Summary: The Paw Paw tunnel took 12 years to build. It's 3/5 of a mile long, and is made up of over 5,800,000 layered bricks! The purpose of the tunnel was to save 5 miles of canal construction along the Potomac by cutting across one of the "necks" of land formed by the Paw Paw bends.
The tunnel proved to be a bottle neck in the busiest years of canal traffic, as there was no room for turning or passing. When they got to the tunnel mouth, canal boats would put out a white lantern at the bow and a red lantern on the stern, so that other boats would know which direction they where traveling. The boats comming downstream where supposed to yeild the right of way.
Bring a flashlight with you on this hike. It's very dark once inside the tunnel, and the walkway is a bit bumpy. There's a handrail along the way, some of which is still from the original contruction.
Trailhead: I-66W to I-81N. Turn left onto 522N, and after a bit turn left again onto 127. Follow through the town of Paw Paw, WV. Just across the river is the parking area and camping lot. There's a large sign that's hard to miss! (Lat:39.5443 Lon:-78.4612)
Trail Guides for Paw Paw tunnel:
Best Seasons: Year-Round
User Groups: Hikers, Dogs, Bikes, Horses,
Ranger Contact: Canal National Park Headquarters (301) 739-4200
Localhikes Reporter: This hike was submitted by Joe Cross, who has posted 56 other hikes on this site
Trail Reviews Submit your own review
Reviewed by Patrick B on 2/17/2012
A must recommend for anyone who enjoys history and scenery. Also recommend the trail coming back over PawPaw tunnel. The tunnel itself can be intimidating to some people as it can make you feel enclosed and trapped, and has no lighting except for your flashlight and the ends of the tunnel. Always very humid inside the tunnel. It is handicap accessible also.
Reviewed by Kitty on 9/8/2010
A very unique hike with interesting geology and a feat of engineering. The path is perfect for a stroller with larger tires, like a hiking or jogging stroller. However, this hike is not for ophidiophobics. There are regular holes in the brick at about 3 feet about the path running the length of the tunnel, and we encountered two snakes, of two different non-venomous species, resting in those holes. Also saw a corn snake (also non-venomous) in the water at the east end of the tunnel. No bats.
Reviewed by amanda on 11/12/2008
Just a good old time that is different and memorable.
Reviewed by Don on 5/12/2007
It is a great hike and everyone will enjoy from cyclist to wheel chairs. Lots of wild flowers,and wildlife. My wife and I are looking forward to another trip.
Reviewed by Linda on 1/7/2007
I passed through this when biking the C&O canal several years ago (WALK your bike through!); had heard there were bats and it was messy but that was NOT the case. It's an amazing engineering feat. I also have walked through the tunnel and then over the hill; very nice with pretty views from the top.
Reviewed by phil on 8/22/2005
i bike rode this portion of the c&o a few times. the tunnel is spooky! a very narrow path and the canal is full of water. water drips from the ceiling and splashs loudly into the canal. on a hot day, the cool tunnel is a pleasure to go through.
Reviewed by Mike on 7/28/2005
This is great fun and very historic. I love it!
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