Chesapeake and Ohio Canal NHP: Swains Lock to Violettes Lock

Hike or bike 11.6 out-and-back miles on an old mule path to views of the Potomac and historical relics. A flat profile makes this trip suitable for young hikers.
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Trail Facts

  • Distance: 9.3


Pennyfield Lock House

Location: 39.0538139343262, -77.2881469726562

©Patrick Brown

The Potomac

Location: 39.0606117248535, -77.3163528442383

A view from the canal. ©Patrick Brown

Pennyfield Lock

Location: 39.0540657043457, -77.2880249023438

©Patrick Brown

Violette's Lock

Location: 39.0669097900391, -77.3279342651367

©Patrick Brown


Location: 39.0314598083496, -77.243896484375

From boathouse, cross bridge and swing R, heading NW on old towpath; paddlers float the canal's glassy waters


Location: 39.0382499694824, -77.2550964355469

Path is flat and lined with lush hardwoods; ahead, bridge spans high above canal near pumping station


Location: 39.0396385192871, -77.2601776123047

Spot waterfowl swimming along the banks of the broad Potomac


Location: 39.0417709350586, -77.2668762207031

River scenic: At first glance, the Potomac appears lazy, but see how quickly boaters move in the Class I-II current


Location: 39.0538482666016, -77.2889709472656

Trail passes Pennyfield Lock. A vacant two-story farmhouse reminds hikers how prosperous this canal once was. Now, the white paint peels, boards replace windows, and the roof is rotten.


Location: 39.0572204589844, -77.2956924438476

Pond on L @ canal milepost 20


Location: 39.0595512390137, -77.3082962036133

Continue W; floods and railroads eventually closed this canal in 1924


Location: 39.0590591430664, -77.3156890869141

Rock shelves and piles in river create mini-rapids @ Rockhouse Point


Location: 39.0670700073242, -77.328727722168

Path squeezes between cliff and riverbed to Violettes Lock; return to car