Home and other AT Pages

Potomac Corridor Maps

Potomac Heritage Trail Corridor Maps

In 2016 I rode a bicycle from Pittsburg to Washington DC on the Potomac Heritage Trail. The segments I used were the Great Allegheny Passage, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath, Mount Vernon Trail, Washington and Old Dominion Trail, and various shorter paths. Since I rode in late autumn, crowds were not usually present in this heavily populated area. The paths were often within earshot of freight railways and freeways, but were usually pretty. There are excellent historic interpretive signs and books for the trails, and I enjoyed thinking and reading about all of the things I was seeing. I will likely repeat the trip, with whatever route variations seem attractive, in a few years.

The PHT seems to be an odd mishmash of assorted trails along the Potomac and over the hills to Pittsburg. Some are walking trails, some bike paths, and some roads. The paths don't necesarily connect, and some are parallel. Camping would be impossible on some segments. The PHT is not a long, single, heterogeneous path like the PCT or AT. Not all finished paths in the area are officially part of the system. Detailed planning for whatever trip you desire is required because information is not necesarily available where and when it is needed. The following list includes paths whether or not they are officially part of the PHNST so long as they are in the corridor and I am at least moderately interested.

Source Map Name # Want?
NPS Potomac Heritage Trail (Handout)
Great Allegheny Passage, Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath, Green Ridge State Forest Trail System, Tuscarora Trail, Appalachian National Scenic Trail, Potomac Heritage Trail, George Washington Memorial Parkway, Washington and Old Dominion Trail (bike / rail), Alexandria Heritage Trail, Fort Circle Parks Trail, Mount Vernon Trail, Southern Maryland Potomac Heritage Trail Bicycling Route, Northern Neck Heritage Trail Bicycling Route
NPS Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network (Handout) - PDF
NPS Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail (Handout) - PDF
NPS Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route (Handout)
National Historic Trail - Massachusetts to Virginia
ACA Tidewater Potomac
ACA 378 mile Bike Route Loop.
- No
VA Bicycling in Virginia Statewide Map - Have
NPS Mount Vernon Trail (Handout) - PDF
VA Washington and Old Dominion Trail - Have
NPS Fort Circle Trail (Handout) - PDF
NPS Civil War Defenses of Washington (Handout) - 2PDF
DC DC Bike Routes (Handout) - PDF
? Alexandria Bike Routes (Handout) - PDF
? Capital Crescent Bike Route (Handout) DC-Bethesda-Silver Spring Rail Trail - PDF
NPS Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park (Handout)
180 mile C&O Canal Towpath from Cumberland, Maryland, to Washington DC with mileage, locks, dams, car campgrounds, junctions with Great Alleghany Passage (rail/bike), Carpendale Rail Trail, Western Maryland Rail Trail, Appalachian Trail and Capitol Crescent Trail, (GET and Tuscarora not shown).
- Have
NPS Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Park Planner (Handout)
Has a data book style list of towns, camps, etcetera by mile, and more.
- Have
PATC Rock Creek Park Area, DC
East of AT, Three north-south valleys draining into the Potomac River, east-west connector valleys, all foot, horse, and bike trails in Rock Creek Park and other parks of northwest Washington, D.C., All National Park Service facilities, Metrorail stations, Western Ridge Trail, Valley Trail, Water-resistant, 1:12,000 (Rock Creek Park main map), 1:24,000 (Adjoining Areas map), 10' Contour, WGS 84.
N No
PATC Potomac River Gorge Area (VA & MD) and Cabin John Trail
East of AT, Detail of CO Canal west of DC, All of Great Falls Park (National Park Service), Riverbend Park, Scotts Run Nature Preserve (Fairfax County), Palisades District of C&O Canal National Historical Park, All of Billy Goat Trail (along the Potomac River), discontinuous sections of Potomac Heritage Trail on southwest Potomac bank, Topographic, 5"/mile, 1:12,500, 10' Contours, Locks 21-8, Miles 16-8 UTM Zone 18, water-resistant.
D Have
PATC AT Maryland and Catoctin Trail CO near Harpers Ferry 5/6 Have
PATC AT West Virginia and Northern Virginia CO near Harpers Ferry 7 Have
MD Western Maryland Rail Trail - 2PDF
PATC Tuscarora Tr Hancock Md Capon Springs WV
West Virginia and Virginia Sections 11 through 16 (72.1 miles) of the Tuscarora Trail, Great Eastern Trail on Potomac River, CO Canal Locks 55-53, miles 133-130,Western Maryland Rail Trail, 1:100,000, Contour interval 20 meters, UTM Zone 17, NAD83, 2012 Edition 4 updates include relocation of the Tuscarora Trail in Sleepy Creek WMA and near Gore, VA, four new shelters, future alignment of the T.T. along the ridge of Great North Mountain.
L Have
PATC Tuscarora Trail from PA-641 southward to Hancock, MD
West of the AT, Sections 6 through 10 (56 miles) of the Tuscarora Trail, Great Eastern Trail on Potomac River, CO Canal Locks 53-45, Dam 5, miles 130-108, Western Maryland Rail Trail, Water-resistant, 1:100,000, ~⅝"/mile, Contour interval 100 feet, UTM Zone 17, 18, Datum NAD83, Buchanan State Forest (easternmost parcels), Cowans Gap State Park, several PA State Game Lands and the MD Indian Springs Wildlife Management Area, 4th edition includes realignments of the Tuscarora and Standing Stone Trails, addition of Reese Hollow Shelter, Burd Run Shelter, and Little Cove Cabin.
K Have
MD Green Ridge State Forest Map
Hiking trails from the Paw Paw Tunnel area to Pennsylvania, comprising the western Great Eastern Trail variant.
PA Buchanan State Forest Map
North of Maryland's Green Ridge State Forest, western Great Eastern Trail variant
? Great Allegheny Passage (Handout)
West of AT, 148 mile Bike / Rail Trail with mileage. Panhandle, Montour, Bethel Park Branch, Airport Connector, Three Rivers Heritage, Clairton Connector, Sheepskin, Laurel Highlands (Hiking) and C&O Canal Towpath connecting Trails.
- Have
PA Pennsylvania State Highway Map Handout
The state road map shows the Appalachian, North Country, Great Allegheny Passage, Bucktail Path, Susquehannock, Black Forest, Pine Creek, Mid State, Loyal Sock, Mason Dixon, and Laurel Highlands Trails, and therefore gives a great summary of long distance trails across the state.
- Have
PA Ohiopyle State Park - Have
PA Laurel Highlands Trail - Have
- Three Rivers Heritage Trail 24 miles along the 3 Rivers in Pittsburg. - PDF
? Montour Bike Trail
Pittsburg Beltway
? Panhandle Bike Trail
Weirton, WV - 18miles - Montour Tr - 8 miles - Walkers Mill, Pittsburg
? Erie-to-Pittsburgh Trail www.eriepittsburgtrail.org - Have
ACA: Adventure Cycling Association
ATC: Appalachian Trail Conference
DC: District of Columbia
MD: Maryland
NGTI: National Geographic Trails Illustrated Maps
NPS: National Park Service
PA: Pennsylvania
PATC: Potomac Appalachian Trail Conference
USFS: United States Forest Service

