C&O Canal National Historical Park

Celebrating Over 50 Years as a National Park!

Who’s ready for an adventure? As the C&O Canal National Historical Park embarks on its next 50 years as a National Park, see what this incredible natural attraction here in Montgomery County, Maryland has to offer during your next trip to the area.

For over 100 years, The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal (C&O) National Historical Park was a lifeline for communities along the Potomac River. Today, it endures as a pathway for discovering historical and recreational treasures.

The 184.5-mile-long recreational, educational and historic attraction welcomes over 5 million visitors each year. It is a major economic driver for the four Maryland counties – including Montgomery County – and the ten Canal Towns it passes through, responsible for approximately $98.4 million in visitor spending in 2019.

Enjoy scenic views while kayaking down the C&O Canal in Montgomery County, MD.
Kayaking in the C&O Canal National Historical Park | Credit: Paul Graunke

What to Know Before You Go

The C&O Canal Park is open all year during daylight hours and closes at dark. For those driving to the canal and looking to park on-site, the entrance fee is $20 per vehicle and $15.00 per motorcycle. For those biking or parking off-site and then walking to the park, the entrance fee is $10. An annual pass if also available for $35.00. All money goes to park-related projects and conserving the C&O Canal Park. Don’t forget to bring your furry friend—dogs are also allowed at the park.

Want to learn more about the C&O Canal National Historic Park? Check out our interview with Heidi Shlag from the C&O Canal Trust to get an inside perspective from a National Park expert.

Before exploring all 184.5 miles of the C&O Canal National Historical Park, download their explorer mobile app for more than 600 points of interest mapped for you in a searchable format that allows you to find nearby hiking trails, campgrounds, historical sites, trailheads, parking, and more.

Stay in a Historical Lockhouse

Step back in time and live like a lockkeeper for the night at one of the seven historic lockhouses available from The Canal Quarters Lockhouse program. Each lockhouse can sleep up to eight people, is fully furnished, and offers a unique experience. Some have full amenities and others transport you back in time to the 1800’s before electricity or heat.

Stop by the Great Falls Visitor Center to learn about the history of the C&O Canal park.
Great Falls Tavern Visitors Center along the C&O Canal

Visit the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center

The Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center is the heart of the C&O Canal National Historical Park. Take a walking tour with a park ranger, a solo phone tour, or sign up for Riley’s lockhouse tours guided by Girl Scouts and view a lock demonstration (tours currently postponed). After your tours, unwind and take breather by having a family picnic in the park.

Experience the Great Falls

The Great Falls are a must-see when visiting the park! There are three overlooks available to view the waterfalls and the Potomac River. Each are about a five- to ten-minute walk from the Visitor Center and two of them are handicap and stroller accessible. Besides sightseeing, there are many different activities to try, such as fishing, rock climbing, white water rafting, canoeing, and even mule-drawn boat rides. Also expect to see a variety of wildlife like deer, beavers, red foxes, and many different species of birds.

See the waterfalls of the Potomac River at Great Falls in the C&O Canal Park.
Great Falls in Potomac, MD

Hike the Billy Goat Trail

Experience the best hiking Montgomery County has to offer—the Billy Goat Trail. The trail not only offers scenic views of the river, but also has three hiking sections that are set for different skill levels. Section A is 1.75 miles long, is the most technical and strenuous hike in the trail, and does not allow dogs. Section B is 1.4 miles long, is a moderately challenging hike but not as intense as Section A, and allows dogs. Section C is 1.6 miles long, is perfect for beginner and less-experienced hikers, and also allows dogs.

PRO TIP: Arrive early to beat the crowds!