Maryland Outdoor Club
Sun, Jul 13 2003 - Moderate Loop Day Hike in Paw Paw, WV (View Original Event Details)

Event Organizer(s): Amy Pickwick
Participants:Amy Pickwick

Write Up:
When the Western Maryland camping trip wrapped up at lunchtime on Sunday, several members of the group packed up their cars, and drove back to Cumberland, and then South for nearly 1/2 hour in pursuit of the Paw Paw Tunnel. Since we had pre-posted this event to the web site, the 16 of us campers met up with 2 others who drove up just to hike the tunnel trail with us.

We began on the C&O Canal Towpath for about .5 mile, before reaching the tunnel entrance. We doddled there for a bit, taking photos and such. When done, we entered the cool, dark, wet tunnel, and not before long found that our flashlights were coming in mighty handy. From up in the front, we could here the noises of ghosts from long ago - or, wait, was that just some of our silly MOC members in the back of the group? The path was narrow through the tunnel, so mostly single-file we went. Occassionally, we'd stop to admire bits and pieces of the tunnel, the rest of the time, we just shown our flashlights around to see what we were walking through, or we would pause to turn out our lights and see just how dark it got. The tunnel, at .5 mile long, felt like it took nearly a day to walk through. Just when you thought you were making progress, you'd turn around to see the tunnel entrance was not as far behind you as you thought it would be.

Once done the tunnel, you go up over the hill/mountain that the tunnel was carved through, gaining 350 ft in elevation. The total hike is just over 3 miles, and took about 1.5 to 2 hours to complete.

A bit on the tunnel history-

The placid scene visitors find at the Paw Paw Tunnel gives no hint of numerous historic confrontations both in the building and using of the canal. Stalemates between two mule-pulled boats that met head to head in the one-lane tunnel were common. One of the most dramatic real-life stories claims the tunnel master came out and broke the stalemate by smoking the boats out with a green corn bonfire.

The 24 foot high tunnel is lined with six million bricks -- more or less. Construction was a horror that ate up men, managers and money. It began in 1836 and took 14 years to complete at a cost overrun of 500%. The planned progress of 7 to 8 feet a day became the real pace of 10 to 12 feet a week!

Eliminating about 5 miles of crooked river navigation through the famous Potomac bends, the 3118 foot tunnel was completed on October 10, 1850. Countless tons of coal, farm products and manufactured goods were carried back and forth by mules and canal boats until 1924 when the canal was closed ceding the field of transport through the mountains to trains and highways.

(This hike is from Hiking Maryland & Delaware, available at our online books & magazine shop).

--Amy Pickwick

P.S. Thank you Laura, Kristen, and Rebecca for your photos!

Have some photos from this event that you'd like to share in our photo album? Please forward them to Amy Lipsius at Please note that we prefer to receive the photos in approximately 640x480 or 750x500 pixels - do NOT send original high-res photos. If you have a LOT of photos, please submit up to twenty of your favorites (only) for a day event, or up to forty of your favourites for a multi-day event. Thank you.