At a Glance
Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
Cost: The National Park Service charges a park fee during certain time periods, but free parking is readily available near the Terminus. There is no charge to walk the trail.
Tips: A scope is not essential, but helpful. Morning is best as the afternoon sun restricts visibility later in the day. Restrooms are available in the C&O Canal Visitor Center.
Best Seasons: Fall, winter and spring; particularly good in cold winters.
Breeding Bird Atlas Block: Cumberland SE
Local MOS Chapter: Allegany-Garrett Bird Club
C&O Canal Terminus
Cumberland Visitor Center
Western Maryland Railroad Station
13 Canal Street, Cumberland, MD 21502
The Terminus is the western end of the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal, and is located in downtown Cumberland, MD, where Wills Creek enters the Potomac River. The Canal, administered by the National Park Service, is 184.5 miles long, extending from Georgetown in Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland. The canal runs parallel to the Potomac River, which forms the border between Maryland and Virginia or West Virginia. The gravel towpath alongside the canal is open to foot traffic and bicycles, and is a gateway to great birding in the Potomac River Valley. Mile markers along the towpath make it easy to keep track of your location; the markers run from Mile 0 in Georgetown to Mile 184.5 at the Terminus in Cumberland.
Near the Terminus, the canal towpath overlooks the Potomac with clear views toward West Virginia. The terrain is flat on both sides at the Terminus but becomes sloped on the West Virginia side about a half a mile south, where it also becomes wooded on both sides.
The C&O Canal Recreational Guide by Milepost, available through a link at https://www.nps.gov/choh/planyourvisit/maps.htm, contains a handy list of access points and mileposts, with icons indicating the amenities available at each access point. See http://www.candocanal.org/access.html for another version of access points and parking areas.
Over 190 species have been reported from the C&O Canal Terminus, which is a good spot to look for rarities that may congregate in the area, particularly in cold winters when open water is not available elsewhere in the region. It is also good for migrants in both spring and fall. The Terminus is mostly known as a good waterbird spot, but it is also notable for all three falcon species (American Kestrel, Merlin, and Peregrine Falcon) and all three Corvus species (Common Raven, American Crow, Fish Crow). Nesting birds include Cliff Swallow, Pileated Woodpecker, Warbling Vireo, and a number of warblers.
Parking is available at the Cumberland Visitor Center of the C&O Canal National Historic Park. See https://www.nps.gov/choh/planyourvisit/cumberlandvisitorcenter.htm
The Canal Trust has produced a mobile app, the C&O Canal Explorer, with over 600 points of interest mapped in a searchable format, allowing you to find hiking trails, campgrounds, history, trailheads, parking, and more at a glance, along the entire length of the Canal. The app is available to download for 99 cents and runs on Android and IOS devices. ◾ Wake up with the birds along the Canal: through the Canal Quarters Program, visitors may arrange for overnight stays at seven historic lockhouses along the Canal: five in Montgomery County, one in Frederick County, and one in Washington County. See https://www.canaltrust.org/programs/canal-quarters/canal-quarters-lockhouses-overview/ for details. ◾ Recreational opportunities along the C&O Canal are numerous, and include fishing, biking, camping, boating, and historical features. See https://www.canaltrust.org/ and https://www.nps.gov/choh/index.htm and the Recreational Guide by Milepost (https://www.nps.gov/choh/planyourvisit/upload/Park_Planner_FY_2017_Recent-titled-2018.pdf) for details. ◾ The C&O Canal Visitor Center in the Western Maryland Railway Station has an exhibit area focused on the history of the Canal. ◾ Restrooms are available in the Cumberland Visitor Center, which is open 7 days a week from 9 am to 5 pm. ◾ The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Allegany & Garrett Counties Bird Club, which hosts field trips in the region and meetings with informative presentations, all free and open to the public.
From the East: From I-68, take exit 43C. At the bottom of the ramp, make a left onto Harrison Street and follow Harrison to the C&O Canal Visitor Center in the Western Maryland Railway Station.
From the West: From I-68, take exit 43C. Make a left at Queen City Drive at the bottom of the ramp. At the traffic light,make another left onto Harrison Street. Follow Harrison to the C&O Canal Visitor Center in the Western Maryland Railway Station.
Allegany County: C&O Canal – North Branch Recreational Area ◾ C&O Canal – Spring Gap & Oldtown ◾ C&O Canal – Town Creek Aqueduct to Fifteen Mile Creek Aqueduct ◾ Finzel Swamp Preserve (see entry under Garrett County) ◾ Frostburg Cross Country Trail ◾ Green Ridge State Forest & Town Hill Overlook ◾ Rocky Gap State Park
Features:BeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)FishingFree - No Entry Fee at Any TimeHiking/Walking TrailsHistorical FeaturesParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaRestroomsVisitor Center, Interpretive Displays, ExhibitsWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
Type:C&O Canal AccessHiker-Biker Trails (Paved)Historical SitesNational Parks & Monuments