Magazine article Parks & Recreation

The Trail's Top Five

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

The Trail's Top Five

Article excerpt

You can backpack, cycle, boat, and camp along the Potomac Heritage Trail, a system so long and varied that picking just a few favorite spots is a tough job. But that doesn't deter David Lillard, co-author of Potomac Heritage Trail: A Hiker's Guide, who helped compile the following list.

1. Paw Paw Tunnel

At 3,118 feet long, Paw Paw Tunnel is the longest man-made structure on the trails's C&O Canal. The extraordinary tunnel was originally built for the 1 9th-century boats that plied the canal; the original railings, worn smooth by tug ropes, are still in place. Today, visitors can ride a bike or hike through the tunnel. It's dark inside, so carry a flashlight or lantern although it's more fun to go through without one. Paw Paw Tunnel is adjacent to Maryland's Green Ridge State Forest, a 50,000-acre woodland with more plant species than in all of Europe. It's one of the few places along the trail where you can go off on an extended backpack trip.

2. Great Falls, Virginia

Perhaps the trail's most dramatic view of the Potomac River is on the Virginia side of Great Falls, some 1 5 miles north of Washington, D.C. Formed over thousands of years by the erosive power of the Potomac River, Great Falls is one of the region's most spectacular natural areas. As the river picks up speed and force, its several waterfalls cascade over steep jagged rocks and tumble into Mather Gorge, leaving visitors with a sense of primordial wilderness just outside the nation's capitai.

3. Big Savage Tunnel

Less than a mile north of the MarylandPennsylvania border along the Great Allegheny Passage section of the trail, Big Savage Tunnel - built as a railroad tunnel in 191 1- cuts 3,300 feet through the top of Big Savage Mountain. Enthusiasts from the Rails to Trails Conservancy rate the view from this section of trail as the most splendid vista from any rail trail east of the Mississippi. …

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