Biking the C&O Canal

A biker rides the towpath.

A biker rides the towpath. Photo by: Tim Rowland

Biking is one of the most popular activities in the C&O Canal National Historical Park. The main spine of the Park, called the towpath, runs the length of the Park for 184.5 miles. The entire towpath is open for bikers, from Georgetown in Washington D.C. to Cumberland, MD. You can continue your ride to Pittsburgh, PA, on the 150-mile GAP Trail, which connects to the C&O Canal towpath in Cumberland.

Rules for Towpath Bikers

  • Bike riding is permitted on the towpath, Western Maryland Rail Trail, Capital Crescent Trail, and Berma Road.
  • Biking is NOT permitted on hiking trails or off trail.
  • 15 MPH maximum speed limit on towpath
  • Ride single file
  • Stay to the right except when passing
  • Yield right of way to all pedestrians, horses and mules
  • Walk bikes over aqueducts
  • Sound devices (bell, horn, etc.) are recommended and should be sounded within 100′ of approaching others
  • Helmets are required in accordance with county ordinances. Children under 18 are required to wear helmets in Montgomery County, MD, and children under the age of 16 are required to wear helmets in other areas of the Park.
  • See this page for guidance on e-bikes.

The Resurfacing of the Towpath

A biker on the resurfaced towpath.

A biker on the resurfaced towpath. Photo by: Simon Barber

The towpath is in the process of being resurfaced, so you may find varying conditions in the Park. The resurfaced areas have been improved with with crushed limestone for a smooth ride suitable for any type of bike. The rest of the towpath varies in quality and may be very muddy after rain. A hybrid, gravel, or mountain bike is more suitable for these sections of the towpath.

Share on Social Media