History Guide Books to the PHNST
There are many books on the C&O, and a few on the GAP. Only a few are available locally, and stores and visitor centers stocking them were rare and often closed. So ordering them before the trip may be the only way to ensure getting them. Navigating the GAP and C&O were easily done with widely available handouts. Books are only recommending for delving deep into the historic context of the area.
Author Book Title Want?
The C&O Canal Companion: A Journey through Potomac History
Excellent general history and discussion of every point of interest. Printed on matte paper, so pages and ink won't stick and peel with rain and sweat drops. More comprehensive than Hahn or Trailbook, both of which are on gloss paper and so less suitable for on trail use.
TrailBook 11th Edition: Official Guide to the C&O Canal and the Great Allegheny Passage
Mostly advertisements, little more information than free handouts.
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal
Many pictures and diagrams, very informative, fairly inexpensive. Probably the first rational supplement to High.
Common Labor: Workers and the Digging of North American Canals, 1780-1860
Although focused on the labor movement, and discussing many other canals, this book discusses many interesting episodes in C&O history. A tough read.
Home on the Canal
Discussion and interviews of people working on the canal in its later years: very informative.
Tracks along the Ditch, Relationships between the C&O Canal and the Railroads
Discussion of many historic railroads in the region.
Canal Boat Children
US Labor Department Investigation Summary
The Composite Locks
NPS Historic Structures Report, Scanned, Images
THE GEOLOGY AND ENGINEERING STRUCTURES of the CHESAPEAKE AND OHIO CANAL An Engineering Geologist's Descriptions and Drawings
Detailed descriptions of an exhaustive list of canal and related historic structures and geological features.
Double Boat Report PDF
Flooding Report
1997 NPS report
Geology of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park and Potomac River Corridor, District of Columbia, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia PDF
Historic Resource Study: Chesapeake & Ohio Canal
Text, so readable, but missing many chapters and images
Biking through History on the Great Allegheny Passage Trail
History of the region and of the building of the trail. Little discussion of the importance of each point of interest on the trail.
Further Research:
1) Railroad Technology
improvements from 1828-1870 rendered the canal obsolete. None of the above made more than summary descriptions. More on the B&O Railroad and the technology improvements would interest me.
2) The (Patowmack, Potowmack, Potomack) Potomac Company built five skirting canals before the C&O era. Three canals at Seneca Falls (opposite Violettes Lock, Dam 2, on Virginia side, 1,320 yards, drops 7 feet), House Falls (near Harpers Ferry, Maryland side, reused as C&O ditch between Dam 3 and Goodheart's Lock 34, ~1 mile), and Payne's Falls (Shenendoah, Bullring, 1,760 yards, dropped 15') did not need locks. The Little Falls Canal, 3814 yards, was built with wooden locks in 1795, and rebuilt in 1817 with stone locks, lifting 37'. The C&O used the Little Falls Canal both as Feeder 1 from Dam 1, and downstream of Guard Lock 1, as the C&O Canal itself. The stone locks were destroyed when the B&O built the Georgetown Branch (now the Capital Crescent Trail) around 1910. The canal at Great Falls, on the Virginia side of the Potomac, 1,820 yards, completed 1801, had five locks of red sandstone from the Seneca Quarry in Maryland. Given the importance of this C&O predecessor, I want to find interpretive information and images or diagrams and visit / observe in greater depth these sites. On my 2016 walk, I visited 3 of the 5 sites without their leaving much of an impression on me. Crossing the river to the Great Falls Canal from the C&O Canal would be non trivial. There were ruins in the river channels under the bridges to Olmstead Island, on the Maryland side, that I wondered about - part of some mill's water power works?
3) The density of interesting sites and lack of legal camping near Washington DC might merit some lodging arrangement along the Canal. Hostels in DC were a half hour walk from the Mall. Closer lodgings might be found in Alexeandria.
4) A book or two covering the steel industry development, Carnegie, US Steel, railroads, etcetera, around Pittsburg would illuminate many sites near the GAP.

Home and other AT Pages