Chesapeake and Ohio Towpath Trail (Unpaved)
and the Western Maryland Trail (Paved)
Williamsport, MD to Hancock, MD
25 Miles (50 Miles Round Trip).
A 130 feet climb over 4 miles.
Flat grade (0.1%).
10 miles on the Maryland Trail east of Hancock.
Worst Grades: About 1-2 Percent.
Number of intersections: About 17.
Number of people passed on the trail: About 24.
Pros: Restrooms along trail. Bike shop along trail that offers rentals and much more. Camping allowed along trail. No litter. No trash cans. Picnic Tables. Water from hand pumps available on the trail. The unpaved C&O trail puts you along the Potomac River and man-made towpath canal in the densely forested floodplain that has huge trees and the nearby Western Maryland Paved trail gets you out of the flood plain to a higher elevation and more open views. It is like riding in two different worlds even though they are next to each other. A lot of history to the canal. Trail passes by Fort Fredrick State Park. Despite the dense canopy, the ride takes you past several interesting places like a dam, towpath locks, rocky ledges and lakes.
Cons: A few root bumps on both the paved and unpaved trails will jar your bones. Trail follows beside Interstate 70 for about 9 miles making that section noisy with vehicle traffic sound. The dense forest canopy keeps the Potomac River hidden most of the ride. The trailhead restrooms at Hancock looked like they had not been cleaned in months - nasty toilet bowl stain and standing water on the floor.
Hindsight: Didn't research the trails in this area well enough. Wish I'd known the C&O trail connected to other trails. One can ride nearly 400 miles on the connecting trails from Pittsburg, PA to Washington, DC either camping or using Motels or B&Bs. Many of the people passed on the trail had panniers and were camping. I should have somehow gotten a shuttle and ridden the complete trail one-way.
Ratings: (1-5 scale, 5 being best)
Trail: 3 (A little smooth, a little bumpy.)
Critters: 4 (Deer, turkeys, snakes...)
Scenery: 4 (A lot of Dense Canopy scenery.)