Explore Your Canal

There are 184.5 miles of towpath and over 20,000 acres of Park land to explore in the C&O Canal National Historical Park. Use our Plan Your Visit website to explore the canal — soon, this website will also be available on our C&O Canal Explorer mobile app!

You can get started on planning your visit here.

Ideas for You to Explore

C&O Canal Aqueducts

Eleven aqueducts stand along the C&O Canal – some of the most impressive of the canal structures that stand today. Aqueducts transported the canal over streams and tributaries. Several have been rebuilt, including the Conococheague Aqueduct in Williamsport, which is watered and is one of the only places in the country where you can ride a boat over an aqueduct. The eleven aqueducts are all different – the stone they were constructed with varies, including red sandstone, grey limestone, white granite, white and pink quartzite. Some have fallen apart and exist only as ruins, while others have been lovingly restored by the National Park Service to their former glory. All stand testament to the engineering ingenuity and devoted labor that went into their construction and the important role they played in the growth of our country. (more…)

C&O Canal Brewery Tour

The first breweries near the canal opened in 2016 and two more have opened since then. Many outdoor enthusiasts know a hike or bike ride followed by a craft beer is one of the best combinations out there.

There are over 6,500 breweries in the United States and each one is unique. Breweries can highlight local ingredients, traditions, and history.

Smoketown Brewing Station – Brunswick, MD (Mile 55)

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Smoketown Brewing Station opened in 2016 in a former firehouse. The owner’s father worked in the firehouse as a firefighter, and now his son works in the same firehouse as a brewer. Smoketown has a family-friendly patio environment and is open to outside food. Grab a slice of pizza from King’s Pizza next door to enjoy with your beer. Smoketown hosts trivia and food trucks. Check their events page for more details.

Smoketown’s creative beer names incorporate historical and local references. “The Patsy New England IPA” is for country star Patsy Cline who performed in the events space upstairs and at the Brunswick Lions Club, now the Brunswick Heritage Museum. “Berlin Brown Ale” references one of Brunswick’s former names. “Lockhouse 28 Imperial Stout” is for the Lockhouse a few miles east on the towpath. Finally, “Walter’s Spirit Porter” is named after a man who used to work in the fire hall. Staff and guests report having seen his ghost.

Smoketown Brewing Station

Harpers Ferry Brewing – Purcellville, VA (Mile 60)

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This brewery is technically in Purcellville, VA, but it is only a 5-to-10-minute drive from lower town Harpers Ferry. Harpers Ferry Brewing opened in 2018 and is family and dog friendly. During the summer, enjoy “The Needle”, named after a rapid on the Potomac River while you enjoy an amazing view and watch the rafters and tubers float down the Potomac River. Harpers Ferry Brewing often hosts live music, bingo nights, and food trucks. Check their Facebook page for more details.

Bavarian Brothers Brewing – Shepherdstown, WV (Mile 72)

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Bavarian Brothers Brewing opened in 2019 as part of the Bavarian Inn, a European boutique resort operating in Shepherdstown since 1977. Relax in their brewpub, brew lounge, or outdoor beer garden all overlooking the Potomac River. Enjoy an Appalachia Ale or a Sozial,Session Ale, the German word for socialize. You can also order meals and small bites.

“On Tap” by: Bavarian Brothers Brewing

Cushwa Brewing Company – Williamsport, MD (Mile 99)

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Opened in 2016, Cushwa Brewing Co. is a family- and dog-friendly brewery. They rotate food trucks weekly and host trivia, yoga, painting, and succulent planting events. Check their Facebook page for more details. Cushwa sells small bites, cans, and growlers to go. Their signature beer is the Cush, a fruity IPA. The Big Cush and the Cush with Wakatu are variations on the original.

Cushwa Brewing is named after the Cushwa Basin in Williamsport. The Cushwa Basin was a turning basin where boats could turn around. You can even see a canal boat in their logo and as part of the brewery’s décor.

“Cushwa” by: Cushwa Brewing Company

1812 Brewery – Cumberland (Mile 184.5)

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1812 Brewery is the first brewery in Allegany County, opened in 2017. It is located on Mason Road and is a 12-minute drive from the towpath in Cumberland. 1812 is a farm brewery located on 190 acres in a repurposed barn built in 1812. It has a taproom and outdoor patio, where dogs are allowed. They are family-friendly and offer light snacks and growlers.

They host live music, a craft and flea market, and private events. Check their Facebook page for more details. Some of their beers are historically named, including “Maddy’s Golden Ale” and “Monroe’s Ale” for Presidents James Madison and James Monroe, and “Ambush IPA” in reference to the Civil War history in the region.

1812 Brewery from above by: 1812 Brewery

“Flight by the fire” by: 1812 Brewery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next time you’re enjoying the C&O Canal top off your visit with a locally brewed beer.

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Brunswick, Harpers Ferry, Shepherdstown, and Williamsport are Canal Towns. Learn more about the Canal Towns Partnership here.

