Western Maryland Rail-Trail, and together the two routes offer the perfect round-trip exploration.
Each of the two options below takes you about 11 miles east or west from Hancock along the Towpath, with return via the Western Maryland Rail-Trail. Allow most of the day to explore in either direction.
East on the C&O, from Hancock to Fort Frederick
Miles represent Towpath mileage.
Mile 124.1 Hancock
Park in the lot between Williams Street and Taney Street. One block west, C&O Bicycles will have everything you need for a bike journey, including rentals and repairs. You can also rent a bed in a bunkhouse here and get a hot shower.
Alternatively, park at the south end of Church Street along the Western Maryland Rail-Trail. From here, look up the hill toward St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church. There on Orrick’s Hill, and from Main Street, Union troops defended the town in the Battle of Hancock on January 5–6, 1862. During the brief skirmish, Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s troops advanced on Hancock in an effort to take control of the Potomac River and the Canal. The battle was the first of Jackson’s Romney Campaign.
The day before the shelling began, Jackson sent his cavalry commander Turner Ashby under a truce flag to try to persuade Gen. F.W. Lander to surrender the town. Lander refused. Only an estimated 75 to 100 shots were fired, the cold, wintry weather being a major factor. The Union maintained control of the town but St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church was badly damaged, as was the Presbyterian Church on E. Main Street.
Cross the bridge to reach the towpath and head east (left).
The aqueduct, built between 1835 and 1839, is one of 11 such water-filled bridges along the Canal. Aqueducts carried boats over major creeks that emptied into the Potomac, and some have been rebuilt; Tonoloway, however, isn’t one of them. Stop midway along the aqueduct for a scenic view of the river.
Mile 122.8–6 Bowles House Visitor Center (Locks 51–52)
Just beyond the aqueduct you’ll see the remains of Locks 51 and 52 as well as the Bowles House, now one of the C&O’s historical visitor centers. The foundations of an old lockhouse are also visible near Lock 51.
The stunning Bowles House was originally a one-story home built around 1785 by William Yates. The Yates family lived in the house when the C&O Canal was being built along this stretch in 1839. At least two other families owned the house, and it was occupied until the 1980s. Though the house has seen better days, it remains one of the C&O’s treasures. Two rooms on the ground floor showcase early photographs and the history of both the house and canal. Ask the ranger for a short tour (Memorial Day weekend–October, 9 am–4:30 pm, Fri–Tues.).
Look for wildlife in and around this section of ancient river channel.
Mile 118.9 Millstone
During the Civil War, Union troops were stationed in Millstone to protect the canal.
Mile 116.1 Licking Creek Aqueduct
In 1839, the year the canal arrived in Hancock, this single-arched aqueduct was first filled with water. It took two years to build.
Big Pool, another section of ancient river channel, was a natural depression when the C&O was built. The C&O Canal Company filled it with water and used it for a turning basin, where—as the name implies—canawlers turned their boats around. You can launch a boat on this small lake from a ramp at Fort Frederick. Watch for wildlife in and around the water.
Mile 112.5 Fort Frederick
The 20-sided wall of Fort Frederick, a National Historic Landmark, was built in the 1750s during the French and Indian War to protect Maryland’s western frontier from attack. Inside the fort today are two reconstructed barracks with reproductions of period artifacts and a museum depicting area history. You’ll also find a visitor center, campground, and nature trails. Living history programs are available throughout the summer.
During the Civil War, Union troops were stationed here to protect the Canal and the B&O Railroad from Confederates.
From the Towpath, cross the bridge and the railroad tracks (use caution) to access the fort. Bike racks are available, as well as snacks and drinks. Hours change seasonally; visit Fort Frederick State Park online for more information.
The Cumberland Extension of the Western Maryland Railway arrived in Hancock in December 1904 and was both a passenger and freight line. Today, roughly 23 miles of the abandoned corridor—the Western Maryland Rail-Trail (WMDRT)—are paved for non-motorized recreation. The eastern end of the WMDRT begins just west of Fort Frederick.
You can access the trail from the fort by either heading back along the C&O Canal towpath (signs will guide you to the WMDRT). If you want to take the road, from the entrance of Fort Frederick, turn left on MD 56 (Big Pool Rd.) and go about 1 mile. Follows signs to the parking lot on the left.
At mile 2.7 on the WMDRT you’ll find Park Head Cemetery, with some very old headstones in a tiny burial ground. The route to Hancock follows a wooded corridor, which in places parallels Interstate 70 very closely. If you prefer to continue along the C&O Canal towpath instead, there are a few places were you can take a short trail to the towpath; look for the signs.
East on the C&O, from Hancock to Lock 56
Miles represent towpath mileage.
Mile 124.1 Hancock
Mile 127.2 Devils Eyebrow
This unique geological formation is an exposed rock strata, which was thrust upward millions of years ago to form an anticline. The soft calcium soils below the anticline have eroded, forming a shallow cave.
Mile 127.5 Round Top Cement Works
The ruins of the old cement works are striking against the cliff face. You can see the remains of eight kilns once used to burn lime to ash. Mill foundations are, including a smoke stack, are also visible. During the Civil War, the cement works were Hancock’s largest employer, providing jobs for 100 people. The mill suffered from numerous fires until a final blaze in 1903 shuttered the doors for good. The discovery of Portland cement, stronger and slower setting, helped hasten the plant’s demise.
The area on the cliff above is part of Round Top Wildlife Management Area, home to a collection of rare plants and animals that thrive in this unique geologically significant part of the state.
Mile 129.7 Sir Johns Run
Across the Potomac River here Brig. Gen. John Imboden fought with Union troops protecting the B&O Railroad bridge.
Mile 133.6 Cacapon Junction
Across the river is a stone-arch bridge built for the B&O Railroad. Stonewall Jackson’s troops burned the original during their attack on Hancock in 1862.
Mile 134.2 Dam 6 & Lock 55
You can see remnants of the earthen dam jutting into the river. Wooden cribbing once held the dam together. Confederates attacked both the dam and locks here in attempts to sabotage Union supply lines along the canal. Great Cacapon, WV, across the river, was also fired on by Confederate troops stationed on Cacapon Mountain.
Return Via the WMDRT
From Lock 55, cross over to the Western Maryland Rail-Trail. you can continue west another 2.5 miles to the western terminus of the WMDRT at Pearre (PARE-ree) Station. Nearby is the historical Woodmont Lodge (11761 Woodmont Road). The property once served a private premier rod and gun club but is now operated by Fort Frederick State Park and Maryland’s Wildlife & Heritage Service. The 1930s stone lodge is periodically open to visitors and is worth a look. For more information, contact Fort Frederick State Park at (301) 842-2155.
Point of Rocks (POR) has been an important crossroads of travel since American Indians established routes through the region. Though quieter these days, the area was bustling with commerce between the 1830s and 1930s. During the Civil War, POR found itself in the middle of a battleground, and the village today is a staging point to explore this history.
You can park at the commuter train station (3800 Clay Street) or at the National Park Service parking area by the Potomac River off of Commerce Street. Before heading out on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath, snap some photos of the elaborate train station (MARC Train parking lot on Clay Street), built in 1875 by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O)–the charming Victorian station is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Check the website for details on available services and POR events scheduled throughout the year.
Tuesdays through Sundays, you can stop by Rocky Point Creamery (4323 Tuscarora Rd.) for gourmet ice cream and frozen yogurt.
