Chesapeake and Ohio Towpath Trail (Unpaved)
and the Western Maryland Trail (Paved)
Hancock, MD to PawPaw, MD.
23 Miles (66 Miles Round Trip).
(Last 12 miles on the Paved Maryland Trail.)
125 feet between low and high elevation.
Flat grade (0.1%).
Worst Grades: About 1-2 Percent.
Number of intersections: 1
Number of people passed on the trails: About 13.
Pros: Don't have to worry about too much people traffic on this trail. Restrooms along trail. Bike shop along trail that offers rentals and much more. Camping allowed along trail. No litter. Picnic Tables. Water from hand-pumps available on the trail. The unpaved trail puts you along the Potomac River and C&O man-made towpath canal in the densely forested floodplain that has huge trees. The parallel paved Western Maryland trail gets you out of the floodplain to a higher elevation. It is like riding in two different worlds even though they are next to each other. A lot of history to the C&O canal. With the exception of a few dips related to Locks and a few places you might want to get off the trail to get a closer look at the Potomac River like at the 15-Mile Creek Boat Ramp, the trail is very very flat.
Cons: No trash cans. A few root bumps on both the paved and unpaved trails will jar your bones. 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. Trail right-of-way needed mowing. This segment of the trail seems to have larger loose rocks on the trail making for a bumpy ride. Long unlit tunnel.
Hindsight: The rocks along this trail are big enough to be bothersome. I should have let some air out of the tires for a smother ride. There is a lot of wildlife but the scenery does not change very much. This was a rather boring ride with the exception of when the trail veered away from the Potomac River just north of PawPaw. Taking the Western Maryland Trail on the way back helped break the monotonous scenery while providing a smoother ride. I was so happy to finally get off the bumpy C&O Trail. This ride helped me decide to NOT to ride any more of the C&O Trail. I'd experienced enough of the C&O Canal.
Ratings: (1-5 scale, 5 being best)
Unpaved C&O Trail:
Trail: 2 (A lot of bumpy, a little smooth.)
Critters: 4 (Deer, turkeys, snakes...)
Scenery: 2 (Dense Forestland Canopy hide views.)
Paved Western Maryland Trail:
Trail: 5 (Smooth asphalt with a few root bumps.)
Critters: 3 (Deer.)
Scenery: 4 (More open canopy and varying scenery.)