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Recreate Responsibly on the C&O Canal

National parks offer people great opportunities to enjoy outdoor recreation, connect with nature, and learn about history, but whichever park you choose to visit, it is important to always recreate responsibly. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, national parks across the country have seen higher levels of visitation, and the C&O Canal National Historical Park is no exception. If you’re planning to venture out to enjoy the canal, or any other national park, please follow these essential guidelines for recreating responsibly to keep yourself and others safe.

‘Great Falls from Olmstead Island’ by Kara McNulty

Know Before You Go – Before you head out to the canal, check the Park Conditions page for any closures, detours, or other information that might affect your visit. Try to avoid crowded areas, and have a back-up plan. Many parts of the Park in DC and Montgomery County are seeing very high visitation on the weekends, so plan your trip to avoid these peak times if possible. If you’re planning to hike the Billy Goat Trail, please follow this guidance from the Park. 

Plan Ahead – Use information from the Park Conditions page to plan your visit ahead of time. You should also plan ahead by bringing your own water, snacks, hand sanitizer, face covering, sun protection, and anything else you might need for your trip. 

Explore Locally – Explore your local section of the C&O Canal. Please limit long-distance travel and be mindful of local communities. 

Practice Social Distancing – Keep your group size small, avoid crowded areas, and maintain at least six feet of distance from other individuals and groups. 

Play it Safe – Choose low-risk activities that you are comfortable with. Follow all Park signage and do not attempt anything dangerous that may cause injury. If you’re planning to hike Billy Goat Trail Section A please keep the following in mind:

  • The trail is technical and strenuous
  • The trail is the site of multiple EMS rescues a week
  • The trail is HOT in the summer
  • The trail is popular and crowded
  • Swimming and wading are PROHIBITED in the Potomac River

Leave No Trace – Follow Leave No Trace Principles. Please carry out your trash! Increased visitation has led to an increase in trash, so please help us keep the Park clean by taking your trash with you when you leave. 

Be Inclusive – Help make the outdoors safe and welcoming for everyone!

Read more information on recreating responsibly in national parks here.