During the Civil War, troops from both sides frequently crossed the River and the Towpath. Troops traded volleys across the water, skirmished in and near POR, and Confederates attacked canal boats and trains, destroyed locks, and raided supply stores.
Both the C&O Canal Company and the B&O Railroad reached Point of Rocks by 1832. From POR, head east or west along the Towpath to explore important sites associated with the railroad and canal.
West on the C&O from POR
Miles represent Towpath mileage.
Mile 48.2 Point of Rocks
Rebels burned the bridge across the Potomac here in 1862 to impede the Federals from entering Virginia.
Just west of the US Highway 15 underpass is Point of Rocks tunnel, first blasted in 1868. Both the C&O and B&O fought in court for primary access to this “point of rocks.” The C&O won but the two companies compromised, sharing the narrow passage from here to Harpers Ferry.
In 1902 the tunnel was enlarged, and brick facing on both entrances added an artistic touch.
Mile 48.9 Lockhouse 28
Experience what life might have been like for keepers of the canal locks by spending the night in restored Lockhouse. Lockhouse 28 is part of the Canal Quarters program, and each lockhouse is refurnished to represent different eras during the days of the C&O Canal. Built in 1837, Lockhouse 28 represents the canal’s early days. There’s no electricity, and you’ll have to fetch water from the nearby campsite (mile 50.3).
In 1862 during the Antietam Campaign, the bridge across Lock 28 was destroyed. Confederate Colonel John S. Mosby and his Rangers also crossed the River here on July 4, 1864, on one of their many “Calico Raids,” during which Rebels raided stores and looted canal boats.
Mile 50.9 Lockhouse 29 (Lander)
In June 1863 Confederates attacked a train near the lockhouse, following it to Point of Rocks, where they captured the engineer and 15 passengers before burning the train.
Lockhouse 29 is now a living history museum from the 1920s time period. You can see the inside on Saturdays during summer (11 am–2 pm). Contact the Lander Community Association at Catoctinkey@gmail.com.
The stunning aqueduct is one of 11 such bridges along the C&O canal that were once filled with water. The aqueducts carried boats over major creeks that emptied into the Potomac. Catoctin was rebuilt in 2011 using 459 of the original stones. The structure was known as the “crooked aqueduct” because boats had to make a sharp turn to enter it. Two arches collapsed in 1973, and the stones were buried until the aqueduct could be restored. Take the short trail down to the creek to a viewing area, where you can admire the artistry of the reconstruction. Interpretive signs describe the process.
Mile 55 Brunswick
Explore the town of Brunswick, rich in railroad history, before heading back to Point of Rocks.
East on the C&O from POR
Miles represent towpath mileage.
Mile 48.2 Point of Rocks
Near the boat launch in POR you’ll see the western tip of Heater’s Island, a tear-drop-shaped land mass that is now a state wildlife management area. Union pickets were stationed here and on other nearby islands during the Civil War. Early Native Americans had camps here, and the island was used as a river crossing point.
Mile 44.6 Nolands Ferry
A ferry began running here in 1742, and lore has it that Thomas Jefferson crossed here on May 10, 1776, on his way from Charlottesville, VA, to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia to help draft the Constitution.
In September 1862, Confederate General A.P. Hill’s troops crossed during the Antietam Campaign. Two years later, Mosby’s Raiders tried to cross, but the 8th Illinois Cavalry held them back.
Mile 43 Nolands Ferry Archaeological Site
Artifacts unearthed in the 1970s indicate the site was nearly continuously occupied from 8500 BC to AD 1800. Some of the finds include a Late Woodland period village with trash pits and burial areas ringing an open plaza. Today the archaeological components remain buried but you will find parking, a boat ramp, restrooms, and picnicking at Nolands Ferry.
Boaters may find traces of some of the best preserved fish weirs in the lower Potomac. Native Americans and colonists built the V-shaped weirs from rock to channel fish into sluices or pens, where they could be caught in net baskets, speared, or caught with hook and line.
Mile 42.6 Indian Flats Campground
Free; first come first served. Water pump in summer, fire rings, toilets, picnic tables.
Mile 42.2 Monocacy Aqueduct
Monocacy is the canal’s longest aqueduct—516 feet. The seven-arch structure was built mostly from stone quarried at nearby Sugarloaf Mountain. The stone walls by the parking lot are the remains of an old flour mill. There’s a boat ramp and picnicking.
During the 1862 Antietam Campaign, lock tender Thomas Walker persuaded Confederate General Hill from blowing up the Monocacy Aqueduct. Walker recommended that Hill drain the canal as a substitute to destroying the aqueduct by boring through the towpath bank. Hill chose instead to damaged Lock 27, and Walker was fired even though he saved surely one of the canal’s most impressive aqueducts. With support from locals, however, Walker got his job back.
Mile 41.5 Lock 27 at Spinks Ferry
After blowing a hole in the lock, General Hill burnt some canal boats then headed to Frederick to join Stonewall Jackson’s troops.
Turn around and head back to Point of Rocks.
Few places in the Potomac Heritage Trail corridor offer so many outdoor recreational opportunities as this segment of the Great Allegheny Passage—actually there are few places like this anywhere. This trip involves an easy 10.5-mile bike ride or walk from Ohiopyle, the focal point of a State Park by the same name, to the little town of Confluence, where one finds many eateries and options for lodging. Seasoned cross-country skiers can make this a day trip, though skiers of all abilities can enjoy a couple miles along the Youghiogheny River. This is a hugely popular spot, so if you’re looking for solitude, plan summer visits for weekdays–the wildflowers of spring and the colors of autumn, though, might be the best time of year.
Trailhead. The trip begins in Ohiopyle, a major hub for recreation within Ohiopyle State Park, the southern gateway to the Laurel Highlands and the southern trailhead for the 70-mile Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. The central feature of the 20,500 acre park is the Youghiogheny (“yaw-ki-gay-nee”) River Gorge: The “Yough” (“Yawk”) provides some of the best whitewater boating in the eastern United States, as well as spectacular scenery. (See below for directions, or visit the park’s website.)
8.7 Ramcat. Ramcat provides a boat launch and restrooms. There is a small snack bar here.
10.5 Confluence. The town has restaurants, B&Bs, food and a pharmacy. Trail services include a campground, bike shop and paddling school. To access them turn left on the pedestrian bridge to cross the Youghiogheny River. All attractions are within a few blocks. Originally called Turkeyfoot for the shape formed by the streams that join here. The campground, bike shop, padding school and one restaurant are along the trail. There are restaurants, a hardware store, banks with ATMs and more. All attractions are within a few blocks. There are also multiple B & Bs and several guest houses either right in town or within a few miles.
For a complete listing of the many visitor services in Confluence and nearby attractions, www.visitconfluence.info.
Directions to Ohiopyle State Park
From the East. From the PA Turnpike, take Exit 110, Somerset. Take PA 281 south 25 miles to Confluence. Continue three miles uphill and at the church, turn right onto Sugarloaf Road, SR 2012. Continue nine miles to Ohiopyle.
From the South (DC, MD, VA). Take I-270 north to Frederick, then I-70 west to Hancock, then Rt. 40 and I-68 through Cumberland. Take Exit 14 (Keysers Ridge) to Rt. 40 west to Farmington, PA. Turn right onto PA 381 north for eight miles to Ohiopyle.
It is most famous for whitewater rafting, but there is also a network of short trails. It’s a memorable spot for fishing, too. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are the best ways to experience solitude in the woods in winter.
