Primitive Campsites

C&O Canal Guide by Milepost

NPS Photo

Want to spend a night under the stars at the C&O Canal? Then you've come to the right place! The C&O Canal is a 184.5 mile long linear park stretching between Washington, DC, and Cumberland, Maryland. It is about a 4 hour drive end to end.

The park offers two different types of campsites: Primitive Campsites for hikers and bikers, and Reservable Campgrounds for individuals and groups. There are no RV hookups in the park. Read more below to find out which type of campsite will work best for you.

Private accommodations are available in many canal towns or stay in a refurbished lockhouse operated by the C&O Canal Trust.

Download the Recreational Guide by Milepost (pdf).

Well Water

Well water is generally available in across the park from mid-April (around the 15th) to mid-November (around the 15th).

Starting in spring 2023, the well water in hiker-biker campsites will be signed non-potable. Water from wells at paid campgrounds will remain potable and safe for drinking, cooking, or washing.

To ensure that there is a more reliable water source for visitors in the park and due to testing and treatment requirements and current staffing levels, the park is only able to maintain potable water a targeted number of wells in fee campgrounds. Visitors will need to bring their own water supply or water sanitizing equipment to treat well water before use. The wells will remain in the hiker-biker campsites and, as long as visitors bring their own sanitization equipment, there will be a more reliable water source as handles will not be removed from these wells.

Drive-In Campgrounds: Well water within the drive-in campgrounds is potable and treated with iodine - do NOT drink if you have any iodine allergies or if you are on medication for an overactive thyroid. In general, well water is clean and able to be used without additional treatment. However, as a general precaution for wells located in a flood zone, you are advised to boil or treat the water before use for your own protection.

Hiker-Biker Campsites: Non-potable water is available in hiker-biker campsites. Please plan to filter, chemically treat, or boil the water before use for your own protection. The wells will remain in the hiker-biker campsites and, as long as visitors bring their own sanitization equipment, there will be a more reliable water source as handles will not be removed from these wells.

Visitor Centers, park buildings, and comfort stations are provided water by the nearby municipality and do not require drinking water sampling by the park. Please note that the Swains Lock campsite draws on the same municipal water as the Swains Lockhouse and will remain potable. 

Water availability is subject to change. Always bring plenty of water with you as a backup option. Please plan your trip accordingly.

Tent camping is available at all of our campsites.
Camping allows you to enjoy the tranquility of the C&O Canal at night. Pictured here is Indian Flats hiker biker campsite.

NPS Photo

Hiker-Biker Campsites

  • No fee; first-come, first-served; no reservations.
  • Stays limited to one night per site, per trip.
  • With the exception of Swains (Mile 16.6), all campsites are located anywhere from 1 to 5 miles from the nearest parking area. Use the Recreation Guide by Milepost above to determine the nearest parking area to your campsite of choice. Please plan accordingly.
  • All sites have: chemical toilet, picnic table, firepit, and non-potable well water.
  • Well water at hiker-biker campsites is non-potable. Water is not treated and not for drinking or cooking. If you use this water, you are advised to filter, chemically treat, or boil before use. Water is turned off from mid-November to mid-April each year.

  • Mile 16.6 Swains Lock
  • Mile 26.1 Horsepen Branch
  • Mile 30.5 Chisel Branch
  • Mile 34.4 Turtle Run
  • Mile 38.2 Marble Quarry
  • Mile 42.5 Indian Flats
  • Mile 47.6 Calico Rocks
  • Mile 50.3 Bald Eagle Island
  • Mile 62.9 Huckleberry Hill
  • Mile 75.2 Killiansburg Cave
  • Mile 79.2 Horseshoe Bend
  • Mile 82.7 Big Woods
  • Mile 90.9 Opequon Junction
  • Mile 95.2 Cumberland Valley
  • Mile 101.2 Jordan Junction
  • Mile 110 North Mountain
  • Mile 116 Licking Creek
  • Mile 120.6 Little Pool
  • Mile 126.4 White Rock
  • Mile 129.9 Leopards Mill
  • Mile 133.6 Cacapon Junction
  • Mile 139.2 Indigo Neck
  • Mile 144.5 Devils Alley
  • Mile 149.4 Stickpile Hill
  • Mile 154.1 Sorrel Ridge
  • Mile 156.9 Purslane Run
  • Mile 162.1 Town Creek
  • Mile 164.8 Potomac Forks
  • Mile 169.1 Pigmans Ferry
  • Mile 175.3 Irons Mountain
  • Mile 180.1 Evitts Creek

Camping Regulations

  • Camp only in designated sites.
  • No overnight permits required for vehicles in Chesapeake and Ohio Canal parking lots. The National Park Service is not responsible for cars or their contents; do not store valuables in cars.
  • This is a trash free park; take all trash away.
  • Quiet hours: 10 pm and 6 am
  • Pets must be leashed at all times.
  • Bring only kiln fired or dried wood into the park; it may also be collected from grounded dead material in park and used in campgrounds only, do not remove wood. Bring handsaws to cut to size.
  • Fires restricted to grills and fire rings provided or portable grills positioned off the ground. Coals must be extinguished and removed from the park.
  • Single campsites at drive in campgrounds allow a maximum of two tents and eight people.
  • Hiker-Biker campsites can fix a maximum of five to ten tents, depending on the campsite. Please refer to signage at the campsite for specific details.
  • Do not tie ropes to trees and structures.
  • The use of hammocks at the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal NHP is permitted at designated hiker-biker campsites and within campgrounds where reservations are required. If attaching to trees, hammocks must have straps that are at least one inch wide. Plastic zip cords, nails or screws are not permitted for the purpose of anchoring a hammock.
  • Do not wash dishes, bathe, or clean fish near wells.
  • Draining or dumping refuse from trailers or other vehicles is prohibited.

Last updated: December 13, 2023

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

142 W. Potomac St.
Williamsport, MD 21795



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