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Biking on the C&O Towpath from Rileys Lock to Great Falls

Spring is a good time for a relaxed bike ride along the C&O Canal towpath, and Rileys Lock is a great place to start and finish the ride with a fun picnic. Our SHR group has done this ride for the past three years and always enjoyed it. 

This section of the towpath going towards Great Falls is not crowded and has many beautiful views of the Potomac River. The trail is flat and suitable for riders of all levels, with a surface of packed dirt and gravel. A hybrid or mountain bike with good tires is best for riding the trail. Bikes with skinny tires are NOT recommended.

We'll meet up in the parking area at the end of the Seneca Park entrance road next to the C&O towpath. The round trip to Great Falls is 18 miles, and takes approximately three hours with breaks. You can view the most active area of the Potomac River falls from an observation platform at Great Falls Park.

There is plenty of free parking at Rileys Lock which adjoins Seneca Creek Park, and toilet facilities are available at Great Falls Park and at porta-potties along the way.  This is an up and back ride, so any stragglers can rejoin the group on our return trip.

Helmets are required for all riders

Afterwards, we'll have a BYO picnic at Rileys Lock which has tables and nice views of the river, so bring some refreshing food and drink to socialize outdoors. We don't tell people what to bring, but SHR is an imaginative group of foodies and beverage aficionados who always produce a tasty picnic that we all share and enjoy.

You can leave your picnic things in your car while we ride. No need to worry about carrying them. Be sure to bring a folding chair.

The C&O Canal towpath is a public park that prohibits alcohol, so please be discreet with any of your beverages which might violate that policy. We haven't had any problems yet. Let's keep it that way!

Directions and Final Details

From I-495, take the River Rd. exit towards Potomac and keep going for several miles past Potomac until you reach the T-intersection with Seneca Rd. Turn left and keep going on River Rd. another few miles until you see a sign for "Seneca" just before a small road bridge. Turn left there onto Rileys Lock Rd. and follow it to the parking area at the end.

We'll need decent biking weather for this event. A little rain and messy weather won't stop us, but our SHR group will not ride in miserable conditions. I'll post an update here by 10:00 am Saturday morning if we need to cancel or change our plan. 

Call Jake at[masked] to find us. I can't always answer my phone at events, but you can try.

I hope to see you there!


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  • A former member
    A former member

    great group of people, great ride

    April 29, 2014

  • Bobbe

    Such a relaxing & scenic bike ride.....a perfect way to bring in Spring! Our mid stop at the falls overlook was simply breathtaking! Enjoying a yummy picnic with awesome music and fun peeps was the perfect ending....all smiles!! THANK YOU Rev JAKE!

    April 27, 2014

  • Gail T

    I love biking this gorgeous towpath. Always nice to see old friends and meet new ones! Thanks Jake!

    April 27, 2014

  • Lisa F

    Looks like you guys had a really good time. I'm sorry I missed it.

    April 27, 2014

  • Peggy

    A fantastic day ! A beautiful trail for riding. It was good to see friends and meet new people The picnic was a perfect ending to the first ride of the season!
    Thanks Jake !

    April 27, 2014

  • Amy

    Fantastic day! Beautiful spring day, great people and yummy food. Thanks jake!

    1 · April 27, 2014

  • Rachael R.

    Wonderful time, each year it gets better, thanks Jake for organizing a great bike ride and a beautiful place to picnic afterwards. hard to believe this was my fourth year doing this ride with you.

    April 26, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    This is going to sound strange, but I am bringing my shower and cover-up tent, so if anyone wants to get clean and change, they can.

    1 · April 26, 2014

  • Gloria

    Absolutely beautiful day! Gorgeous spring weather, fantastic folks and one of the most interesting and pretty bike rides around. Jake, thanks so much for trekking all the way from Annapolis to get us out on the trail! Thanks to everyone for bringing all the great food. Another fantastic SHR picnic! YAY!

    April 26, 2014

  • Deletta

    Great weather, food, people!! I was pleased that I biked 18 miles....the scenery and the companionship made it easier. Looking forward to seeing folks at the Kinetic Sculpture Race biking event. Thanks to Rev. Jake and his devoted flock for making all this fun possible.

    1 · April 26, 2014

  • Jake

    Excellent spring weather and a great group of old friends and new folks. My first ride of the year worked to get me outside. The picnic was awesome as usual. Thanks to all who attended.

    April 26, 2014

  • HelenB

    Jake, it was worth the wait! :)

    April 26, 2014

  • Cindy

    Jake, thanks so much for a beautiful day and bike ride from Riley's Lock. Winter's finally over! It was great meeting some new people and catching up with everyone.

    April 26, 2014

  • Tatyana

    Sorry, I was busy to join the trip. Have fun, bikers!

    April 26, 2014

  • Peggy

    Sorry I couldn't let you know sooner that I can make tis ride. Was not in a place that I could email. Hope you enjoyed and thanks as always Jake for setting this up.

    April 26, 2014

  • Lisa F

    You guys have fun, wish I were going too. I'm going to get a bike and join you next time hopefully. Ride safe. :-)

    April 26, 2014

  • Joann

    Unfortunately can't make it today. Hope to join you next time. Have fun !!

    April 26, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Apologies for the late notice but I unfortunately won't be able to make this event today - hopefully I can get out to the bike ride on the NCR trail if/when that comes up. Hope all have a great time today.

    April 26, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Sorry I can't make this. I hope to do it soon

    April 26, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Sorry, I will have to miss this meet up :(

    April 25, 2014

  • John C

    Sorry. In New Haven and will have to miss this one.

    April 25, 2014

  • Ron

    Will miss the pedal but will be there for the picnic & pour.

    April 25, 2014

  • Cindy G.

    Wow really wish I could make this event have wanted to hike or walk on C & O for a long time but I have a Relay for Life fundraiser. Look forward to seeing you all again very soon! Maybe in St Mary's County!

    April 25, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Leaving from Ashburn at noon if anyone needs a ride? I have room for two more bikes.

    April 25, 2014

  • Jane B.

    Is any one interested in walking this trail instead of biking? I am planning on walking. If interested, please let us know.

    April 24, 2014

  • Peggy

    Miss this

    April 24, 2014

  • Dottie S.

    I am sick that I have to miss this!

    April 24, 2014

  • Gail d

    Sorry Jake, I goofed my dates and I have to be at a Christening on Saturday. :-(

    April 22, 2014

  • Lisa F

    Hey guys, my mom will be in town so I will be entertaining her that weekend. Plus I need to buy a bike, now that I see this is a popular activity here. :-)

    April 16, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Can skinny road bike tires ride on this path?

    April 5, 2014

    • Jake

      Skinny tires are possible, but it will be a bumpy ride.

      April 6, 2014

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