P.O. Box 105
Ohiopyle, PA 15470-0105
Great Allegheny Passage
Travel and Lodging
What about a biking experience that includes a 20-mile downhill cruise involving little-to-no pedaling, a scenic vista available only to cyclists and hikers, a 3,300-foot long tunnel, a 140-year old iron bridge and ice cream? Welcome to The Cumberland Coast, a scenic ride, and sometimes a “coast” from Meyersdale, Penn., to Cumberland, Md., on the Great Allegheny Passage.
The Particulars: Set Up a Shuttle
Arrange a shuttle if you are interested in a one-way ride only, although you will pass many bikers who do the reverse trip climbing the 10 miles of a 1.5% grade from Frostburg to the Big Savage Tunnel. There are shuttle services available in both Maryland and Pennsylvania but if you are with a small enough group, a good friend with a van can meet you in Cumberland.
Drive to Meyersdale, Pennsylvania, “The Maple City.” There is plenty of parking available at the historic Western Maryland Train Station, which also serves as a visitors’ center. One of the Western Maryland Railway’s gems, the building has been lovingly restored by the Meyersdale Area Historical Society. Inside you’ll find artifacts and photographs showing the beautiful southern Somerset County countryside, a little gift shop and, thankfully, restrooms! Be sure to put a dollar or two in the donation jar–the MAHS is an all-volunteer organization and keeping the lights on is a community-wide effort www.atatrail.org/docs/meyersdalebrochure.pdf.
Spend a little time in Meyersdale (www.meyersdale.org) before you leave. This small community, renowned for its tasty maple syrup is just down the hill from the trailhead. The town has a number of charming shops and places to stay, including the fabulous Levi Deal Mansion (www.levidealmansion.com). Great sandwiches and soup are available at the Java Café (on Center just off Main Street); and the Morguen Toole Company (www.morguentoole.com) offers lunch Friday, Saturday and Sunday in a beautifully restored historic building at 130 Center Street.
Before heading down to Cumberland, ride two and half miles north to the Salisbury Viaduct. This 1,900-foot long bridge is one of the most spectacular structures on the Passage.
The Coast – Meyersdale to Cumberland
The Coast is about 32 miles. The first 7 miles from Meyersdale to Deal is mostly level, then you‘ll climb a bit from Deal to the Eastern Continental Divide. From the Divide to the Big Savage Tunnel is a pretty level cruise; then take your feet off the pedals and coast.
At Milepost (MP) 30.5, is the Bollman Bridge. This little bridge might not look like much but it’s an historic iron truss bridge of a design created by Wendell Bollman, a self-taught B&O engineer. built in 1871, the bridge was relocated in 2007 by the Somerset County Rails-to-Trails Association (www.bikesomersetcountypa.com)–a project four years in the making!
Only a half mile further down the trail, at Milepost (MP) 30, you find Keystone Viaduct, almost 1000 feet of curved railroad bridge. It’s a great place to watch trains pass by, so you have a train-watcher in your group, expect to spend time here.
The little settlement of Deal, hardly more than a few houses, at MP 25 is a popular trailhead. At only a little over two miles from the Big Savage Tunnel, many walkers and families with younger riders like to start here and enjoy the easy trip to Big Savage. A very slight climb takes you to the Eastern Continental Divide at MP 23.5, the highest point, at 2,392 feet, on the Great Allegheny Passage. No matter which way you go, it’s all downhill from here!
At MP 22 is the Big Savage Tunnel. Without the lights installed during the $25 million rehabilitation of this masterpiece, it would be quite dark in the middle.
It’s difficult to describe the view from the eastern end of the tunnel. Suffice to say on a clear day, you can see forever. It’s fun to point out to the novices in the group that the gap in the mountains “way down there” is where we’ll be ending your ride in a very short time.
At MP 20.5 you cross the Mason-Dixon Line—one of the most famous boundaries in the Nation–into Maryland.
Borden Tunnel (MP 18) is about 950-feet long and, unlike Big Savage, is not lit. Some folks have a little difficulty adjusting to the darkness on a bright day and since you’ve been picking up speed on the downhill, you may prefer to walk your bike through the tunnel.
Frostburg, Maryland (www.frostburgcity.com) is at MP 16. Just before you reach the trailhead, there’s a curving climb. When you reach the trailhead for Frostburg, you’ll see a switchback trail leading up to the Frostburg Depot. Here is the western terminus for the Western Maryland Scenic Railway. If your timing is right, you can climb up to the Depot and catch a glimpse of “ol’ 734” as the steam engine is turned around on the turntable for its return trip to Cumberland. And while you’re there, stop in at the Thrasher Carriage Museum for a look at the amazing collection of horse-drawn carriages. You can pick up a sandwich or treat at the Trail Inn & Café, or keep going up the hill a bit to Frostburg’s charming Main Street shopping area. There you’ll find several excellent restaurants and cafés and a fantastic book store. It is worth the climb!
As you leave Frostburg, you’ll find yourself accompanied the rest of the way downhill by the Scenic Railway. Be alert when the train is running (you can find their schedule on their website, www.wmsr.com) – it is a wonderful photo opportunity.
At MP 10, is Woodcock Hollow. This is a favorite rest stop with a covered picnic table and a port-a-potty.
At MP 5 you’ll find 900-foot long Brush Tunnel. Also unlit, again it makes sense to walk through this little tunnel – and to stay out of it completely when it’s occupied by a train!
MP 4 is where you will find the Bone Cave where is 1912 a partly filled cave was found during an excavation for a Western Maryland Railway cut through Wills Mountain. A Smithsonian Institution excavation later recovered the bones of a Pleistocene cave bear and saber-toothed cat, on permanent display in the Ice Age Mammal exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C.
Your destination of Cumberland, a gateway to the West, is a robust and vibrant town, a hub for travelers for hundreds of years and also MP 0. It is in Cumberland where the Great Allegheny Passage meets the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath, both the longest segments of the Potomac Heritage Trail network. The official guidebook of the Great Allegheny Passage, TrailBook (published by the Allegheny Trail Alliance, www.gaptrail.org), recalls the event: “The Passage’s “Cumberland connection” to the Towpath and to Hall of Fame recognition was celebrated with 500 cyclists from 34 states in 2007. With the Towpath’s 184.5-miles, together they form one of the most magnificent trail systems in the United States.
Stop at the National Park Service Visitors Center and explore Canal Place shops and restaurants. Cumberland is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, evidence of which can be found in streets lined with handsome historic buildings. Arts, culture and many events add to the liveliness of this lovely town. You will want to spend some time here before returning to your vehicle in Meyersdale.
This is a fine little urban jaunt along the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., following the C&O Canal from mile 3.1 to mile 0.5. There are terrific views of the Potomac River and the Rosslyn, Va., skyline. And the canal in Georgetown was once its Main Street, where buildings were oriented to take advantage of the waterway.
Coming into Georgetown from the west, you see how the canal once connected the countryside to the city. Above Georgetown, today’s canal traffic consists of canoes and kayaks. While out for a walk, you might be passed by a mule towing a boatful of tourists out of Georgetown. Plan to have lunch in Georgetown after an easy walk of about 5 miles roundtrip—which you can cut short to suit your desires.
