I'm driving to Greensboro NC Friday. I want to break up the drive by taking a 2-3 hour ride on the C&O canal . I am thinking of getting off I-495 at Cabin John and either parking at the canal access off of Clara Barton parkway just west of I-495 or going 5 miles further to the Great Falls Tavern Visitors center. My concern is about the other bike in the car. Is the access close to I-495 reasonably safe enough or should I park at the Great Falls Tavern visitors center ? I see the visitors center closes at 4:30, is the parking area there open later?
Head toward Great Falls as you plan to (Clara Barton from the Beltway). Left at T onto MacArthur. After about a mile Old Angler Inn will be on the right. Pull into the C&O parking lot opposite it on the left (I'm not sure if there is a sign for it.) From there you can cross the canal at the bridge and go left/south towards DC or right/north to Widewater (worth the view ,one of the prettiest places on the entire canal). To get to GF itself take the old road at the end of the parking lot and cross the canal at the other end of Widewater. The access trail to the falls is about a half mile, and the visitor center another half mile.
If you don't mind a good hill to see something interesting, take the visitor center access road up, steep but short. Where it joins MacArthur look to your right. The buildings behind the fence are an abandoned gold mine with historic plaques talking about the MD gold rush. Then ride the hill down MacArthur back to the parking lot.
Some of the little parking lots for the canal can get lonely, especially on a weekday, but should be safe to park at Old Angler. The MacArthur end of the lot is very public. Not sure how busy it is on Fridays but on weekends that lot fills up early.
Have fun. Looks like the Friday weather might even cooperate.
added - I suspect that the GF visitor center parking lot stays open after the center closes, probably until dusk, but the Great Falls lot is a pay lot ($5 if I remember right)
Thanks CC, I searched and found the parking lot across from Old Angler Inn on Google maps. That looks good! I also like the idea of riding up and around MacArthur. I have driven back to the visitors center once before a few years ago and that was an interesting road.
I'm trying to beat the rain that is forecast for Friday evening, I was going to ride up near Williamsport but that would have been later in the day and there is a 50% chance of rain forecast for that area on Friday