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View Full Version : Has anyone ever ridden any of the C & O Canal Towpath?



tabula rashah
May. 13, 2010, 12:10 PM
Just what the title says... Has anyone ever ridden any of the C&O Canal Towpath? Experiences? Did you camp or just do a day ride? Where did you park? How busy was it?
TIA!

baldfaceboyz
May. 13, 2010, 10:51 PM
I have ridden a good portion of the C+O leaving from a public parking lot in the town of Hancock, MD behind the bike rental place and weekly junk auction house. The path is completely flat, slightly gravelly, nice views of the river, neat old bridges and lock foundations. Some bike traffic, few other horses, some dog walkers and hikers but relatively quiet. A teensy bit boring IMO, no hills or changes in scenery, but fun to gallop along for long stretches on and super conditioning for LD riders. My favorite part was finishing a long ride, tucking the horses into the trailer w/ hay and h20, climbing steps up to the street level and walking right into restaurant and bar choices !

chicamuxen1
May. 14, 2010, 08:00 AM
Found it a bit boring. Your horse must be able to deal with bikes, strollers, etc although the section from Brunswick towards Harpers Ferry is quieter than closer to D.C. locations. We parked at the huge parking lots for the train users in Brunswick, MD. It's a really big lot, trailers are allowed and you simply cross the tracks to reach the tow path. a pretty short drive down 340 from I70 at Frederick, MD. This was a LOMH ride that i attended. We rode the tow path to Harpers Ferry and a few of us stayed with the horses while others walked across the pedestrian bridge into Harpers Ferry to get lunch sandwiches for the rest of us.

I left the other slower riders on the way back and zoomed along the trail behind a bike rider. I think I spooked him as my horse was determined to catch him. Every time we got close I'd pull over and have my horse graze, then we would chase him again (horse's concept, not mine). Poor man finally pulled over and glared at us as we passed! if my horse can't fin horse campany he'll follow bikes, ATVs, anything moving.

Bonnie

tabula rashah
May. 14, 2010, 09:05 AM
Thanks guys!
I think it sounds like a good ride for my DH to come along- plus we're both interested in the history aspect of it :)

baylady7
May. 17, 2010, 02:39 PM
Just had a TROT ride there on Saturday. The footing is firm- I would not recommend going faster than a walk where I was riding- it is hard on your horse (the group I was with kept on trotting on the hard ground- grrr- my guy got set up that night and soaked). The bikers and hikers were all nice enough- wish more horse people were cheery to them (enthusiasm can ve infectious)- just tell the good afternoon, enjoy your ride!!! Defintely a place you can ride when it is too wet elsewhere. I took pics and submitted them to TROT for their website and newsletter.

tpup
May. 17, 2010, 06:06 PM
I was curious how narrow the trail is? Can you ride side by side or is it tight? PA canal paths are really narrow. I've never seen a horse on the ones near where we used to live.

Has anyone gotten on near Point of Rocks/blue bridge area?

Trakehner
May. 17, 2010, 08:31 PM
I used to ride the Canal from Swaine's Boathouse (the most southern part of the canal you can take horses on) and up to Point of Rocks.

The canal towpath is usually 6' wide or so, and yep, you can ride side by side with no problem. Some areas are very people intensive...kayaks, fishermen, bikers, stroller and joggers. Most of the bikers are nice (not road racer types)...a few jerks but that's everywhere.

The footing is mostly packed clay and bluestone...once you get away from the parking lots you've got grass in the center of the towpath so the footing is pretty good.

Sometimes the best places to ride are just parking at a big lot and hacking from there. You've got decent parking at Point of Rocks & White's Ferry...anywhere else stop by to take a look first.

It's a fun thing to ride on, just make sure your horse has been exposed to potential drama items.

jazzrider
May. 18, 2010, 02:44 PM
We ride out of Dargan's Bend (milepost 64.89), just north/west of Harpers Ferry -- it has a boat ramp and boat trailer parking so is ok for horse trailers (we were told horse trailers can only park at large parking lots like Brunswick or boat ramp parking). If you ride northwest from there, you can virtually be alone on the canal, and it's the part where the train tracks don't run parallel.

We started there because we weren't sure how our horses would do with passing bikes on the narrow trail or deal with the sound of the trains. We liked it so much we tend to go there over Brunswick, which is only 10 minutes from our house.

