C&O Canal Visitor Center at Hancock

In the 19th and early 20th century the C&O Canal provided jobs and opportunities for people throughout the Potomac River Valley, from the tidal basin in Washington D.C. to the mountains of Western Maryland.


In a little less than one hundred years, the C&O Canal witnessed a race west by transportation giants, the growth and decline of communities and businesses along the banks of the Potomac River, fierce battles raging between a divided nation, and improvements in technology that made life along the canal obsolete.


Today the remains of the C&O Canal provide a place to recreate and enjoy nature, but most importantly they tell the story of the canal's important role in America's history. Stories of western expansion, transportation, engineering, the Civil War, immigration, industry and commerce.

Enter Your Location

Nearby Places

Image Credit: Kelsey Everett


Open seasonally, Memorial Day weekend through mid-August Friday and Saturday from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM.

(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)


Fees are only collected at the Great Falls Visitor Center. Access to other areas of the trail is free.


Three Day Pass

$5 - per private, non-commercial vehicle (include motorcycles, passenger cars, pickup trucks, RV's and vans).

$3 - per person 16 years of age or older when entering on foot or bicycle

Park passes are valid for the date of purchase plus two days at Great Falls Park, Virginia and the Great Falls area of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park on the Maryland side of the Potomac River.


Annual Pass

$20 - Valid for one full year from the month of purchase. Permits access to Great Falls Park, Virginia and the Great Falls area of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park on the Maryland side of the Potomac River. The annual pass allows entrance for the pass holder and additional passengers in a single private non-commercial vehicle, or pass holder plus three adults when entering on foot or bicycle.


Commercial Tour

$25 - 1-6 passenger capacity
$40 - 7- 25 passenger capacity
$100 - 26+ passenger capacity vehicle


Bicycling, Fishing, Birdwatching, Hiking / Backpacking, Boating and Kayaking, Horseback riding, Camping, Ice skating, Canal Quarters, Nature walks, Climbing, Ranger Programs, Cross country skiing, Wildlife viewing


Nestled along the towpath at milepost 123 in Hancock, Maryland, the charming Bowles House has seen its share of American history.

Originally built as a one-story structure on a hill overlooking the Potomac River, the 220-year old home is illustrative of life on the canal and an era long ago. The Bowles House has witnessed early settlement on undeveloped land, a race west between rail and canal, and a period of transition as advancements in transportation eased the country into the twentieth century, making life along the towpath obsolete.

Arguably as intriguing as the structure, which offers a beautiful example of early 18th century architecture, is the Bowles' rich history. First traced to Lord Baltimore of England, the parcel of land known as "Sarah's Fancy", was transferred to the Yates family around 1775. William Yates developed the land and built the original one-story home in 1785. The Yates family resided there during construction of the C&O Canal which passed through Hancock in 1839. In 1875, during the peak of C&O Canal operations, the Bowles family acquired the property and remained occupants for nearly four decades. In 1905 the house and surrounding property were purchased by the Little family who resided in the home until the 1980's.


Last updated: January 07, 2019
Potomac Trail