C&O Canal and Long Pond Shuttle




Description: This is a STRENUOUS shuttle hike with a maximum distance of 14.7 miles with the emphasis on strenuous. This is probably the hardest hike that I've undertaken. Although the maximum elevation gain is about 500 feet you get to do this about 4 times.To add to the elevation gains, there are several times when you have to quickly climb 100-300 feet without the aid of switchbacks in order to get above the cliffs and flood plains that surround Fifteen Mile Creek. Descents are also steep and slippery in places, requiring crab walking at times.


With all of the difficulties involved with this trek I highly recommend it. Along with being one of the most arduous day hikes in MD it is, perhaps, also the most beautiful. In spring the canal towpath is lined with Dutchman's Britches, Virginia Blue Bells, Spring Beauties and Wild Geraniums. Historically there is the old abandoned Western Maryland RR bridge over the Potomac and Lock 58 on the canal.


The visits to Long Pond and other parts of Fifteen Mile Creek are nothing short of inspirational. Also of note is a fairly large forest of healthy Hemlock trees not yet infected with the Woolly Adelgid parasite that has devastated similar forest in VA and PA.


NOTE: The length and difficulty of this hike can be varied by using alternate car drop-off points along Fifteen Mile Creek Rd, Old Town Rd and/or Dug Hill Rd. Check with the ranger on road conditions first! Old Town Road to the Visitor Center is about 9.3 miles.

Custom Google Directions (short hike)

 Custom Google Directions (long hike)

Printable/Downloadable Map

Printable/Downloadable map

Printable/Downloadable Map 1

Printable/Downloadable Map 2


Note: The following GPS data is for the 9.3 mile version w/o the C&O Canal segment. It also includes the side adventure/bushwhack below Long Pond.


Zipped National Geographic. TOPO! GPS and Universal GPX Files 

GPS Text File for Non-TOPO! Users


Trail Notes: From the Fifteen Mile Creek Campground and launch ramp area walk south on the C&O Canal, crossing the aqueduct. The trail is nearly flat along the canal and you should make good time. The canal will change directions heading northwest. At 2.5 miles from the aqueduct pass under an abandoned Western Maryland RR bridge that crosses the Potomac River. In another 0.7 miles arrive at Lock 58.


Walk across the bridge. The Long Pond Trail officially goes to the right of the kiosk, following white blazes, and quickly turns left, climbing over a hill and back down to a stream. There are enough hills to climb on this outing so I prefer to turn left from the kiosk, walking along the base of the hill (You're actually in the C&O Canal at this point.) until the stream is reached (about 150 yards). Turn right and soon cross the stream, following the white blazes.


In about ¼ mile you'll walk through the stream at a narrow point in the valley with a large rock face to your left. Immediately past this rock make a hairpin left turn and switchback up the hill. This is your first 400 foot climb.


At about 1 mile after leaving the canal reach gravel Old Town Road. Turn left and walk briefly downhill to a stake marking the trail on the right. There is a parking area directly across from it. Proceed down the hill via switchbacks. As you descend you'll pass through a pine plantation.


Reach a stream and follow it down almost to its junction with Fifteen Mile Creek. You'll cross the stream several times. As the valley broadens and after the last crossing, the trail becomes a forest road. Soon arrive at a T intersection with another grassy forest road (about 1.7 miles from Old Town Road). To the right will be a huge meadow with a couple of rows of pine trees. I'm not sure but this may be an abandoned CCC camp. The creek may be reachable from there making this a great campsite. To continue with the trip follow the white blazes to the left.


The forest road will slowly climb up and around a hill. This is the beginning of the second 500 foot elevation gain. There was a recent reroute off of an old grassy forest road on a footpath to the right. Follow it and arrive at a recently graded lumber road. This is part of the original trail but was re-opened for a lumbering project. Turn left and follow the road up hill. Keep an eye out for white blazes and another footpath to your left as the trail leaves the forest road and climbs more steeply to the top of a ridge. (If you feel adventurous and don’t mind a little bushwhacking and some stream crossings see the modification of the outing at the end of these notes.) Ignore the blue blazes near the top on your right. They lead to a campsite. When you reach the next ridge the trail will make a sharp right and descend along its spine to an area just above Long Pond. This is a great camping/lunch spot. The water is always cool and refreshing. To visit the real Long Pond, ford the creek where the trail first comes off of the ridge.

