[My Heart Lies] Along The C&O Canal Towpath

I spent last Saturday morning doing one of my absolute favorite activities: biking on the C&O and hiking in Harper’s Ferry, WV. Even though I grew up in Maryland, I never discovered the C&O towpath until I met Greg. He took me there for my first ride after buying my mountain bike back in 2007. The towpath itself is 184.5 miles long and begins in Washington, DC (the Billygoat trail is at Great Falls near the start of the canal- around mile 14) and ends in Cumberland, MD. I know a few people that have biked the whole thing- they usually do it over three days and stop to camp along the way (there are designated camp sites). When I go for bike rides, I typically start around mile 42, at the Monocacy Aqueduct and either do an out and back south (a little past White’s Ferry) or north (near Brunswick). When Greg and I do our “bike + hike,” we pick up the towpath in Brunswick (mile 55) and park our bikes right at mile 61 to go hike. It’s a nice workout- 12 miles riding total combined with about 90 minutes of hiking (depending on whether we were doing the extension or not- which adds about 30 extra minutes or so).

The towpath is mostly flat, dirt and really easy to ride on. You can also go pretty fast (well, fast for a mountain bike with fat tires- like 15 mph or so), provided that it’s not too crowded. People use the trail for all kinds of things- biking, running, walking… I’ve even seen horses on it before (which is kind of annoying because people don’t find it necessary to clean up their horse poop). Most people along the trail are friendly and know the proper trail etiquette, but some definitely do not. There have been many times that Greg and I have almost hit people because they don’t move over to allow us to pass (even though we give the proper warning of “on your left” along with my bell-ringing). Some people just really don’t know, or are oblivious.

I have a lot of great memories attached to the C&O. As I was thinking about this post, I looked through my Facebook photos, just to see what kinds of pictures I had taken over the years. I had quite a few (get ready)!

I used to bring my bike to work a lot and go for a ride afterwards. I took a lot of self-portraits while riding (super safe, right??)

I even did this 365 photo thing where I had to take a self portrait every day. It was a really cool project, and the very first photo was after a ride on the C&O:

Here’s another, at the Monocacy Aqueduct. There’s bathrooms at that mile marker, which is always useful to have.

And another- near mile marker65.

Greg and I take pictures of each other when we ride together…

I’m mocking teenagers here and doing the duckface/peace sign pose, because I’m cool.

When we get to Harper’s Ferry, we usually bypass the actual bike parking spot (which is usually crowded)

and lock up our bikes a little further down, near  small bridge across from the start of the hiking trail.

The trail itself is 5.3 miles total round trip. I’m not sure if that includes the Stone Fort trail extension, or if that’s just the Overlook trail. Most hiking websites will list the hike as “difficult” and taking “3 hours,” but it can be done in a much shorter amount of time- even if you’re not in the best of shape. Like I said, we usually do the whole thing- with the extension- in about 90 minutes. The trail peaks at the overlook, which is a big mass of rocks that overlooks the town of Harper’s Ferry (and way beyond!). It’s beautiful! And on most weekends, it can get really crowded (we always try to go really early).

I’ve hiked this trail in all kinds of weather, and we almost always take pictures at the top:


My friend Kelly and I have even hiked it in the bitter cold (it actually snowed during this hike).

And I think that this photo is from the first time Greg and I ever hiked the Stone Fort extension, which also has an amazing overlook.

The view from that lookout (during the fall):

Back to the present now. On Saturday, we were actually a little lazy and picked up the C&O around mile 58, mostly because I had killed my legs the night before teaching Spin + Bodypump and just wasn’t up for a 12 mile ride on top of our hike. 6 miles was much more appealing.

We rode up to mile 61 and locked up our bikes.

And set off on the trail. We did the Stone Fort extension, which (as I said on yesterday’s post preview) has a KILLER steep climb at the beginning!

This hill is crazy! But it feels really good when you get to the top.And you get that beautiful view!

Loveliness everywhere…

After the extension, we headed down to the overlook, which was (not surprisingly) quite crowded!

We attempted a self-portrait with my self-facing iPhone camera. I look really pretty unshowered and without make-up.

We quickly left the overlook and hiked our way back to the bikes (which is all downhill and a killer if you have knee issues, like Greg).

It’s always nice to get back to the bikes and head out for the final stretch! One more quick pose along the river…

What an awesome morning. 🙂


One more real quick thing I need to share: breakfast this morning!

