C&O Canal Bike Loaner Program

Bringing Miles of Smiles to the C&O Canal Towpath



  • What is the C&O Canal Bike Loaner Program? ¬†
    The Bike Loaner Program provides visitors with sturdy, safe bicycles and helmets of all sizes for FREE 2-hour rides along the C&O Canal towpath. We “put smiles on wheels” at absolutely no cost to visitors.
  • Where is the program located?
    The Bike Loaner Program is located on the Canal side of the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center: C&O Canal National Historical Park 11710 MacArthur Boulevard Potomac, Maryland 20854
  • What are the hours of operation?
    The Bike Loaner Program is open on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays year-round, weather permitting (generally from April through November, or until the towpath becomes too muddy). We operate from 10 am – 4 pm. (After 2 pm, bikes cannot be loaned out for the full two hours; no bikes are loaned out after 3:30 pm.)
  • How can I borrow a bike?
    Visitors may borrow sturdy, well-maintained, towpath-appropriate bicycles for a period of TWO HOURS, at absolutely no cost. One adult per group must provide a driver’s license (or other government-issued photo ID, such as a passport, at our discretion) or a car key, and all riders must sign a waiver form. The photo ID or car key is returned to visitors when bikes and helmets are returned to us.
  • So, really? It’s totally free?
    The entire Bike Loaner Program is managed and operated by volunteers, and all our bicycles are donated by the public. We accept financial donations to help us sustain the program.
  • How can I donate a bicycle?
    We accept donations of all kinds of bicycles, especially those that would be safe and comfortable for riding on the gravelly towpath. Children’s bikes (with or without training wheels) are always welcome. All bicycles are inspected, repaired, tuned and maintained by our trained bike mechanics. We provide a tax receipt for your donation. Contact us with questions about the bikes you might want to donate.
  • What are the rules for borrowing bicycles from C&O Canal Bike Loaner Program?
    We have only 4 rules (REQUIRED, not optional):

    1. Bikes are permitted ONLY on the towpath. They may not be taken to or ridden on any trail or road other than the towpath.
    2. At least one adult must remain at all times with all the bikes borrowed by a group; bikes must NEVER be left unattended.
    3. Helmets MUST be worn at all times by all riders on our bikes. We provide free helmets of all sizes. Feel free to bring your own helmet if you have one you prefer to wear.
    4. Safety is our #1 priority: Ride single-file. Call out and use the bell (on all of our bicycles) to alert other Park visitors that you are preparing to pass on their left. Yield to pedestrians and mules. Top permitted speed is 15 mph, but adjust your speed to keep yourself and others SAFE.
  • What else do I need to know about borrowing your bikes?
    • Make note of the time you begin your ride. Bikes MUST be returned within 2 hours. Late returns may make you ineligible to borrow our bikes in the future.
    • When you return, please notify a volunteer if you have any concerns about the condition of the bicycle (e.g., low tire pressure, loose seat, etc.) so we can make repairs before lending it out again.
    • If you are injured, if your bike has mechanical problems, or you otherwise need help while using our bikes, call our Program Coordinator at (512) 422-3456 or the Great Falls Visitor Center at (301) 767-3714.
    • The National Park Service is not liable for any injuries or damages that result from the use of BLP bikes. Users are responsible for any and all loss or damage that is sustained to the bike, bicycle users, and third parties.
    • The C&O Canal National Historical Park, like all of our National Parks, is trash-free. Take out what you bring in. Plastic bags are available in the Visitor Center and at locations along the towpath. Please practice Leave No Trace ethics and be good stewards of our park.
  • Can I reserve bikes?
    We are not able to take reservations. However, if you are planning to bring a large group at a specific time, you may contact us in advance and let us know what sizes and numbers of bikes you will need. We will make every effort to accommodate you, but cannot guarantee that we can meet all your requests.
  • You friendly folks seem to be having a lot of fun. Can I volunteer too?
    To learn more about volunteering with the C&O Canal Bike Loaner Program, visit our volunteer page or contact our Program Coordinator at chohblp@gmail.com
  • Where can I see great pictures of the program and read updates besides this web site?
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