Here’s a pleasant circuit walk along the surprisingly wild Antietam Creek less than a mile from the C&O Canal. The hike meanders along one of three fronts in the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest day of the Civil War. Wild turkey, beaver, barred owls, and other wildlife inhabit the stream valley. Cows can often be seen grazing on the other side of the creek. The lovely bucolic countryside belies the carnage that took place along the creek on September 17, 1862.
The Battle of Antietam (also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg) took place in three phases over 12 square miles. Down by the creek, Union General Burnside tried to move his army over the bridge and into Sharpsburg. The streamside trail preserves the landscape that saw the deaths of thousands. Now it is alive with towering oaks and maples, blackberries on the edges, and the scent of paw paws by the bank.
From the parking area, descend the walk to Burnside Bridge and turn right onto the narrow footpath next to the creek. Pass a small dam that creates enough of a waterfall to give paddlers a thrill. Ancient beech line the creek and uplands, while the bottomland is still thick with the lower story of second-generation forest. The pathway leading right, at 0.5 mile, ascends steeply to Georgians Overlook; from there southern troops trained their rifles on federal troops approaching the bridge.
The river bends sharply west at about 1 mile. The hillside to the right is home to wild turkey, barred owls, and deer. In spring, there are Dutchman’s britches flapping in the breeze; in fall, the paw paws give the forest a banana smell.
At 1.4 miles, reach Snavely Ford, the crossing point for several divisions of Union soldiers on a flanking maneuver. They made their way up the hill toward Sharpsburg here; the road they traveled is still visible to the left beginning at about 1.6 miles. Uphill, the forest cover changes to thick red cedar. On early evening hikes, you may see several deer leaving the cedar cover to follow the trail down to the creek.
At the top of the hill, at 2 miles, a dirt road to the right leads to an old homestead. To the left, the parking area is 0.5 mile down a dirt cart path.
For more information: Antietam National Battlefield.
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.
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.
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.
The Middle Potomac River is one of the most beautiful stretches of navigable waterways in the Mid-Atlantic. (more…)