Trailhead parking: There is parking at Fletcher’s Boathouse and at parking meters in Georgetown. If you’re coming into the city by car, from I-495 Beltway, take the exit for Clara Barton Parkway west toward Carderock. Take the first right exit at Carderock Recreation Area and Naval Surface Warfare Center. Turn left at top of the ramp and cross over Clara Barton Parkway. Turn left again and reenter Clara Barton Parkway eastbound. Continue east under the Beltway to the end of the parkway at Canal Road. Continue on Canal Road to Fletcher’s.
Options: You can walk in the reverse direction by starting in Georgetown, reachable by public transportaiom.
Start. Abner Cloud House, Fletcher’s Boathouse. Fletcher’s Boathouse has been operating since the 1850s. There is a canoe and boat rental, refreshment stand and bait shop, picnic area and a lot of friendly old-fashioned charm. It was operated by the Fletcher family for generations, and since 2004 has been managed by a park concessionaire. Fletcher’s is still the place where many city kids get their first fishing experience.
Across the towpath from Fletcher’s is the Abner Cloud House. It is the oldest structure on the canal, built in the early 1800s and predating the C&O project by more than two decades. Cloud’s house was a residence and storeroom for the grains and he shipped to Georgetown.
The paved trail running parallel to the canal and visible from time to time is the Capital Crescent Trail, built on the former bed of a B&O line.
0.9, Incline Plane site. This ranks among the canal’s more peculiar stories. During the go-go years of the canal, there were huge traffic jams clogging the final four locks and the terminus at Rock Creek. Traffic was especially bad when canal boats docked at Georgetown docks. The incline plane was built to get Potomac-bound boats around Georgetown without having to crawl through traffic—the same problem facing motorists today. The incline was a giant wooden ramp. At canal level, a 112-foot caisson was filled with water, allowing the boat to enter. Then, using a system of pulleys, the canal boat floated in the caisson like a toy boat in a giant bathtub. It was then lowered to the river. Despite numerous problems and accidents, the plane sped up traffic and remained in use until it was destroyed by flood in 1889.
2.1, Key Bridge, Alexandria Aqueduct. Passing under the Key Bridge, there is a pocket park and exhibit on the Alexandria Aqueduct—another curious C&O story. Not to be left out of the massive public works project that was the C&O, Virginia built an aqueduct over the river. This connected to another canal on the Virginia side that carried canal boats to the port at Alexandria. To country folks visiting the city in the canal era, seeing boats sledding down the incline plane or floating high above the Potomac was the 19th century version of a George Jetson universe.
2.2, the 34th Street footbridge.
2.6, C&O Canal Visitor Center.
C&O Canal National Historical Park
C&O Canal Trust
Cultural Tourism D.C.
The historic port town of Alexandria is one of the Potomac Heritage Trail’s most vibrant, happening places. There are shops, watering holes, and all variety of eateries. Alexandria also has the distinction of being an archaeological treasure. It’s one of the most studied towns in America. There’s an Alexandria Archaeology Museum in theTorpedo Factory Art Center, as well as several self-guided walking tours along The Alexandria Archaeology Trail.
Through this short walk or bike ride along the Canal Trail, you’ll discover what Alexandria was like when the city was first settled. It’s only a 20-minute walk, and by parking at the marina, you don’t have to look for parking downtown! Or you can public transportation into Alexandria to take the walk beginning on the downstream end.
The waterfront here has undergone continual change since the city was founded. The natural shoreline has been remade and remade again to suit the city’s economic needs and interests.
Along the Canal Trail there are remnant woodland bogs where beaver live within hearing distance of a busy airport. There are also stretches of shoreline bluff perched 25 feet above the water’s edge. More so than any place in the upper tidal reaches of the Potomac River, you can see the contours of the river and shore the way the first settlers did.
The trailhead is the Washington Sailing Marina, an area known as Dangerfield Island. It’s not so much an island as a narrow stretch of dry land between the marshes west of the George Washington Parkway and the Potomac River. Here John Alexander, a Scottish merchant, purchased a 700 acre tract that is today the City of Alexandria.
From the marina trailhead, travel downriver along the Canal Trail. As you begin to circle the harbor you find yourself on a bluff overlooking the water. This is the Potomac of long ago, a river on which high sheer bluffs lined long stretches like the walls of a gorge. This contrasts with the waterfront you encounter just a mile downstream, where the land falls gradually to the water’s edge. The shoreline there once resembled these bluffs, but was engineered to meet the needs of merchants.
The area near this bay was the location of Belleview Plantation. Over the years Belleview had many incarnations, as a mill site, a dairy farm, and as a 19th century flower farm complete with greenhouses.
As you leave the bluffs, get a first view of the Potomac shoreline as it has been remade over time to better accommodate shipping and commerce. What better place to discover this essential connection between river and economy than Tide Lock Park at the south end of the Canal Trail. You can see a reconstructed replica of one of the four locks of the Alexandria Canal at the river’s shoreline at the base of Montgomery Street.
For information on what to see and do in Alexandria, see http://alexandriava.gov.
You can visit these sites in any order, but in summer mornings are the best time to see Fort Washington; you can explore the grounds before the sun gets too high.
Fort Washington. Fort Washington was part of the original defenses of the Capital, first completed in 1809. After being destroyed and rebuilt, it was improved over the years and remained in use through World War One. From the massive doorways at the entrance, to the gunnery posts, to the bastions and garrisons, it’s just a cool place to explore and hang out. Fort Washington Park has a wide variety of activities. There is a 3-mile trail that follows the perimeter of the park boundary, offering the opportunity for wildlife viewing. Birdwatchers enjoy the quite solitude of the park to find that one special bird. If fishing is for you, the park is located right along the Potomac River where there are many different types of fish waiting for you.
One Sunday a month from April to October the park has Civil War artillery demonstrations.
Oxon Cove Park/Oxon Hill Farm. The park has been home for many generations of human habitation during the past 10,000 years–beginning with the Native American peoples who hunted for wild game and gathered plants up until the 17th century. You can explore on your own and see farm equipment, historic structures, our Visitor Center, and barnyard. Explore Oxon Cove Park’s 512 acres by strolling along the lower fields, walking the nature path or riding the bike path along Oxon Cove. It’s a pleasing spot for a picnic, too. There are picnic areas, no reservations required. Food is not sold in the park, so pack a lunch.
Oxon Cove is listed second in this itinerary for those who are ready for a picnic lunch after exploring Fort Washington. It is next door to Oxon Hill Manor, so if you’re not ready for lunch, visit the manor first.
Visitor information for all three sites is available on the porch of the bookstore.
Oxon Hill Manor, a few miles up river from Fort Washington. The mansion as we see it today was built in in 1928, but the former home was built for home to the nephews of George Washington, and the nephew of John Hanson, the first president elected by the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation. In the 49-room mansion, check out the graceful spiraling staircase and ballroom especially. Wonder the English gardens and enjoy stunning river views. Tours are available by appointment. The manor is managed by Prince George’s County Department of Parks & Recreation.
To reach Fort Washington From I-95/495 take exit 3, Indian Head Higway South/MD 210. Travel about 4 miles to Fort Washington Road, turn right. The park is located at the end of the road.
From Waldorf, MD: MD228 to Indian Head Highway/MD210 North. Turn left onto Old Fort Road. Continue to end of road, at the stop sign turn left onto Fort Washington Road, continue to park.