Beward the trailer clearance under the overpass at Sandy Hook though. We take the long way around, to avoid Sandy Hook because we have an extra tall trailer.

I agree it can be boring, but it's great for conditioning, or riding in winter when all the other trails are muddy.

tabula rashah
May. 18, 2010, 03:27 PM
Thanks everyone! If anyone is going in the near (or not so near) future and wouldn't mind me tagging along- Please let me know :)

callidorre
May. 18, 2010, 05:25 PM
I haven't ridden on the C and O Canal yet. I was just curious as to where you park at at Point of Rocks. I'd be coming down from Gettysburg and that looks like one of the closer and easier spots to park for me.

Bank of Dad
May. 18, 2010, 09:48 PM
Jazz, can you post the actual directions to your parking spot, including the way around Sandy Hook?

Trakehner
May. 18, 2010, 10:04 PM
I haven't ridden on the C and O Canal yet. I was just curious as to where you park at at Point of Rocks. I'd be coming down from Gettysburg and that looks like one of the closer and easier spots to park for me.

The Point of Rocks commuter train parking lot, empty on the weekends and you miss a lot of the bikers/hikers, they're further south.

Calamber
May. 19, 2010, 01:01 AM
I have ridden the C & O Canal, from Purcellville to Leesburg, it gets a bit too congested around Leesburg but I still loved the ride. You have to go on a bridge over Route 7 so be sure horse will accept a concrete bridge with wire on the sides, it is dedicated to only walkers/bikers/horses so not part of the road.

I have also ridden the stretch that Jazz spoke about which is really lovely, you can either go back toward Harper's Ferry, or go the NW like Jazz said which is quieter, you just have to keep an eye out for mountain bikers. The trail towards Harpers Ferry does not run parallel to the train, you go under the tracks as the train comes out of the mountain. It is very beautiful and you can hear the train coming a long way away so can just avoid it. It parallels the tracks on the other side of the Shenandoah in Maryland though.

I only went by way of Sandy Hook and did it with a Dodge Ram and two horse bumper pull with no problems, you just have to go slow and be sure you have no oncoming traffic at the difficult spot and watch out through the little town cuz folks like to walk in the road. It will be obvious with the difficult spot because there is a dip and a turn and oncoming is clearly visible. Not sure how to go the other way, I would have to consult a map.

Oh, and the trail is wide enough for two horses a great bit of the way.

Here is a link for the towpath with directions. Go to Frederick County section.

http://www.chohvip.org/storage/volunteer_forms/Towpath%20Guide.pdf

Trakehner
May. 19, 2010, 07:08 AM
I have ridden the C & O Canal, from Purcellville to Leesburg, it gets a bit too congested around Leesburg but I still loved the ride

Nope...you rode the Washington and Old Dominion Trail (W. & O. D.). This used to be a great rails to trails route...they even had the bluestone side trail for horses. The idiot housefrau's found it, soon they're walking 3 abreast, pushing strollers and couldn't care less about how they blocked the entire trail (they've shat out pink meatloafs after all, they're "speshul"). The W & OD attracts road bike riders, flying dangerously down the trails...another challenge. The dirt bike riders, tired of dealing with the blocking breeders are riding on the bluestone horse trails, making for another bit of fun.

C&O is a much much better horse trail. Although, we'd take the horses through the McDonalds drive-through in Purcelleville for some take-away, that was fun.

jazzrider
May. 19, 2010, 09:20 AM
Jazz, can you post the actual directions to your parking spot, including the way around Sandy Hook?

“The back way” directions to Dargan Bend from Route 340: We go north on Route 67 (Rohrersville Road) for about 7 miles, then a left on Trego Road, then another left onto Trego Mountain Road (5-ish miles). Trego Mountain Road turns into Chestnut Grove Road. Make a sharp right onto Harpers Ferry Road, then left onto Dargan School Road, then right onto Back Road. The parking is at the end of Back Road.

Yes, it really is a longer and round about way to get there, with narrow and winding roads. But we just don’t think we have the clearance to get under the Sandy Hook overpass with our Suburban and xwide, xtall, xlong trailer, and it would be a nightmare to get stuck there. We took the dogs there to walk to check out the drive, and find the “back way.” It might be worth it for you to do the same test run if you’re thinking about it…

We’re thinking of taking a drive to find the next decent parking area for trailers (towards Hancock) that isn't quite so off the beaten track, so if anyone has any suggestions…

Although really, we should just suck it up and brave the train, and ride out of Brunswick...:uhoh:

Everythingbutwings
May. 19, 2010, 09:49 AM
When I looked up the park rules, a year or so ago, I'm pretty sure they specified no faster than a trot.

