Route: C&O Canal Towpath (MD to DC)

Maryland, US
District of Columbia, US
184.5 mi
Vertical Gain
100 ft

The C&O Canal Towpath runs about 184.5 flat, unpaved miles from Cumberland, MD, to Washington DC. It is described on the Bike Washington website.  Most FKT interest has been by cyclists, which we don't currently track (that said, we are aware that Matt Kovacic rode 10h53m42s on 5/24/2020).

As far as pedestrians, the legendary Park Barner ran the whole thing (about 300km) in a race in 1976. His time was 36h48m14s, as reported by Nick Marshall in a 1977 article in the Washington Post. The article says this about Barner's run: "Despite facing sub-freezing temperatures last year, Barner ran the length of the canal in 36:48:14, including several hours of sleep after he'd run 122 miles, a period of dehydration when his handlers missed a rendezvous point along the wooded trail and about 50 miles of making his way through a pitch-black night with a flashlight!" More of Barner's remarkable ultrarunning career is detailed here (following his induction into the American Ultrarunning Association Hall of Fame in 2012).

A hiker has mentioned doing the C&O in 144h13m self-supported.

GPS Track


Hey Guys, I just wanted to make sure I announced here as the website moved but September 1, 2018, I am planning to attempt to break Park Barner's record.  You can follow me at:


I will also be posting on social media: Twitter: @mikewardian

Instagram: @mikewardian


I really appreciate you guys hosting this and all the support.




Hi everyone, I am planning on an unsupported adventure down the C&O canal from Cumberland to DC starting Friday, November 2, 2018. I agree with Justice Douglas that "The stretch of 185 miles from Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, Md., is one of the most fascinating and picturesque in the Nation," and I am surprised that this route does not seem to be more popular. Note that I plan to obtain all of my drinking water from the water pumps that are maintained by the NPS every 5-7 miles at the hiker/biker campsites along the canal. These pumps are open approximately 8 months of the years. I hope to jog/hike/crawl/maintain forward progress for the duration and finish in around 50 hours. I have previously done 50 miles of the canal in 8 hours on foot, but I have also struggled and failed to move forward at all after only 75 miles. I had considered doing the canal self-supported, as there are hotels relatively close and relatively cheap in Hancock, Williamsport, Shepherdstown, and Harper's Ferry not to mention the 24-hour Sheetz in Hancock and Williamsport, but I think the continuous nature of this route along the river merits a continuous and un-supported approach. Thanks to Mike Wardian for his insight and everyone else that is part of this site! Steve Andrews 

I plan to make an easy self-supported attempt this weekend. I've missed the canal. 

Hey all! This is my official announcement for my attempt at the supported female FKT on the C&O Canal Towpath starting on Friday, September 25, 2020. My goal for the 184.5 towpath is 48 hours. 

I really appreciate this opportunity. Shout out to my Steeps crew and pacers who are all ready to rock and roll! Thanks to Mike Wardian for his insights and suggestions!


Lindsey Weaver

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I have a question about FKT Guidelines. I read that "To get a Self-Supported FKT you also have to beat the fastest Unsupported time." But for the C&O Canal I see that the self-supported FKT is 3d 19h 10m 5s from 2020 and the Unsupported time is 2d 17h 15m 33s from 2018. So wouldn't that mean that the only way to get a supported FKT is to beat the 2day 17hr time from 2018?  I'm not trying to challenge any of these results, just understand how the guidelines are applied.

Good question.  To get the male supported FKT obviously you would need to beat Wardian's time.  It looks like the slower 2020 self supported FKT was added in error since that person should have had to beat the best unsupported time set in 2018 (and added to our site in 2018).  Oops.  Any future self supported person should beat the existing unsupported time of 2d17h15m, as per the Guidelines.

Thanks for the confirmation. I’m going to try it this week, but I’m not ready to beat that two day mark!

Hey guys….I wanted to announce my attempt to best Wardians’ supported FKT on the C&O Canal. My goal time is 35:59:59. My plan is to set off from Cumberland, MD at 5am on Saturday October 7th, 2022. I’m aware of two detours on the towpath right now. I will run the detours as directed. May God be with me. 

My fiancé will be posting updates on my


IG: adamlowe9940


I was able to complete my failed attempt in 40:56:52. The 2 current detours (Paw Paw tunnel and near Damn 4) definitely added to the challenge. I ended with 188.9 total miles due to the detours. I developed some left hip pain with about 14 miles left and near the 12 mile mark I had to basically walk/shuffle in. At the 24 hour mark I had 60 miles to go. I'm proud of finishing the run sub 41 hours. I wouldn't have been able to do it with my crew chief Katie and all the people who can out to run and support me. I've attached a link to my strava run if you're interested.