On weekdays, I prepare my breakfast the night before so that it’s ready for me to eat when I get to work. When I saw Laura post a roundup of oatmeal recipes on her blog yesterday, I knew that I had to try out the zucchini bread oats right away! I cooked them up and put them in a jar for the next morning.

And then reheated this morning:

(Can you tell that I’m LOVING Instagram??)

I put strawberries and a little bit of cinnamon-vanilla sunflower butter on top. I also used walnuts instead of pecans and added a little egg white and oat bran.

These tasted really really good- but the only thing I was missing was banana. For some reason, I just gotta have some banana in my oatmeal. Next time I’ll just add a little bit to get the flavor. But, even without the banana, they still tasted awesome. Thanks for the awesome recipe, Laura!!

Have a great Tuesday!

Do you have a favorite hiking/biking trail near you? Have you ever been along the C&O towpath?











12 Comments on “[My Heart Lies] Along The C&O Canal Towpath”

  1. cottercrunch says:

    yea!! you did it!! I knew you would have a grande ol’ time! beautiful!

  2. what a fun time!! good job! and those photos are beautiful! what a scenic ride!

  3. You make me want to learn to mountain bike. That is one gorgeous mountain!

    So glad you liked the oats. That’s one of my favorites. Funny you mention the banana – I almost threw one in… then realized I was out of bananas.

  4. Tiffany says:

    Wow, these are absolutely gorgeous pictures! I love the first self portrait you took (although totally unsafe lol) and before reading everything I was wondering if this was in WV. The picture of you overlooking the water and town totally reminded me of Morgantown, I miss it so!

    Red Rocks is clearly my favorite place here but I need to go out and explore some more other trails, I’m hoping to do this Sunday!

  5. Gil says:

    Yes! I also love the C&O path…we used to go alot when we were kids–pack up everyone’s bike or just walk. (My sibs and I were probably part of that oblivious group that didnt know to get out of the way.) We would usually combine it with a trip to DC, but sometimes Harpers Ferry or Cumberland.
    Also, here is another fun tidbit you may or may not know: the C&O is in our blood! Ok, figuratively, but the first generation of our ancestors in the US (the Krug line I believe) were muleskinners on the C&O. (Which thankfully has nothing to do with acually skinning mules…just driving them along the tow path.) Thats how our family ended up in DC. How cool is that?? I cant ever go on that path without imagining them back in the day.
    Apparently, Morgantown is full of awesome bike trails. However, I wouldnt know because I am hooked on just one and I love it. I havent been able to tear myself away to try out the others. Smooth, flat, and winding in the river valley for 17 miles along the Monongahela river. And its 5 min from my house!! Love!

  6. biz319 says:

    The scenery is absolutely stunning! So jealous of your bike and hikes. My husband isn’t very mobile, so I usually exercise by myself or with my daughter when she’s not working or too busy.

    I lived in Richmond, VA for a year many moons ago – loved hanging out in Georgetown area. Now I have relatives in Gaithersburg, MD, Virginia Beach, Richmond and Roanoke – love it there!

  7. lgsmash says:

    WOW! Beautiful photos! I love the photos of the fall leaves – I miss that the most about Denver! You’ve got some great hills to be hiking and biking – great workout for the booty! 🙂

    Also – good think you’re wearing your helmet while your taking photos of yourself – that is dangerous, lady!!

  8. Katy says:

    Back in the day when my brother was in the boy scouts they had a family excursion to bike/camp the whole C&O canal. It was TONS of fun, hard work, but fun!! Haven’t done it again since but would love to some day. I usually only get on it now if I hike Billy Goat trail. The Harpers Ferry hike looks like fun. Need to figure out how to get to the start of the hike, and find someone who would want to do it with me. I go tubing there a few times in the summer and we go right under the train tracks that are in your pictures! Looks like you had a FUN weekend!! 🙂

  9. chimes says:

    These photos are gorgeous! I am jealous — that looks like a great path.

  10. Mike says:

    Taking a self-portrait while riding a bike…that’s pretty rad! You’re also pretty skilled because the second picture is amazing.

  11. my friend just bought a bike this weekend so I might join the bike club soon…mountain/trail biking though? I’m too scared!! anyways, those action shots are uber dangerous but soooo great for the blog! hahah seriously, damn action shots! Wonderful pictures and you look beautiful, don’t fret k?

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