C&O Canal Hike 10
Great Falls Tavern to Whites Ferry
Above Great Falls the canal takes on more of a rural feel. Soon Swain's Lock comes into view. From downstream it appears as it did in the 1830s. Moving ahead, dramatic cliffs topped with cedars and a river filled with islands grace the route. To support the towpath a two mile long rock wall was built between Swain's and Pennyfield Lock. Eventually, the cliffs fall away and the canal climbs to Seneca Aqueduct. West of Seneca Creek the route changes character. The canal, mostly watered until now, is suddenly filled with large trees. The towpath narrows and gets rougher. From here to Cumberland, on most days you will see only a handful of people. Beautiful ruins dot the route, especially near the locks. Past Edwards Ferry turf farms and grazing lands are reminiscent of earlier times.
The trail emerges from the woods at White's Ferry. Nearly 100 ferries have operated on the Potomac over the last 175 years. Now there is only one, and even this fact surprises many people when they discover it. You have to ride it. If you're traveling by car, take a short trip to Leesburg. If by bike up from Washington, you can bike into Leesburg then head home on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail. If you're hiking, just ride to the other side and back.
Start: Great Falls Tavern
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Did You Know?
At over 15,000 acres, Prince William Forest Park protects the largest example of eastern Piedmont forest ecosystem (one of the most heavily altered ecosystems in North America) in the National Park System.