One popular adventure along The Great Allegheny Passage segment of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail is a ride through the Big Savage Tunnel onto the Eastern Continental Divide. The Big Savage Tunnel is closed from November through April, but in warm weather it’s an easy, pleasing bicycle ride for people of all biking abilities. Begin your trip in Cumberland where the Great Allegheny Passage rail trail meets the C & O Canal Towpath.
Coal, minerals and timber extracted from these mountains made their way into Cumberland on narrow-gauge railroads. The region’s abundant natural resources and its location on the river made Cumberland one of America’s early industrial centers. The wares made there were shipped east along the railroad and the C&O Canal.
From Cumberland, trail follows the old Western Maryland Railroad on a spectacular passage above Jennings Run, trending northwest up to Big Savage Mountain, where the views rival any in the East.
Trailhead parking is at the railroad depot in Frostburg, Md. You can find breakfast and snacks near the depot at The Trailside Inn or climb the hill to trail friendly Frostburg with many eateries, small locally owned shops and historic buildings. As frequent trail users say, “It’s worth the climb!” A comprehensive map and business directories, as well as itineraries for many one day and multiple day trips can be found in the Allegheny Trail Alliance’s TrailBook, the travel guide to the Great Allegheny Passage (www.gaptrail.org) Once you’re on the trail, you won’t need a map or compass to find your way but there is so much to do and see, you may want to plan ahead.
It is 6.8 miles to Big Savage Tunnel, named for surveyor Thomas Savage who, along with the rest of his party, was stranded here in the winter of 1736. According to the legend, he offered himself up as food to save the rest of the party from starving. A rescue team showed up, saving Savage’s life. His companions were so grateful that they named the Savage River for him. Fortunately for the traveler of today, food is easier to get now!
In summer, you can take a 2.5-mile hike up and over the tunnel.
If you’re on bike and want to continue on, it’s only another 1.2 miles to the Eastern Continental Divide, elevation, 2,375 feet. The Keystone Viaduct, a magnificent, curving 910-foot structure, is about 5 miles from the tunnel. From there it’s another mile to Meyersdale, Pa., where there are eateries and a B&B only blocks from the trailhead railroad depot.
Are you up for a challenge? Then bike south from the Wisp Resort www.wispresort.com and up over Marsh Mountain to Fork Run Recreation Area. This is a 550 acre forested wilderness managed by the Adventure Sports Center International (ASCI) www.adventuresportscenter.com. A trail head map awaits you in the parking lot area. Head out along the ridge past the rock climbing area and enjoy Phase 1 and 2 of this newer single track built by Garrett Trails www.garretttrails.org. Plans are in the works for more of this awesome IMBA style single track.
Cool off after your ride by booking a whitewater rafting trip at ASCI on the only mountaintop re-circulating whitewater rafting/kayaking course. Take a swim in the pool with the kids at the Garrett College Community Aquatic and Recreation Complex www.gccarc.com or just relax with a spa treatment at the Sewickley Spa at WISP Resort http://www.sewickleyspa.com. Hungry after an exhilarating day of adventure? Grab dinner at the charming chalet style DC’s Bar & Restaurant www.wispresort.com/wisp/info/dining.aspx or head over to the Mountain State Brewery http://www.mountainstatebrewing.com/deepcreek.html for a rustic experience with tasty microbrew beers and flatbread pizza. Whatever your choice, there’s plenty of outdoor activities in Garrett County.
In the morning wake up and rent downhill bikes and a lift ticket. Check out the great offering of lift served downhill mountain bike trails on Wisp Mountain.
From Pittsburgh(via Uniontown, Pa.): U.S. 51 South to Uniontown, PA. Take U.S. 40 East to Keyer’s Ridge. Take U.S. 219 South 16 miles to McHenry. Turn Right on Sang Run Road. Follow signs 1/2 mile to Wisp on Marsh Hill Road.
From Baltimore: 1-70 to Hancock, MD to I-68 West & Cumberland. Exit 14A to U.S. 219 South 16 miles to McHenry. Turn Right on Sang Run Road. Follow signs 1/2 mile to Wisp on Marsh Hill Road.
From DC Metro: I-270 to Frederick, MD. Take I-70 West to Hancock, MD to I-68 West and Cumberland. Take Exit 14A to U.S. 219 South 16 miles to McHenry. Turn Right on Sang Run Road. Follow signs 1/2 mile to Wisp on Marsh Hill Road.
Exlpore the trails of Garrett County, Md., on amazing mountain bike trails. Start your morning off with coffee and breakfast sandwiches from Trader’s Coffee House www.traderscoffeehouse.com on Deep Creek Lake as the hard core water-skiers are finishing up and coming for their post-pull coffees.
After coffee and lattés are enjoyed, head north on Garrett Highway 219 to the small town of Accident where you will find some awesome single track at the Margraff Plantation www.garretttrails.org/northern-region-trails.html which is part of Savage River State Forest. This trail loops around the top of a ridge above a natural gas storage site with views of hardwood forests intermixed with plantation pines which were planted by the CCC many years ago as part of substandard farm reclamation project.
Look closely in the woods and you will see the rock fences built as the farmers cleared the land over 100 years ago. Notice the large trees that grew out of these fence lines. The trail is fast with hard climbs. There are several technical rock gardens. Experienced riders allow 2 hours ride time.
Grab lunch at Hartman’s Gas Station or Annie’s Kitchen in Accident or head south on Hwy 219 and dine on a hearty flatbread sandwich at Santa Fe Grill near the Deep Creek Lake Visitors Center. Enjoy your day.
To reach Traders Coffee House from points north: Traveling from I-68 (Friendsville, Accident and McHenry), follow Rt. 219 south to the Deep Creek Lade bridge. Cross the bridge and travel half a mile. The shop is on the right.
From points south: Traveling from Oakland and Southern Garrett County, follow Rt. 219 norht to Glendale Road and continue on Rt. 219 for 1.7 miles. The shop is on the left.
This scenic bike ride includes an eight-mile ride on the C&O Canal segment of the Potomac Heritage Trail in the Great Valley near Sheperdstown, WV, and through Sharpsburg, MD. Experience the natural beauty of the Potomac River beneath cave-dotted bluffs, and pause for a break to examine the incredible stonework of a canal lock. Then, take a road connection to Antietam National Battlefield, the Civil War site commemorating the bloodiest single day in American history. After circling the interior of the Battlefield, pass through the village of Sharpsburg for lunch and treats, with a return to the canal along Maryland Route 34. (Miller’s Sawmill Road is an option, but one misses a site marking General Robert E. Lee’s headquarters.)
- A casual ride along the river beneath the canopy with a long, open views of South Mountain and the Blue Ridge
- The Battle of Antietam was one of two major battles fought north of the Potomac River. The Battlefield observation tower offers expansive views of the valley and ridgelines, and a rare chance to see the entire landscape of battle of a Civil War site. You can also find out more and take a pit stop at the Antietam Visitors Center.
- Sharpsburg has a popular ice cream shop on Potomac Street, a bakery and a tavern named in honor of a C&O Canal boat captain, as well as bed and breakfasts.
- One can ride this route starting either in Shepherdstown or Sharpsburg without driving a car to the trail head.
Total Distance: 16.4 miles.
Trailhead Directions: Parking beneath the Rumsey Bridge (Route 34) over the Potomac; Snyders Landing and Taylors Landing; and Antietam Battlefield.
