Few people will bike the entire trail in a long, multi-day ride. Most will experience the trail as part of a short walk, or an out-and-back bike ride. A third category will be bikers looking for a loop to ride where they combine exercise with education and remembrance, while not having to see the same things twice. The September 11
National Memorial Trail often meanders, connecting existing trails to other locations of historical significance, which makes it the ideal gateway for riders seeking new adventures.
Below are descriptions of rides that use a segment of our trail, with brief descriptions and a Ride with/GPS map. We encourage others to offer up routes that show off the best biking opportunities in your community, using part of the September 11 National Memorial Trail to complete the loop.
Four Loops along the C&O Canal
1. Sharpsburg, C&O Canal tow-path loop (11 miles).
Sharpsburg has places to eat, and plenty of history at the Antietam National Battlefield. Many people bike the battlefield using this map: https://www.nps.gov/anti/learn/photosmultimedia/virtualtour.htm Bikers looking for a way to extend their ride to include the C&O canal can add this
11 mile loop. The loop can be accessed just as easily from either Harper’s Ferry
allowing visitors to tour the battlefield without using a car. The short stretch on Harper’s Ferry Road often has more traffic than other sections, making the climb from the C&O to Sharpsburg on Snyder’s Crossing the preferred direction (clockwise) for most people. All roads are paved, with the exception of the short stretch on the C&O Canal towpath.
2. Little Orleans, Paw Paw Loop (28 miles)
. The Paw Paw tunnel is a highlight for everyone biking the entire C&O Canal towpath. The tunnel is occasionally closed for repairs, but when open the back roads used for the detour make for a nice loop ride, usually done in a counter-clockwise direction, which puts the hills earlier in the ride, and the only short stretch on paved road (Route 51) on a downhill to reduce the time spent sharing the road with cars.
The only remaining ferry crossing the Potomac River is White’s Ferry, which also has a general store and a large parking lot. A popular connection for bikers riding between Virginia and Maryland ($3 fee per bike), when combined with the Metro system, this allows urban riders coming from Washington, D.C. to use the W&OD trail in Virginia and the C&O Canal tow-path, for a long ride with very few on-road miles. The Washington regional Metro system permits bikes on trains, except during week-day rush hours (7-10am; 4-7pm). A clockwise ride, starting at the Wiehle Rd. metro stop (Silver Line) is preferred, as this goes against the flow of the majority of Metro work commuters. This map brings bikers back into Washington, DC at the Dupont Circle metro station (Red Line), but another option would be to leave the C&O tow-path to bike the Capital Crescent trail north to Bethesda, and another convenient Red Line metro station.
4. Whites Ferry, Leesburg, Point of Rocks loop (31 miles).
There are other options for building a loop ride around White’s Ferry, with this ride circling back via the next bridge to the north across the Potomac River at Point of Rocks. With the exception of Route 15 into Leesburg (a busy road with a wide shoulder) most of this ride in Virginia is on quiet, unpaved rural roads, and includes the historic town of Waterford. If traveling in a clockwise direction, the final leg on the C&O Canal tow-path provides a relaxing way to end the ride. The bridge at Point of Rocks has a narrow sidewalk on the south side. Some may feel comfortable biking on this, while others will choose to walk their bikes. The location of the sidewalk is another reason why the clockwise ride is preferred. In addition to Leesburg, Point of Rocks also has food options.