Found it! Chesapeake and Ohio Canal - Horseback Riding (http://www.nps.gov/choh/planyourvisit/horsebackriding.htm) All you need to know to have a nice time. :)


Please follow these regulations:

Horseback riding is not allowed between Georgetown (mile 0) and Swains Lock (mile 16.6) or from Offutt Street (mile 181.8) to the canal terminus (mile 184.5). Horses are not allowed in the Paw Paw Tunnel. Riders must take the tunnel hill trail that goes over the tunnel instead.

Riders may not exceed the speed of a slow trot.

Riders must dismount and walk their horses across aqueducts. Horses may not cross wooden footbridges, which are not designed to carry their weight.

Trail riders are responsible for hauling manure away. No grazing is permitted in the park. Bring in feed for horses. Do not water, clean, or tether horses near park wells. Hikers and bikers must yield the right of way on the towpath to horses. Access from private property is prohibited. Horses are not allowed in drive-in campgrounds, picnic areas, or adjacent parking lots. Riders may camp at hiker-biker campgrounds but must tether horses at least 50 feet from the area's boundaries for sanitary and safety reasons. Owners must prevent horses from damaging trees or undergrowth.

Bank of Dad
May. 19, 2010, 11:01 PM
At Brunswick, first we had the volunteer fire department alarm go off. Then going under the Harpers Ferry Bridge filled with people coming and going. Finally, the train coming towards us, then later along side us, after we had dismounted at Brunswick and were letting the horses eat grass. I would have been dead dead dead with any of my previous greenies.

Calamber
May. 20, 2010, 12:52 AM
Nope...you rode the Washington and Old Dominion Trail (W. & O. D.). This used to be a great rails to trails route...they even had the bluestone side trail for horses. The idiot housefrau's found it, soon they're walking 3 abreast, pushing strollers and couldn't care less about how they blocked the entire trail (they've shat out pink meatloafs after all, they're "speshul"). The W & OD attracts road bike riders, flying dangerously down the trails...another challenge. The dirt bike riders, tired of dealing with the blocking breeders are riding on the bluestone horse trails, making for another bit of fun.

C&O is a much much better horse trail. Although, we'd take the horses through the McDonalds drive-through in Purcelleville for some take-away, that was fun.

Oops, you are right, I rode both but the Leesburg to Purcellville is the W & OD. Last time I rode the C & O trail, on the other side of Harpers Ferry was late 2006. I have not been on the Leesburg to Purcellville portion for longer than that, not surprised that the soccer moms have taken over. I almost had to jump one when we came around an obscured corner on the designated gravel horse path at a gallop and there was a woman with a baby in a stroller straddling the whole thing. That is why we left Loudoun County, or rather, were forced to leave, real estate taxes and everything but good sense went up and up like a hot air balloon We got out just before it popped, thank God.

Calamber
May. 20, 2010, 01:00 AM
I have ridden a good portion of the C+O leaving from a public parking lot in the town of Hancock, MD behind the bike rental place and weekly junk auction house. The path is completely flat, slightly gravelly, nice views of the river, neat old bridges and lock foundations. Some bike traffic, few other horses, some dog walkers and hikers but relatively quiet. A teensy bit boring IMO, no hills or changes in scenery, but fun to gallop along for long stretches on and super conditioning for LD riders. My favorite part was finishing a long ride, tucking the horses into the trailer w/ hay and h20, climbing steps up to the street level and walking right into restaurant and bar choices !

This sounds like a nice place to ride. If I come back I will have to try this section.

baylady7
Aug. 30, 2010, 12:32 PM
we revisted the C&O this weekend, this time riding from White's Ferry south. All (but one) of the bikers and hikers were friendly and conversant (the non-friendly one maybe did not know english?) and the horses behaved well. I did notice my guy was unhappy about the gravelly path and won't take him again in that section without hind boots (he has fronts). It was noticably cooler under the trees. There was a water pump at a picnic area, which we used to wet the sponge on a string I carry ( http://www.longridersgear.com/ ) and sponge the horses down. Overall a nice outing.