The C&O Canal Trail Gets a New Detour

We’ve been waiting for this news over two years, since the late Senator Robert Byrd announced he scored some stimulus dollars to refurbish the Knobley Mountain tunnel and trestle to connect the small railroad town of Carpendale, West Virginia, with the nearby C&O Canal path just south of Cumberland.

The realization that this dream was now a reality did not come from a press release or newspaper article, but with old-fashioned on-site reporting.

While hoofing up to Cumberland (armed with Google Earth) in search of the covered passageway that blocked pedestrians from venturing near the decrepit 100-year-old Western Maryland railroad trestle,  my traveling buddy Arlene and I encountered a clearing at mile marker 183.  There, a newly paved spur enticed hikers to veer 90 degrees off the towpath towards a sturdy bridge over the Potomac no more than 100 yards away.

From the edge of the wooden bridge, it was possible to see all the way through the bat-free tunnel (long popular with geocachers) into the town of Carpendale.

The only mystery is when this occurred, and why nothing has been reported about it.  (Indeed, the volunteer at the Cumberland Visitor’s Center was not aware it had opened quite yet.)

Although November sees diminished trail use by hikers, runners, and cyclists, the opening of the bridge and tunnel should have a beneficial economic impact on Carpendale.  Other “trail towns” not even as close have seen an influx of trail users stopping in for refreshments, lodging, and particularly the specialty ice creams developed to entice visitors.  And the trip across the placid Potomac is a visual treat.

So now the combined C&O Canal towpath-Allegheny Highlands Trail stretches from Washington, DC, through Maryland to Pennsylvania with sidetrack through West Virginia,  Be sure to get your passport stamped, because the short detour is Wild and Wonderful.

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