Finding the Trailhead: From Shepherdstown, WV, cross the Potomac River on the Rumsey Bridge, Route 34. On a bicycle, turn right at the Maryland side of the bridge and follow the bike/pedestrian ramp or, via automobile, turn right at the top of the hill and descend into one of two parking areas. (Reach the second parking area by turning left at the bottom of the hill on River Road, which parallels the canal, and continue less than a half mile to a parking and pedestrian bridge.) On the Maryland side of the river, you can visit Ferry Hill Place, a historic visitors center, before you begin your ride.
Turn left on Mondell Road and ascend steep hill.
Route 65. Cross road and enter battlefield; go straight and ascend.
Turn right on Smoketown Road.
Turn left toward Mumma House.
Turn left toward Bloody Land.
Observation Tower. Turn right to follow the road, then descend a steep hill. This lane leads to Route 34.
Cross Route 34 and climb park road.
Turn right and follow road as it climbs. At the top of the hill are splendid views and a long stone wall. The stone wall is makes for a sunny rest stop overlooking the battlefield.
Turn right on Harpers Ferry Road, leaving the park. Continue into the village of Sharpsburg.
Turn left on Route 34.
Turn left just before the bridge onto Canal Road and descend the trailhead parking lot.
Brunswick, Maryland is just a short drive from Washington D.C., approximately 45 miles. The town’s roots are rich in history with the establishment of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. In the 1890′s Brunswick became the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad’s major freight yard for the east-west line. Population of the town multiplied tenfold in 1896 and thrived because of the railroad. You can still take the MARC train from Washington, D.C. to Brunswick today.
When visiting Brunswick, you can stop by the Brunswick Railroad Museum to learn more about the B & O line and the way of life of the railroaders. The Brunswick Museum has exhibits about the life of railroaders from 1890 to 1940. A railroad exhibit with a model of the B&O rail line from Washington to Harper’s Ferry is open Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.
In 2005, Brunswick earned Maryland Mainstreet status. Brunswick Mainstreet sponsors many events and activities in the historic district. Brunswick also celebrates “History Days” each April, the “Great Brunswick River Race” in July, “Railroad Days” in October, and a “Victorian Christmas” on Thanksgiving weekend. In October the town hosts Railroad Days which takes place with music, festivities and train rides. Every year the annual Great Brunswick River Race offers adventure to those who want to create their own boat and race down the Potomac River. These events feature the roles of the Potomac, the canal, and the railroad in Brunswick’s development. Visit the Brunswick Mainstreet website to learn more.
Brunswick offers other fun activities including camping, biking on the C & O Canal, or just participating in some of our local events.
Check out our events calendar for other fun activities, we hope to see you soon in Brunswick.
This 5-day bicycle tour starts at Fort Washington Park at the Prince George’s County Potomac Heritage On-Road Bicycle Route as a segment of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.238 miles, averaging 41 miles a day for the first four days, with options for short-cuts on each day. 52 miles back to La Plata on the last day, with another 20 miles back to Fort Washington National Park.
42 miles – Fort Washington Park to Bel Alton
The tour begins Fort Washington Park. Fort Washington is the only permanent fortification built to defend the river approach to the Nation’s Capital. Follow the route south to Smallwood State Park, and then cut across through Pisgah to Port Tobacco where you can explore and eat lunch. Chapel Point Road will take you past St. Ignatius Church to the Motel Bel Alton. After you check-in, you can bike or drive 5 miles to Pope’s Creek for a seafood dinner on the Potomac.
28 miles – Bel Alton to Charlotte Hall
Head back down to Pope’s Creek, across Rt. 301 and up through Amish country to Charlotte Hall, where you can have lunch at Bert’s 50 Diner. After lunch riders can visit the nearby farmers’ markets and/or bike a 13-mile loop to the lake and park Gilbert Run. Here you can enjoy fishing, pedal boating, row boating and canoeing from March to November. Several good restaurants are within walking distance of the Charlotte Hall Motel for dinner.
42 miles – Charlotte Hall to Leonardtown
The route passes many Amish farms as you dip down to Chaptico, Bushwood, and Avenue, along St. Clements Bay. Grab lunch along the bay and then cycle back up and around to Leonardtown. You can paddle here, as well as enjoy the Leonardtown Winery, Wharf and Water Trail. You have a wide choice of places for dinner, including the Café des Artistes, and you can stay at the Relax Inn for the evening.
45 miles – Leonardtown to Wynne
Out of Leonardtown, follow backcountry roads down to Valley Lee, up to Great Mills, and then Route 5 to St. Mary’s City. This quaint, historic town along the river is a perfect place to grab a bite to eat. Then continue down Route 5 toward Point Lookout to the 1828 Lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula, with the Potomac River on one side and the Chesapeake Bay on the other. There is also a nature center in Point Lookout State Park and a Civil War Museum to explore (there may be a $3 per person entry fee). Retrace the route back a few miles to Wynne where you can watch the sun set over the Potomac. Courtney’s has been recommended as a great seafood restaurant, and you can stay at the Scheibles Restaurant and Motel for the night.
52 miles – Wynne to La Plata, the 20 miles – La Plata to Fort Washington
This is a long day, so you may want to get an early start as you head back to La Plata. Once you get back to La Plata, you will need to go the 20 extra miles to get back to Fort Washington, if that’s where you left your car.
For information on the map of the Tidewater Potomac Heritage Bicycle Route produced by the Adventure Cycling Association with assistance of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail Office, National Park Service, visit http://www.adventurecycling.org/routes/tidewater.cfm.
Lock 38, a C&O Canal commercial hub in the 19th century, beckons you to cross the river and enter the oldest town in West Virginia. Founded in 1762, Shepherdstown remains a unique experience in the 21st century. The river contains the ruins of rail bridges, car bridges and a ferry. The old riverfront area, a historical commercial hub that was the aperture to the river and the towns across the river, is today a boat ramp for kayakers, canoeists, and fishermen. This was the area where James Rumsey experimented with a boat that would go upstream with a steam engine. The Rumsey Monument Park is a testament to his invention and welcomes trail visitors for a quiet picnic and a world class scenic view of the river.
From Lock 38 proceed up Canal Rd. and turn left onto MD. 34 before crossing the James Rumsey bridge into Shepherdstown, WV. Ferry Hill Plantation is on your right, a 19th century plantation home currently owned by the National Park Service.
Cross the bridge into Shepherdstown and you’ll find a town full of quaint shops and comfortable cafes. Before you continue biking, catch an organic smoothie at Mellow Moods and pop into Shepherdstown Pedal and Paddle. For runners and hikers, Two Rivers Treads has organic shoes for kids, men and women.
German Street hasn’t changed much in 250 years. Pick up a walking tour guide at the Visitors Center on the corner of German and Princess Street before proceeding down German Street to the River Road. One mile down the River Road is the famous river crossing Pack Horse Ford where Native American tribes forded the Patomack River and General Lee retreated after the battle of Antietam.
Make a right turn onto Trough Rd, a hilly country road that has seen armies and settlers for over 250 years. Trough Road crosses over Flowing Springs Rd (Rte 240) at mile 4.6 and becomes Gardners Lane. The beautiful Jefferson County country side with its scenic view turns into a narrow lane leading to Morgan Grove Park.
Turning right onto 480 at 7.3 miles takes you back into Shepherdstown to shop, eat a hearty meal or just stroll around an historic town and loop up to the Rumsey Monument for a scenic view of the Potomac River.
For more information on Shepherdstown and other towns along the canal, visit C&O Canal Towns.