 You can hike the entire length of Long Pond by a mixture of following an old, barely discernable woods road, the shore and some open woods bushwhacking downstream. Most people miss this part. The total distance between Old Town Road and Long Pond is about 4.2 miles.As you return to the trail and continue upstream there is a log shelter a few hundred yards up the trail on top of a low hill to the left. Continue up Long Pond Trail. At another forest road turn left uphill and slowly climb up to Dug Hill Road. Reach the road at 1.2 miles from the Long Pond campsite. My map and the official forest map now has the Long Pond Trail Crossing Dug Hill Road, climbing a hill and then descending onto Dug Hill Rd again. Niether I, on multiple occasions or 2 other groups of hikers have been able to find this trail. I will be changing my map soon. The blazes and my preferences have you turning right on Dug Hill Rd immediately and following it for about 1 mile before turning off to the right into a grand stand of Hemlocks. The trail is clearly marked with a hiker sign.

Initially this section of trail will be flat and narrow with a steep hill falling off to your right. In about 0.4 miles after leaving Dug Hill Road you will temporarily descend to Fifteen Mile Creek at a sharp bend with some more great campsites and views of the creek. As you make the gradual turn upstream you will once again be forced to climb steeply up above the canyon only to again descend to yet another fantastic campsite at the junction of a small stream.


Cross the stream and climb another smaller hill before descending to the junction with Deep Run and the trail of the same name and Pine Lick Trail. Long Pond Trail ends here and the Pine Lick Trail takes you back to your car. Deep run may be a challenge to cross during high water periods. Follow Pine Lick Trail up Fifteen Mile Creek along the floodplain for a bit before the trail again climbs steeply to avoid steep banks and flooded areas. Descend again and in about 0.5 miles from the last trail junction come to a footbridge over the creek.


Cross the creek and begin a steep ¼ mile climb. You'll gain 300 feet in that short distance. The trail forks near the crest of the hill. Take the right fork, eventually walking alongside of I-68 for a bit, and in 0.75 miles from the fork reach the ranger station and your vehicles.

Modification: Instead of turning left off of the lumber road at the blaze continue up the road. The road will make a hard left turn up a steep hill. Don’t turn but continue straight on an old grassy woods road. This is the continuation of Old Mountain Road. The road gradually climbs (barely noticeable) then descends on a steep grassy hill to the “appendix” of Long Pond. Your options here are to wade across the appendix, cross a peninsula and then cross Fifteen Mile Creek or follow the bank around to the other side of the appendix and continue on. There is an ”iffy” trail that zig-zags through the woods and up and over a pretty challenging rock wall to reach the other side. Once you cross Fifteen Mile Creek (You may actually have to splash hike up it a few yards, depending where you cross) Climb up onto the bank of Long Pond and follow upstream to its beginning using some open woods bushwhacking and following the bank and/or a barely discernable woods road. Re-cross the creek and continue with the above notes.


Name: Jeeremy Krones                                                                                          Hike: C&O Canal/Long Pond Shuttle

Date: 11/24/13                                                                                                       Rating: 3.2


Criitique: While this was a great hike on a beautiful day, it was nothing like what we expected. The group members (13 UMD students) each rated the hike, and our average is 3.2 (the highest was a 4, the lowest was 2.5). We started the hike at 10:30am and finished at 4:10pm on a cold, windy day (~20ºF). This trail is not in any way strenuous. Moderate, certainly, and even on the tough side of moderate *at times*, but by and large this was not nearly as difficult as any other 'strenuous' hikes we've done nor was it any more difficult than many of the moderate hikes. If anything, the distance of the trail (NOT 15 miles – very possibly closer to 12) (if you did the entire hike, from the canal to Headquarters I can guarantee you it was 14.7 miles. If you did the short version, not hiking the canal part, it was 12 miles. I think your group is just in excellent physical condition.) made it more difficult than most other trails in MD. Additionally, while the trail is very clearly blazed (no real trail notes needed: follow the Red blazes until the first marked junction and then follow the clearly marked signs to the Headquarters, on Blue blazes), it is NOT very well maintained. Slope cuts were highly eroded; our downhills were steep, slippery, and dangerous at times; and the "boardwalk" bridge in the last few miles was treacherous to cross (pictures to come). The bridge is warped in the middle and very unstable to cross. The final critique is that there were no great views – we did it in the wintertime, which means that in the summer whatever views we saw would be even less due to more leaves. However, it was a nice trail, and an interesting one. The landscape and geological formations were great to look at, and the various bodies of water were fun. The cabin added to the experience, too. NOTE: from the first kiosk at the turn-off from the C&O Canal, just follow the base of the slope (as mentioned in the notes) instead of following the red blazes right off the bat; the "trail" is nonexistent on the slope, and more use can only increase the erosion and potential danger until a real tread is constructed.




Name:Moonshine                                                                                                    Hike: Long Pond Trail
Date: 6/12/2010                                                                                                     Rating: 4

Critique: I hiked from the HQ via blue-blazed trail and fancy bridge to the beginning of official red-blazed trail and ran out of steam once I reached Oldtown Rd. On the way back I largely waded through the creek and explored the steep left bank. IMO hiking in Green Ridge is easy: not a lot of dead wood, pretty grassy clearings, ready supply of drinking water and not a lot of people. The official trails are freshly blazed, so it is hard to get lost even in the dark.


