C&O Canal National Historical Park & Towpath
The C&O Canal Experience
The C&O Canal National Historical Park was the 10th most visited national park in the US in 2021 and preserves and interprets the 19th-century transportation canal from Washington, DC, to Cumberland, MD, and its associated scenic, natural, and cultural resources.
184.5 Miles of Adventure
From Georgetown to Cumberland, MD, the C&O Canal is full of history and adventure. With 48 miles of the C&O Canal located in Allegany County, the Mountain Side of Maryland, you will find unique opportunities to learn about the history of the canal, embark on journeys through our parks, forests, and the Potomac River, and delight in the food and culture in our trail towns of Frostburg and Cumberland.
Beginning in the early 1800s, Allegany County served as a vital hub for the coal and other industries as well as the staging and outfitting point for westward migration. Where the C&O Canal, the Western Potomac, major roads, and railroads converged, the western region of America connected to the eastern seaboard. The very first portion of the National Road, the first federally funded highway that stretched through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, began construction here in 1811 and eventually became known as "The Road that Built a Nation." At the same time, a budding railway system began to take shape here in the very nascent days of canal and railroad transportation. The story of this area's role in the history of the railroad is legendary, if still somewhat unknown. Explore these areas for historical context, full museum exhibits, canal boat replicas, engineering feats, and so much more.
For Outdoor Adventure
The C&O Canal's 12-foot wide, nearly-level path was built for mules to pull the canal boats along the 184.5-mile canal from Cumberland, MD, to Georgetown. Today, the path is an internationally recognized recreation biking and hiking trail, maintained by the National Park Service. Outfit yourself with a bike rental or bring your own to experience the natural beauty and history of the trail.
For Food and Culture
Cumberland and Frostburg are both official trail towns on the Great Allegheny Passage Trail and the C&O Canal Towpath, full of unique and charming shops and eateries. Both towns are state-designated Arts and Entertainment and Main Street districts and both share roots in the Passages of the Western Potomac Heritage Area transportation story. Delight in architectural beauty, small-town charm, and vibrant scenes. Be sure to take the self-guided walking tours while you visit.