Horseback Riding

Equestrian damage to a new section of towpath.
Damage to towpath from horses using a new section of towpath.

NPS Photo

Equestrian Traffic Temporarily Prohibited between Paw Paw Tunnel (mile 156) and Spring Gap (mile 173)

Visitors who are horseback riding in the park may see temporary closures due to towpath resurfacing. The towpath will be re-opened to equestrian traffic 30 days after towpath resurfacing work has been completed. The reason for the 30-day closure is to allow the new material on the towpath time to settle before exposure to heavy weight.

There is currently an active resurfacing project taking place. Horses are prohibited between Paw Paw Tunnel (mile 156) and Spring Gap (mile 173) due to recent and ongoing towpath resurfacing.

Horseback riders should plan ahead before visiting these sections of the park.

To read more about the resurfacing project, please visit our Towpath Resurfacing Project page.

Man riding a horse on the C&O Canal towpath.
A man rides a horse along the C&O Canal towpath. Horses and mules can be ridden on 160 out of 184.5 miles of towpath.

NPS Photo

Horseback Riding on the C&O Canal

Horseback riding is a unique way to enjoy the canal. Horses are not rented along the canal but there are opportunities for horse owners to enjoy the park.

For the most up to date regulations on group overnight rides, please consult the Superintendent's Compendium. Section 2.16 specfically addresses Horses in the Park

Please follow these regulations:

  1. 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.
  2. Riders may not exceed the speed of a slow trot.
  3. Riders must dismount and walk their horses across aqueducts. Horses may not cross wooden footbridges, which are not designed to carry their weight.
  4. 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 to horses on the towpath. Access from private property is prohibited. Horses are not allowed in drive-in and walk-in campgrounds or picnic areas. 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.

Last updated: February 28, 2024

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