Name: Matt Zimmerman                                                                                        Hike: Long Pond
Date: 01/31/08-02/01/08                                                                                    Rating: 4

Critique: First time to Green Ridge State Park. We did this as a backpacking trip. First day was absolutely beautiful but the night and second day was filled with sleet and rain. The water was high so the second day walking across the creeks was very difficult. We missed the turn onto the Pine Lick trail so we crossed the creek 10+ more times than we had to... I fell in, it was cold...
Very challenging in the conditions, had a lot of fun. Thanks very much for this site!

Name: Peter Fleszar                                                                                               Hike: C&O Canal-Long Pond Shuttle
Date: Various                                                                                                           Rating: 4.5

Critique: We've been through here a few times never quite following these or the same routes.

One variation we've taken a couple of times is to cut off the long bend in the C&O towpath just above Little Orleans by taking the old WM RR bed (shown on the topo) from its junction with the towpath just east of Lock 58, east (compass northeast) to come out directly across the road from Bill's Place. This RR bed is owned by the National Park Service against the far-off day when the Western Maryland Rail Trail can extend over the many crossings into WV, and this little section is used by locals in high water when they can't cross Fifteen mile Creek at the usual road crossing. Accordingly it's gravel surfaced from the fenced-off bridge over to Bill's Place. In order to reach the RR bed which is much higher than the towpath at the Potomac River bridge shown on the quad, there is a little old road that almost reaches the towpath. This little old road leaves the RR bed where the driveway to the PATC Little Orleans cabin does, one needs to cross a few feet of PATC property which is not posted.

Another variation of the route is to cross Fifteen mile Creek and the mouth of Terrapin Run on the remains of M.V. Smith Road, cutting some distance on the return to GRSF headquarters, but also missing the footbridge over Fifteenmile Creek and the interesting climb up the point (not to mention the sudden emergence onto the shoulder of I-68 and as sudden disappearance into the woods). This variation is obviously not good in high water. The one-sided routed sign at the south end of M.V. Smith Road is harder to discern every time we pass by.


Name: Donald Holland                                                                                            Hike Name: C&O Canal/Long Pond Shuttle

Hike date: 04-26-2003                                                                                           Ranking: 5

comment: Though a gray day, a challenging and varied hike with lots of climbing and many streams. Perhaps one of the best in MD, even though hikers would feel worn out at the end. We did the full hike, ending on a long rocky uphill, but another hike cut that part out. We also got waylaid, but that's the fun of a scouting trip, many of which are actually better than the "official" hike because of experimentation.


Lynn (Done as Backpack)                                                                                      Hike Name: C&O Canal/Long Pond Shuttle

Hike date:04-09 to 10-05                                                                                      Ranking: 5

comment: Terrific backpack. Quite strenuous in a couple of places but just what my friend and I were looking for - a good workout and scenic beauty. We took the owner of the website's suggestions of eliminating the first climb just past Lock 58 on the C & O Canal Towpath (and were glad later that we did!). The towpath was indeed lined with Dutchman's Britches, Virginia Blue Bells, Spring Beauties, and an occasional Bloodroot. It was also early enough in the season to enjoy unobstructed views of the Potomac, 15 Mile Creek and the beautiful hillside terrain. We also followed the author's lead turning right on Dug Hill Road and following the road for about a mile to find the continuation of the trail on the right. We also never saw an obvious trail on the other side of Dug Hill Road and decided to stick with a sure route. We camped beyond Long Pond, which is a portion of 15 Mile Creek, passing a number of very nice camp sites closer to the river. We hiked out the next day, and enjoyed the heart pumping hills along the route. One note, at the junction of Deep Run, the Deep Run Trail, and the Pine Lick Trail where the Long Pond Trail ends, make sure to head north on the Pine Lick Trail and not south on the Deep Run Trail. You could make this mistake if you are following white trail markings and not paying attention to the route. Super weekend backpack. We highly recommend it and will be back.


Name: Mary Anderson                                                                                            Hike Name: C&O Canal/Long Pond Shuttle

Hike Date: 7-22-05                                                                                                 Ranking: 5

Critique: Green Ridge is a beautiful Forest with wildflowers everywhere if you go off the roads. If you go to Long Pond in mid-late August (depending on rain and weather) you can see Cardinal Flowers lining the "Long Pond."

M. R. Hyker Note: Not sure which version of the hike Mary did but it's all nice. We just hiked past Long Pond on 07/30/05. We found one outstanding Cardinal flower on the trail but up stream from Long Pond. I think we were a bit early. Mary, if you did a different hike e-mail me and clarify.


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