Welcome to the Meetup group for the activities of the C&O Canal Association. We sponsor hikes, canoe trips and bike rides along the 184-mile-long towpath between Georgetown and Cumberland. Our events are open to the public.
C&O Canal Association is an all-volunteer citizens organization established in 1954 to help conserve of the natural and historical environment of the C&O Canal and the Potomac River Basin. The association works with the National Park Service in its efforts to preserve and promote the canal.
Our goal is to provide outings that are recreational and informative, as well as challenging and topical. Please read on and plan to join us.
From January to December, monthly hikes are offered on different sections of the towpath. The routes are selected based on scenic or historical interest. The year begins with a New Year’s Day hike in Cumberland and ends with a frostbite hike in Georgetown. Our guides go to places you might not discover on your own. (Photo: Hikers at Mather Gorge)
The Association offers a wide variety of programs for those who enjoy slowing down and observing the flora and fauna along the Canal Towpath. In the spring we focus on wild flowers; in the summer we explore colonies of dragonflies; and bird and tree identification walks are scheduled at various times during the year.
Starting in the spring and continuing through the summer, we offer paddle trips on the Potomac River. Typically these are day trips, but in August, when the river is placid and the weather is warm, we run our annual overnight trip in the Paw Paw Bends area. The trip traditionally ends at a towpath icon, Bill’s Place in Little Orleans.
Douglas and Heritage Hikes
C&O Canal Association runs two different day-long activities that include a hike, dinner, and a program.
The format is the same for both events. The day begins at a designated location where participants meet a bus that stops at three different drop off points along the towpath. Participants choose where to be dropped off depending on how far they want to walk to return to their cars. Once back at their cars, people can take time to explore the local area before joining the group for dinner at a nearby location. A program follows dinner.
The Douglas Hike takes place in the spring to commemorate the walk led by Justice William O. Douglas in 1954. At that time public opinion was in favor of converting the towpath into a scenic road similar to George Washington Parkway. In order to prevent the obliteration of the towpath, Justice Douglas led a multi-day hike for journalists and politicians. The goal of the hike was to impress people with the natural beauty of the canal and the importance of preserving it for those who need a respite from the urban environment. The Douglas Hike marks the success of Justice Douglas’ efforts.
A similar hike, the Heritage Hike, takes place in the fall as a reminder of the perseverance of those who have worked to preserve the canal.
Through Hike from Cumberland to Georgetown
Every five years the Association sponsors a two-week event that features a daily hike, all meals, evening programs and great camaraderie. The hike is a re-creation of Justice Douglas’ 1954 hike from Cumberland to milepost zero in Georgetown. Participants have a choice of camping at the hiker/biker campsites or staying at country hotels. The moderate fee for the event includes logistic arrangements, all meals, and provision for the safety of the group. The next through hike is scheduled for April 2014. (Photo: Thru hikers in 2004.)