Originally built to move goods from Washington DC to the west, the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal is now a hub of recreational activity, with hiking, biking, bird watching, horse-back riding and more. Williamsport, MD is its geographical center, and visitors here can experience the Canal first-hand with ranger-led boat rides and towpath tours. Stay at a Lock House to experience life as it was “back in the day” and scarf up a healthy lunch at Desert Rose Cafe while there. In Hancock, MD, visitors can pick up the Rail Trail, a paved portion that runs alongside the towpath, to Fort Frederick State Park. But first, grab some pie at Weaver’s Restaurant or the Blue Goose Fruit Market & Bakery!
236 miles – Allow 4 hours to drive the byway
Workers who toiled on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal between 1828 and 1859 could not have imagined that their engineering feat – designed for the sole purpose of speeding up commercial trade – would one day become a hub of outdoor recreational activity. Hiking, biking, bird watching and mule-drawn barge rides are among the many popular pursuits now enjoyed beside this peaceful passage.
During its century of service, the canal worked with a system of 74 lift locks that regulated water levels, allowing boats laden with coal, flour, lumber, grain and produce to be pulled by mule trams walking on an adjacent towpath. Their 184.5-mile journey stretched from the mountains of Western Maryland, through farmland and forest, to the tidewater outskirts of our nation’s capital. Your journey follows this same course, allowing you to make heritage discoveries along each new mile.