C&O Canal Hike 12

Point of Rocks to Harpers Ferry

At Point of Rocks, the towpath cuts through the Catoctin Mountains. On the other side of the mountain, the trail crosses a "Bailey bridge," installed when the Catoctin Aqueduct collapsed in 1973. Bailey bridges, designed by a British engineer in the latter stages of World War II, are prefabricated structures assembled on site.

Eight miles west of Point of Rocks, the towpath comes to the railroad town of Brunswick—at one time the nation’s largest railroad yard. At Weverton, the trail is joined from the north by the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. The trails co-align for 2.6 miles into Harpers Ferry. The hike ends under the railroad trestle at Harpers Ferry.


Trip Planner

Start: Point of Rocks
End: Harpers Ferry
Miles: 12.5
Points of Interest: Lander Lockhouse, Brunswick, Appalachian Trail, Harpers Ferry
Parking: Point of Rocks (0.0 mi.), Lock 29 (2.7 mi.), Brunswick (6.8 mi.)
Water: Point of Rocks, Bald Eagle Island campsite, Brunswick Campground, Brunswick, Harpers Ferry (water at campsites normally turned off November-April)
Restroom or privy: Bald Eagle Island campsite, Brunswick Campground, Harpers Ferry
Provisions: Point of Rocks, Brunswick, Harpers Ferry
Camping: Bald Eagle Island campsite, Brunswick Campground


Hike Data

Mile Navigation
0 Point of Rocks. There is a small store and deli located on the main street about 300 yards from the towpath; follow boat access road to Route 28. The town is served by MARC trains weekdays.
1.1 Bald Eagle Island campsite.
2.7 Lander Lockhouse. The lockhouse here has been fully restored by a volunteer organization. Tours are given on weekends in summer.
3.3 Cactoctin Aqueduct. This aqueduct was known as the "Crooked Aqueduct" because of a sharp turn at the west end. It collapsed in 1973 and has been replaced by a "Bailey Bridge."
5.8 Brunswick Municipal campground. Services here include water and sodas along with fee campsites. Proceed with caution: there is slow-moving car traffic on the towpath for the next mile to Brunswick.
6.8 Brunswick, MD.
9.9 Appalachian Trail (AT) joins the towpath from the north. From here to the trestle at Harpers Ferry the routes are co-aligned.
11.4 Sandy Hook Bridge. This bridge carried the AT across the Potomac from 1948-1985.
12.5 Harpers Ferry. You can reach town by climbing the spiral staircase to the walkway that carries the AT across the Potomac River. From Harpers Ferry, the AT heads south to Georgia. Harpers Ferry National Historical Park features restored buildings, exhibits, a visitor center and bookstore. Restrooms and water are available during park hours.

Explore the PHT

Point of Rocks
See Hike 11.

This is a quintessential railroad town. Stop at the restored depot or visit the Brunswick Railroad Museum and canal visitor center on Potomac Street. Book Crossing, a block from the depot, serves coffee and sells magazines, as well as books on local history. Beans in the Belfry, a couple blocks up Potomac Street, is a funky cafe in a former church building; it serves up organic coffees, wraps and sandwiches. King’s Pizza bakes a fine spinach pie.

Appalachian Trail
This is your chance to take a hike on this world famous trail. To the north, just over a mile away is Weverton Cliffs. The views from here are well worth the climb. To follow the trail turn right (north) just beyond Lock 31 and follow the white blazes. At Harpers Ferry, the AT crosses the bridge into town, crosses the Shenandoah River and ascends to Loudoun Heights in Virginia.

Harpers Ferry
This historic town has been restored by the National Park Service. Exhibits interpret 19th century life in a manufacturing town, abolitionists John Brown’s raid on the federal armory, and Civil War history. The famous "Bloody Stone Steps," which reportedly ran with blood during an 1862 battle, climb a short distance to Jefferson Rock. Near this spot the states of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia meet. In his Notes on the State of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson wrote that the view here was "worth a voyage across the Atlantic."

The town features antique shops, B&Bs, restaurants and, a block up Washington Street, an outfitter. Harpers Ferry is served by both MARC and Amtrak. In addition to the C&O Canal, the town features two other canals: the Shenandoah Navigation on Virginius Island and the Armory Canal along the Potomac upstream from the train station. Both date to the early 1800s and feature interesting ruins. Maryland Heights features numerous Civil War trenches and structures which can be seen from a trail that circles above the town. Harpers Ferry also is the home of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC).

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail
c/o Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park
142 W. Potomac St.

Williamsport, MD 21795


This phone will reach the main line for the C&O Canal National Historical Park.

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