This hilly tour is a 33-mile ride through Maryland beginning and ending in historic Boonsboro at Shafer Memorial Park. This tour is from a series of tours in Washington County, encompassing hundreds of miles of paved roads. This map is one of eight loops provided to help you plan an infinite variety of bicycle trips along the best of these roads.
The journey begins in the Town of Boonsboro, MD, then heads south for a climb up South Mountain, a spur of the Blue Ridge chain, to the War Correspondents’ Arch at Gathland State Park. This park was once the mountain home of George Alfred Townsend, a Civil War journalist. Head back up the valley to the Town of Keedysville, where water is available in the park.
Then travel to Sharpsburg where you can stop at famous Nutter’s Ice Cream to savor good old fashioned ice cream. If you want to check your email before you leave, there is free WiFi available at Captain Benders, a bar on Main Street. Next travel to Antietam National Battlefield www.nps.gov/anti/index.htm , the site of the bloodiest day of the Civil War.
After leaving the battlefield, you will pass the University of Maryland Experimental Farm and the Washington County Agricultural Education Center and Rural Heritage Museum and end in Shafer Memorial Park.
For turn-by-turn directions and other itineraries throughout the region, please visit marylandmemories.org or go directly to the county’s bike map and brochure. Highlighted information on this map includes eight suggested loop tours, which are shown in color.
This 34-mile interstate journey begins in Maryland and ventures into Pennsylvania, exploring farmland, resorts before returning to Maryland and visiting a dam for the C&O Canal National Park. This tour is from a series of tours in Washington County, encompassing hundreds of miles of paved roads. This map is one of eight loops provided to help you plan an infinite variety of bicycle trips along the best of these roads.
The tour begins in Clear Spring Park just outside of Clear Spring, MD. This route then winds north into hilly Pennsylvania, passing the Whitetail Ski and Golf Resorts. The trail turns south to Maryland through some of the Cumberland Valley’s finest farmland. Next the trail will pass the Wilson Bridge Picnic Area at the longest stone arch bridge in the county. At this scenic location, you can stop at the Wilson Store, which is a typical country store and post office from a by-gone era. Next, it continues south through more farmland to Dam No. 5, one of the feeder dams for the C&O Canal that was built in 1900.
For turn-by-turn directions and other itineraries throughout the region, please visit marylandmemories.org or go directly to the county’s bike map and brochure. Highlighted information on this map includes eight suggested loop tours, which are shown in color.
This challenging, remote bicycle trip is perfect for those who want to get lost for an afternoon. The 30-mile journey starts at Clear Spring Park and highlights Camp Harding and Fort Frederick Parks. This tour is from a series of tours in Washington County, encompassing hundreds of miles of paved roads. This map is one of eight loops provided to help you plan an infinite variety of bicycle trips along the best of these roads.
The tour begins in Clear Spring Park just outside of Clear Spring, MD. Next, travel to Camp Harding County Park. Due to its close proximity to Washington, DC, President Harding, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone used to camp and fish here in the 1920s. Trout fishing and canoeing are still popular activities in the park today. The route then uses a portion of the paved Western Maryland Rail Trail to reach Fort Frederick State Park, which boasts the only remaining stone French & Indian War fort in the country, and is restored to that era. It features historical re-enactments on certain weekends. You will then head back through farmlands to Clear Spring Park to complete your ride.
For turn-by-turn directions and other itineraries throughout the region, please visit marylandmemories.org or go directly to the county’s bike map and brochure. Highlighted information on this map includes eight suggested loop tours, which are shown in color.
Cycling this 38-mile, paved Northern Neck route will lead you to the historic towns of Colonial Beach and Leedstown, as well as the birthplace of President James Monroe. Be aware that this route is all on roadways, and only experienced cyclists who are comfortable with traffic should venture onto Route 3 at the end of the loop.
Starting from the King George/Westmoreland County line, cycle to Colonial Beach at the widest point on the Potomac River. This small community was founded in the 19th century as the fishing and bathing getaway for Washingtonians coming by steamboat. Still a waterfront resort, this golf cart community is home to numerous art galleries and hosts a yearlong “Second Friday” Art Walk. The community has built an outdoor performing arts stage, Town Hill, where evening concerts, outdoor family movie nights and weekend events are held.
Hop back on your bike and cycle to the birthplace of the 5th U.S. President James Monroe between Colonial Beach and Oak Grove. Stop in to the new visitor center there and learn about the Northern Neck’s native son who was Secretary of State during the War of 1812. Later as President, Monroe set the cornerstone for American foreign policy through his 1823 Monroe Doctrine.
Carefully cross Route 3 (King’s Highway) onto Route 638 (Leedstown Road), which wanders through the countryside to Leedstown on the Rappahannock River. In 1678 community founder Edward Bray built a brick church, a ferry and a wharf on this site. In 1742, the town was home to the Leedstown Resolutions, which protested the Stamp Act and foreshadowed the Declaration of Independence. While on Route 638, you can stop to visit the Ingleside Vineyards to rest your legs and enjoy a taste of Northern Neck wine.
From Leedstown, weave through Westmoreland County along Route 637 to Route 625/Horner’s Mill Road to Route 642/Baynesville Road and finally west on Route 3/King’s Highway to complete the loop. Be advised that Route 3 is for experienced, traffic-savvy cyclists as it is a 2-lane road with truck traffic
This loop is estimated to take approximately 3 hours, 20 minutes. To view a map of this loop and others in the Northern Neck, visit the Northern Neck Heritage Bike Route Network. For more information on attractions and accommodations in Virginia’s Northern Neck, please visit http://www.northernneck.org/index.htm.
Explore the easternmost portion of the Northern Neck, including the fishing village of Reedville, dozens of inlets, and a beach, on this 28-mile loop. For an extended tour on the Chesapeake Bay, hop on a cruise to the Tangier Island.
This loop begins in Reedville, founded in 1874 by Elijah Reed who moved his menhaden fishing operation from Maine to the Chesapeake Bay; today the ambiance reminiscent of a New England village is recognized as an historic district. From Reedville, on Routes 360/Northumberland Highway, take either Blackberry Road or Sunnybank Road to Route 352 to Sunnybank Road. Ride the free ferry across the Little Wicomico River to Ophelia (ferry operates Monday-Saturday). Take Route 644/Hacks Neck Road to Route 643 to Vir-Mar Beach public landing on the Potomac River. Double back on Route 643 on to Route 644 to Route 646/Folly Road at Gonyon. Cross Route 360, staying on Route 646, whose name changes to Brickyard Road, which winds back to Route 360 to Reedville.
To reach Smith Point–the most eastern location within the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail network–and a private campground where you can take a cruise to Smith Island, take Route 802 off of Route 652 where you will see the Smith Point Light in the Potomac River. On the return, just outside of Reedville, take Fleeton Road/Route 657 to the end of the waterfront community of Fleeton.
Reedville includes several restaurants, bed and breakfasts and cottage rentals, an ice cream shop and the Reedville Fishermen’s Museum. Overnight stays in Reedville provide the time to take a cruise to Tangier Island, to Smith Island, and to explore other bicycling loops on the Northern Neck. To reach Point Lookout on the Maryland side of the Potomac River, part of the Tidewater Potomac Bicycling Route, the Adventure Cycling Association suggests that you hire a private fishing boat to ferry you across: Captain Danny Crabbe of Crabbes Charter Fishing has been offering this service to cyclists for years, but you will need to make reservations.
