Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park Guide

Home to the historical remains of America’s most vibrant canal era, enchanting landscape, and variety of wildlife, Chesapeake Ohio Canal Historical National Historical Park is a splurge-worthy indulgence. 

In this guide, we’ll share the things to do in Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, its best time to visit, the best time to visit, etc. Let’s get started!



ParkChesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park
Things to doKayaking, Bike ride and many more
Hotels near Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical ParkBrigadoon, Avalon Resort and many more
Entry Fee$10-$20
Camping LocationTwo Locations

Where Is Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park?

The park stretches 184.5 miles from West Virginia to Washington D.C along the path of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. You can reach Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park by road, or you can take the train from Western Maryland Railway station.

About Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park

Chesapeake Ohio Canal National Park is not one of those parks you happen to stumble upon casually; you have to work hard to make it happen.

This Park is of the unique parks created to protect America’s early transportation history.  

The park protects the neglected remains of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal and hundreds of its original structures. 

Lock houses, blocks, and channels of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal commemorate the canal’s role as a transportation system.

Every year millions of visitors come to C&O Canal National Historical Park to hike through the remarkable scenery of the Potomac River Valley, discover historical treasures, and enjoy cultural and recreational activities. 

Read: Gros Morne National Park 

Read: Dry Tortugas National Park

History Of Chesapeake Ohio Canal

The construction of the Chesapeake Ohio Canal began on July 4, 1828, and was completed on October 10, 1850.

The length of the canal was 184.5 miles long, with 6 feet of depth. For more than 100 years, Chesapeake Ohio Canal Park served as a lifeline for communities along the Potomac River.

The coal, lumber, and agricultural products floated from western Maryland to the port of Georgetown in Washington D.C.  

In 1924, the canal was abandoned due to severe floods that devastated the canal’s condition.

The government acquired the canal and adjacent 12,000 acres of land from the B&O Railroad, and the government decided to restore it as a recreation activity IN 1938.  

In 1961, the canal was turned into a national monument by President Dwight Eisenhower.

Finally, a decade later, in 1971, this Park was established under the Chesapeake Ohio Canal National Historical Park Act. 

Today, the park serves as a pathway to learn the role of this magnificent highway in the growth and development of the country, and several organizations are working to conserve and restore the natural and historical environment of the park. 

Things To Do

C&O Canal National Historical Park offers a plethora of recreational activities and wildlife viewing opportunities. Here are some best things the park has to offer: 

Visit The Great Falls

The Great Falls are of C&O historical national park and are one of the park’s major attractions.

A short trail takes visitors to a series of waterfalls located just about a 10-minute walk from the visitor center.

The scenic views of the waterfalls are visible from both Maryland and Virginia sides.

Several overlooks allow visitors to enjoy the breathtaking views of waterfalls and the Potomac River.

Besides mesmerizing views, visitors can enjoy tons of other outdoor activities, including kayaking, rock climbing, and whitewater rafting. 

Hike The Billy Goat Trail 

There are several hiking trails in the park, but Billy Goat Trail offers the best hiking experience in the entire park.

This 4.7-mile trail follows the C&O and the Potomac River and offers some of the best scenic views.

The trail divides into three separate sections, all of which start and finish on the C&O Canal.

Section A is the most strenuous hike; Section B is moderately challenging, while Section B is the easiest one, perfect for novice hikers. 

Read: Everglades National Park

Kayaking And Paddling

C&O Canal National Historical Park is also famous for kayaking, boating, and fishing. Potomac River is one of the most navigable waterways in the mid-Atlantic.

Visitors can paddle in canoes and kayaks, take a ranger-led boat tour, or adventure into the Potomac River using the Park’s boat ramps.

Besides, visitors can also watch eagles soaring above the river and spot many birds who call the park their home. 

Take A Bike Ride

The Park is home to 184.5 miles of towpath that runs parallel along the northern banks of Potomac River and creates one of the longest biking trails in the continental U.S.

Biking is only allowed on the designated trails, including canal towpath, Capital Crescent Trail, Western Maryland Rail Trail, and Burma Road.

However, towpath trails can get muddy and slippery after heavy rain, so bikers must wear helmets and carry repairing tools with them. 

Best time To Visit

Even though C&O Canal National Historical Park is considered a year-round destination, the best time to visit the park is Spring and winter when the weather is pleasant, and hikers can enjoy stunning views of blooming wildflowers along the trails.

From May to June and from September to Mid-November are the ideal times to get the park’s best experience. 

Map Of Chesapeake Ohio Canal Historical National Park

Before exploring the 184.5 miles of the Park, make sure to download the map or their explorer mobile app because it allows you to find the points of interest, hiking trails, historical sites, and campgrounds with ease and navigate the park with minimal effort.

Hotels Near Chesapeake Ohio Canal National Historical Park

This Park has seven historic lock houses that are fully furnished and equipped with all amenities.

But if you’re looking for a hotel near the park, here are some best accommodations you can choose from:

  • Avalon Resort
  • Brigadoon 
  • Almost Heaven
  • Autumn Wings 
  • Healing House

Camping Locations

To enjoy the tranquility of the C&O at night, there are two different types of campsites in the park:

Hiker Biker Overnight Campsites and Drive-In Campgrounds. All campsites feature a chemical toilet, water, picnic tables, and a fire grill.

But, there are no RV hookups in the park. The overnight campsites are available for free on a first-come, first-served basis, while Drive-in Campground requires a reservation

Read: Hot Springs National Park 

Read: Joshua Tree National Park – Everything You Need To Know

Weather Of Canal Historical National Park 

The Mid-Atlantic climate influences the Park’s weather. Summers are warm and humid, while winters are cold and snowy.

The climate gets cooler with the elevation, so don’t forget to bring warm clothes with you.

Also, July is the hottest, and January is the coldest month of the year so avoid visiting the park during these months.

And make sure to check out the current weather of the park before planning a trip.

Entry Fee & Passes

The entrance fee of the Park is $20 per vehicle, $15 per motorcycle, and $10 for those walking or cycling to the park.

And you can also buy the Annual Pass available for $35 and get free access to the park for one entire year. Entry passes can be purchased online or at the park’s entrance.  

Checklist Of things To Pack 

We have shared an essential list of items below that you must have while visiting the Park: 

  • Small bag pack 
  • Mix clothes 
  • Swimming suit
  • Sleeping bag
  • Comfortable Hiking Shoes
  • Sunglasses & Sunblock 
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Binoculars
  • A dry bag
  • Water bottles and protein bars
  • Flashlight/ headlamp 
  • Firestarter
  • Bear & bug Spray
  • Medical kit 
  • Map 


Who built the C&O Canal?

More than 100 slaves built the canal during humid and hot summers and harsh cold winters. 

How many days do I need in Chesapeake Ohio Canal National Historical Park?

We’d recommend spending at least 1-2 days to experience all the highlights of the park, water, and hiking adventures and spend a night under the stars. 

Are there bears in Chesapeake Ohio Canal National Historical Park?

Yes, there have been reports of bear sightings in the western portion of the towpath, where the bears often migrate to the river and canal in search of water.

NPC Overall Rating

Leave a Comment