C&O Canal Hike 21

Oldtown to Cumberland

The final towpath segment of the PHT along the C&O Canal starts with an interesting passage through the Alum Hill Deep Cut. Sheer walls of crumbling shale rise above the towpath. Beyond the cut, the towpath enters a meadow at the former site of Pigmans Ferry. From here to Spring Gap the canal passes through quiet woods. West of the gap the trail passes the ruins of a water supply pumping system and Blue Spring, one of the largest springs in the Eastern US. Just a few yards further is Lock 72 at "The Narrows", with a fine two story lockhouse and full porch. At the head of the narrows, the final three locks complete the 605 foot climb from Georgetown. The remaining distance to Cumberland is pleasant, with increasing signs of town at each mile. The final aqueduct is crossed 4.5 miles from Cumberland and sets up a grand finish. The church spires and buildings, with the Allegheny Mountains as a backdrop, guide you to the restored Western Maryland depot.


Trip Planner

Start: Oldtown
End: Cumberland
Miles: 17.8
Points of Interest: Oldtown, Alum Hill Deep Cut, Lock 75, Evitts Creek Aqueduct, Western Maryland Depot and canal terminus
Parking: Oldtown (0.0 mi.), Spring Gap (6.7 mi.), Lock 74 (8.8 mi.), Candoc Recreation Area (15.1 mi.), Western Maryland depot (17.8 mi.)
Water: Pigmans Ferry, Irons Mt. campsite, Evitts Creek campsite, Cumberland (water at campsites normally turned off November-April)
Restrooms or privy: Pigmans Ferry, Spring Gap, Irons Mt. campsite, Evitts Creek campsite
Provisions: Oldtown (store 0.5 miles to north in town), Cumberland
Camping: Pigmans Ferry, Spring Gap drive-in campground, Irons Mt. campsite, Evitts Creek campsite


Hike Data

Mile Navigation
0 Oldtown and Lock 70. Town is about 0.5 miles to the right at canal milepost 166.7. There is one small general store.
0.8 Alum Hill Deep Cut. Walls of pencil-thin shards of shale rise above the towpath in this area.
2.5 Pigmans Ferry campsite. This is the only canal campsite situated in an open meadow. Expect wildlife at night and a damp tent in the morning.
6.7 Spring Gap.
8.6 Irons Mt. campsite.
8.8 Lock 74.
13.3 Evitts Creek campsite.
14.0 Evitts Creek Aqueduct.
15.1 Candoc Recreation Area. Candoc is an acronym for C&O Canal.
17.8 Cumberland. All services in town are within a few blocks of the canal terminus and visitors center. To continue on the Great Allegheny Passage, another segment of the PHt, follow the tracks of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad north from the station. Cumberland is served by both Greyhound and Amtrak.


Explore the PHT

Known as the "Queen City of the Alleghenys," Cumberland became an acceptable substitute to Pittsburgh for the canals' western terminus. In 1850, the coalfields were nearby and the railroad was here to fill the hulls of canal barges with 90 ton loads. At the October 10, 1850, celebration of the canals completion, Cumberland lawyer William Price gave a speech which must have surprised more than a few of the audience. "Many of us were young when this great work was commenced, and we have lived to see its completion only because Providence has prolonged our lives until our heads are gray. Thousands have been ruined by their connection with this work and but few in this region have any cause to bless it." Between road building and a 1950s flood control project, this area bears no resemblance to the operating period when the canal ended in a large basin lined with coal cars and a shanty town. There is still much to see here however. The city is an excellent hub in the PHT network with daily train and bus service. The scenic train between Cumberland and Frostburg follows 16 miles of another PHT segment, the Allegheny Highlands Trail — part of the Great Allegheny Passage trail system.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Potomac Heritage NST Office
P. O. Box B

Harpers Ferry, WV 25425


(304) 535-4014

Contact Us