Places for History Buffs Not to Miss
Georgetown from the Canal

Georgetown from the Canal by Tim Walters

Most people think of the C&O Canal as a place for outdoor recreation, but the park is designated as a national historical park because of its rich history. The canal’s history is multi-faceted—from its use as a transportation route with over 1,000 historic structures to its strategic location along the Potomac during the American Civil War and beyond. Today it’s not only a great place to enjoy the outdoors, but it’s a treasure trove for history enthusiasts. You can explore by region: East | Central | West (more…)

Remote Places Along the C&O Canal to Explore While Socially Distancing

Towpath near Shepherdstown by Alma Rebekah Hanna

During this stressful time of social distancing and isolation, it is critically important you take care of your physical and mental health. Fortunately, the C&O Canal National Historical Park can offer you fresh air, relaxation, and a break from the news coverage. The western section of the C&O Canal offers many remote points of interest that are less frequently visited than popular eastern hubs such as Great Falls. Consider visiting some of these western gems along the canal for a stroll or a bike ride along the towpath — but make sure you are following all social distancing guidelines. If you have kids, take our C&O Canal Scavenger Hunt with you!

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Exploring New Routes – On and Off the Towpath
One of my favorite things about the resurfaced towpath is how easy it is to go from biking on the towpath to biking on the road. Before the resurfacing, I would never bring a road bike on the towpath, and even a gravel bike would be uncomfortable. So I would have to choose between a road ride and a towpath ride. Now I don’t have to choose. The resurfaced towpath opens up a whole new set of routes that combine the quiet nature of the towpath with nearby state parks, battlefields, and towns. Learn more about towpath resurfacing here.

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African American Heritage Sites Along the C&O Canal
The C&O Canal is a great place to experience history! Visitors can learn about the construction of the canal in the mid-nineteenth century, the fierce competition between the C&O Canal and the B&O Railroad, and even experience life as a lock keeper with an overnight stay in a historic lockhouse through the Canal Quarters Program. But the C&O Canal is also a great place to learn about African American history in the region. There are many historic churches, communities, and heritage sites along the canal that preserve the African American experience in the 19th and 20th centuries.  (more…)

Nature in January on the Canal
January can be such a quiet month. The bustle of the holidays are over, and people are returning to a normal rhythm at work. Things can be similarly quiet within the C&O Canal National Historical Park. With the cooler temperatures and shorter days, fewer people are venturing out to explore. But there is still so much to see in the Park in January. If you have a chance, go for a hike on the towpath and see what you can find while the world is quieter.

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Our Most Popular Blog Posts of 2019
A lot happened in 2019 and that meant a lot of blog posts! Here is the round up of the 10 most popular blogs of the past year. (more…)

5 Things to Do on the C&O Canal in the Winter
To some of us, winter is a time to stay indoors by the fire. But why would you stay indoors when the C&O Canal National Historical Park offers some of the most scenic areas to explore during the winter months? So put on some warm clothes and come experience the C&O Canal as a winter wonderland!

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How to Spend Autumn on the C&O Canal

The air is crisp and cool, and pumpkin spice is on every menu – fall is here! We are particularly partial to autumn along the C&O Canal, and we have assembled a list of things you can do to enjoy the season:

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Towpath Resurfacing Has Begun!

If you’re planning on heading out to hike or bike along the towpath in the next couple of weeks, you might want to try out the five-mile section between Edwards Ferry and Whites Ferry (Mile 30.8 – Mile 35.5). This is the first stretch of the towpath to undergo a complete “makeover” as part of the Park’s multiyear, 80-mile towpath resurfacing project. The towpath has been graded to facilitate water drainage, and resurfaced with the same durable material that bikers enjoy on the Great Allegheny Passage (Trail) from Pittsburgh to Cumberland. (more…)

In Winter There is Beauty to Be Found Along the C&O Canal

The C&O Canal National Historical Park has much to offer during the winter months to park visitors who enjoy the colder temperatures. Snow on the ground provides the opportunity for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing and offers a beautiful backdrop for hiking, dog walking, bird watching, and photography. Frigid temperatures usually find folks taking to the ice for a solitary skate or a pickup game of ice hockey. Enjoy winter photos of the C&O Canal National Park, courtesy of our monthly Facebook photo contest entrants. (more…)

Need Last Minute Gift Ideas? The C&O Trust Can Help!

Life can be hectic, especially during the holidays. If you’re still searching for last-minute gift ideas for that special someone, we can help. We’ve compiled a list of affordable items sure to please everyone. (more…)

Need Last Minute Gift Ideas? The C&O Trust Can Help!

Life can be hectic, especially during the holidays. If you’re still searching for last-minute gift ideas for that special someone, we can help. We’ve compiled a list of affordable items sure to please everyone. (more…)

Winter Events & Programs at C&O Canal National Historical Park

Winter is a wonderful time to experience the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park (C&O Canal) on your own, with a friend, or by attending a special event or ranger program. The park is open daily and visitors are welcome to join rangers for the following fun and exciting activities, December through February. (more…)

Enjoy Canal Town Shepherdstown during Theatre Festival July 7-30

Interested in a wild and wonderful combo of cutting-edge theater, outdoor adventure, and sight-seeing?  If so, visit Shepherdstown, West Virginia in July! (more…)

C&O Canal Town Events in 2017

The Canal Towns that border the C&O Canal  National Historical Park are home to some of the area’s most unique and exciting annual events. If you haven’t attended these shindigs in the past, make sure to add them to your calendar this year! (more…)

Join us for our Canal Pride events this spring!

We are looking for volunteers to help us in the Park during our 10th annual Canal Pride events, the largest volunteer events in the C&O Canal National Historical Park each year! We hope you will make plans to join us to help spruce up the Park for the upcoming season. (more…)

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C&O Canal Explorer Mobile App

The C&O Canal Trust is proud to release its new C&O Canal Explorer app to help you explore all 184.5 miles of the C&O Canal National Historical Park. Android and Apple versions are available.

Learn more and download the C&O Canal Explorer Mobile App here!