This loop is estimated to take 2.5 hours. To view a map of this loop and others in the Northern Neck, visit the Northern Neck Heritage Bike Route Network. For more information on attractions and accommodations in Virginia’s Northern Neck, please visit http://www.northernneck.org/index.htm.
Discover two historic small towns along the C&O Canal Towpath in one weekend in West Virginia and Maryland right in the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area. The Battle of Antietam, the Potomac River, the old Canal, the ferries and bridges all combine to make a journey to the Two Rivers region memorable.
Lock 38 of the C&O Canal Towpath was the trading hub of both Shepherdstown and Sharpsburg. If you are biking up the trail you can see the stone pillars of both rail and carriage bridges that connected these two cities in the 19th century. On the Maryland side, you can get a great view of the historic Ferry Hill Plantation.
Sharpsburg, MD is approached from the C&O Canal Towpath at Snyders Landing, milepost 76.65. Take the Snyders Landing road the 1.5 miles to Sharpsburg and you will quickly discover that not much has changed since this rural town was incorporated. Four B&B’s are available for the overnight traveler, as a well as a few local restaurants. Don’t miss Nutter’s Ice Cream Shoppe and the nearby Pry House Field Hospital and the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Visitors Center on MD 34 just east of town.
Just outside of Sharpsburg, on your way to the C&O Canal Towpath, check out Antietam Battlefield commemorating September 17, 1862, the single bloodiest day of the American Civil War. This site now boasts a brand new visitor center.
After Antietam, cross the James Rumsey Bridge and bridge note the monument to James Rumsey on your left. James Rumsey was a colleague of George Washington and the inventor of the first steam powered boat. Shepherdstown, founded in 1762 is the oldest incorporated town in West Virginia. Outdoor recreational enthusiasts will find Shepherdstown welcoming. German Street has shops to entice you from cycling and running supplies, to kayak rentals, fishing supplies plus delicious eats for hungry travelers.
This short Civil War loop explores a portion of Washington County between Antietam National Battlefield and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park Beginning at the Battlefield Visitor Center, pedal past Dunker Church on the historic Hagerstown Pike. Cross Sharpsburg Pike onto Mondell Road toward the Potomac River. After crossing under the railroad tracks, make a right to access a point on the River where Confederate troops are believed to have crossed; return to Mondell Road and follow the route past other portions of the Battlefield and into Sharpsburg, a great place to stop on the return trip.
Head west (right) on Main Street/Route 45 toward the Potomac River, stopping first at the site of General Robert E. Lee’s Headquarters. Research indicates that Lee’s retreat from Antietam followed the gentle swale to your southwest toward Pack Horse Ford on the Potomac. With the James Rumsey Bridge ahead of you, turn left onto Canal Road to access the C&O Canal Towpath. Leave the River corridor via Millers Sawmill Road but use caution, as this road is somewhat steep and narrow with limited sight lines. After the climb out of the river corridor, you return to Sharpsburg, where Nutter’s Ice Cream Parlor is a just reward. You can also grab a meal or stay overnight in Sharpsburg. A great place to stay is the historic Antietam Guest House. To return to the Visitor Center, follow Route 65.
If you want to explore more in the area, please visit http://www.marylandmemories.com, or to find out more about the C&O Canal, visit either the Brunswick or Williamsport Visitor Centers. For another Civil War site, check out General Lee’s headquarters north in Gettysburg.
Cultural Tourism DC, an independent coalition of more than 230 culture, heritage and community organizations, encourages metro-area residents and visitors to explore the authentic culture of the Nation’s capital via “DC Neighborhood Heritage Trails.” Developed by Cultural Tourism DC in conjunction with community groups, who collect neighborhood stories and images, three of these trails are found along the Potomac Heritage Trail route.
Discover – or see with new eyes – this traditionally African-American enclave in Far Northeast when you follow A Self-Reliant People: Greater Deanwood Heritage Trail. With its signature, small, wood-frame houses on large lots, Deanwood looks like a country town. The community developed in the 1890s on the site of a tobacco plantation when the city’s big real estate interests and government focused on areas closer to downtown. The Greater Deanwood Heritage Trail can be accessed from the Minnesota Avenue Metro station near Fort Mahan Park and the Fort Circle Parks Trail.
Lace up your walking shoes and experience Brightwood by following the signs on this self-guided DC Neighborhood Heritage Trail. Indulge your inner Civil War buff in one of DC’s early communities, where you will see the site of the only Civil War battle to take place within the District of Columbia. The Brightwood Heritage Trail is near Fort Stevens, accessible from Rock Creek Park just south of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and intersects the Civil War Defenses of Washington hiking route.
Until the 1950s, Southwest was Washington’s largest working-class waterfront neighborhood. Then, in one of the Nation’s first experiments in “urban renewal,” nearly all of Southwest was razed to build something entirely new. The Southwest Heritage Trail is situated along the PHT bicycling route between the C&O Canal Towpath (near Thompson’s Boathouse) and the Frederick Douglas Bridge, passing north of Fort McNair.
To view the entire suite of Cultural Tourism DC’s Neighborhood Heritage Trails, go to Neighborhood Heritage Trails.
Kinsale is a historic village on the Yeocomico River, a tributary of the Potomac River. The idyllic community is flush on the water, an historic landing for steamships, and the perfect starting point for an easy, scenic 30-mile tour by bicycle.
The Kinsale Museum has visitor information and exhibits on the history of town; in addition to the history as a port, the area was the scene of a naval engagement during the War of 1812. In addition to the museum, you can also visit Port Kinsale Marina and Resort. From Kinsale, it’s a short ride to Sandy Point and a grand view of the Potomac. Retracing your path on Route 718, turn right onto Route 749 and then onto Route 663; here you begin a loop on Virginia “600” roads to explore a landscape defined by water. Just before your return to Kinsale, you come upon the Vault Field Vineyards to the south where you can stop and enjoy a glass of wine before finishing your ride.
This loop will take approximately 2 hours, 30 minutes. To view a map of this loop and others in the Northern Neck, visit the Northern Neck Heritage Bike Route Network. For more information on accommodations, events and attractions, including the Steamboat Era Museum in Irvington, visit http://www.northernneck.org/index.htm.
Beginning and ending in the historic town of Heathsville, this 32-mile bicycling loop explores a landscape shaped by water, forestry and farming. Begin your tour at Rice’s Hotel/Hughlett’s Tavern, which includes the Tavern Restaurant (call for lunch and dinner hours), a blacksmith shop, and craft guilds. Leaving Heathsville, take Route 634/Spring Road near St. Stephen’s Anglican Church past Clark Mill Pond to Coan Wharf Landing, a former steamboat landing for the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Doubling back on Route 634, take Route 629 in Northumberland County to Route 637. For a short side trip, take Route 604 to Bush Mill Stream State Natural Area Preserve and stop for short walk on the forested trails. Complete the loop on Route 779 back to Heathsville.
Founded in 1648, Heathsville is the county seat of Northumberland County, named for native son John Heath who represented Virginia in the U.S. House of Representatives. Near the Tavern, on Back Street, tour the historic jail and the Historical Society visitor center, and visit the several antique, thrift and gift shops.
The Heathsville loop will take approximately 2 hours, 45 minutes. Another site to visit in the area is Robert E. Lee’s childhood home, Stratford Hall. For more information on attractions and accommodations in Virginia’s Northern Neck, please visit http://www.northernneck.org/index.htm.