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The C&O Canal Towpath Trail and Great Allegheny Passage

Paw Paw Tunnel

Point of Interest
Runs between mile points 155.2 - 155.8
Paw Paw WV

Paw Paw Tunnel is located on the C&O Canal Trail, in Paw Paw WV

The tunnel is 3,118 feel long
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Paw Paw Tunnel
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C&O Canal Trail
Great Allegheny Passage
Western Maryland Rail Trail

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Forum Discussions about Paw Paw Tunnel

Obligatory “Is the Paw Paw tunnel open?”
BigEv from Pittsburgh on 07/11/2021 09:42 PM:
Will be riding from Cumberland to Hancock on Wednesday 7/14 - anyone know the latest on the Paw Paw tunnel closure? It seems like up to this point that it’s been passable, any update on if that’s changed in the last few days?

BZ from Hesperus CO on 07/14/2021 12:54 AM:
We are be riding thru on Thursday July 22. Any word on status of Paw Paw Tunnel? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

John W. from Pittsburgh, PA on 07/14/2021 03:03 PM:
Still open. Plan on going through and avoid the detour.

Make sure to ask all passers-by as you approach the tunnel if they went through, they’ll have the latest. I must have had 10 people tell me to go through and ignore the detour.


BigEv from Pittsburgh on 07/14/2021 06:35 PM:
I breezed right through today, no issues

BZ from Hesperus CO on 07/15/2021 12:26 AM:
Thanks for feedback.

AM from PA on 07/23/2021 10:55 PM:
Tunnel section is wide open. I went through two days ago (7/21) and there is no construction, nor any construction equipment set up. My guess is because MD DOT is rehabilitating the MD-51 bridge over the towpath (about a half a mile south of the south tunnel entrance), that the NPS has decided to postpone the tunnel scaling project until the bridge work is complete. In any event, the tunnel section is wide open so there is no need to go up and over.

Paw Paw Tunnel in Paw Paw
JOHN C from North Central MA on 06/29/2021 01:05 PM:
We are planning on doing a good chunk of the C&O in September. I'm assuming that the Paw Paw will be closed then. Has anyone any data on the "detour"? A link? Looking at maps, it appears that the Paw Paw tunnel hill trail might be a possible work-around. I'm not sure if it'll be possible with fully loaded touring bikes. Picture i've seen indicate it's more of a fire road. Thanks!

Rivnuts from Homestead,PA on 06/29/2021 11:00 PM:
See the link below regarding the detour. “Road” is a very kind description of that detour. I would use the term “goat path”. I’ve done it with a loaded bike and would not look forward to doing it again especially under wet conditions. I pushed and pulled the bike more than I rode it.


Rey from Concord MA on 06/30/2021 08:50 PM:
We are heading to ride the GAP/C&O starting on July 20th. We will be riding through Paw Paw on Mon. July 26, 21. I would love to keep updated on how this closure, detour and conditions on the Tunnel Hill Trail are. If anyone could share their experience, it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

John W. from Pittsburgh, PA on 07/02/2021 05:36 PM:
I think the best approach is to keep an eye on this forum up until the day you go through the tunnel for any reports. As of now, everyone has gone through the tunnel recently with no issues.

Even though the detour signs are up, it’s worth taking the risk going through the tunnel. Takes maybe 30-40 mins to walk bike through the tunnel? No one knows when the crews will be back to fix the walls on eastern end of the so just plan on going right through. The worst case scenario that will happen is they finally do show up, resume work, and you can’t get through. You might lose an hour now that you’ll have to go back but the temps of the tunnel are cool so it’s not all bad. It’s a risk worth taking by all accounts.

Also, passing cyclists will let you know if you can go right through or need the detour.

So far this summer everyone has gone through with no issues.

Sarge P from Sarasota on 07/04/2021 01:07 PM:
I went through on July 1st, with no hindrances - it is wide open.

rj on 07/08/2021 05:10 PM:
As others have commented, we rode through the tunnel in May, even though it was supposed to have been closed. Whether it was open or closed was a topic of conversation on the trail as we rode, so you can surely ask riders coming the other direction as your approach as to the status when you are riding. We were prepared to do the "over the hill" tunnel trail and thought it might be an adventure, but were extremely happy the tunnel was open. The ride from Cumberland to Hancock is ~ 60 miles through bumpy (and in our case, muddy) trail. This was the worst section of the C and O when we road. It's pretty but other than the Tunnel, not much diversion and the trail was quite rough. It probably took us 20 minutes to walk through the tunnel (do not ride through the tunnel for safety). We were told to budget "1-2 hours" to take the tunnel trail if the tunnel was not open and from some of the video I have watched of others doing it, I think that estimate is accurate (the tunnel trail is, I think, just a couple of miles!) An adventure possibly, yes, but a fun adventure, probably not. I hope the trail will be open and if it is not, consider getting a shuttle. Also, it was a little confusing to some riders---if you are travelling from DC to Pittsburgh, there as signs as you approach the tunnel that the tunnel is closed (even though it was not) and at least one person we met, had gone up and over, b/c he was unaware of the situation. we were travelling Pitts to DC and there were no closure signs. Good Luck and have a great trip.

Rey from Concord MA on 07/08/2021 08:27 PM:
Thank you very much for the information. It's very helpful. I am watching and reading this blog closely for information and updates. I appreciate the update, John W, Sarge and rj. I'd love to go through the tunnel and not go up and over. We are traveling from Pittsburg to DC. Can you tell I am a bit nervous? Enjoy your ride. Glad you made it through the tunnel with no issues.

Current Paw Paw Tunnel Access
Andy from Pittsburgh on 06/21/2021 08:22 PM:
If anybody has ridden through recently, can you describe whether you were able to pass on the trail downstream of the tunnel, or did you have to use the bypass trail? We will be leaving for our ride to DC in a few days, and would like to determine if we definitely should just take the trail or try the tunnel hoping to pass through at the other end.


John W. from Pittsburgh,PA on 06/22/2021 03:04 AM:
Andy, I went right through last week. You wouldn’t even know anyone is working there except for a few signs. No equipment or anything…I was expecting a work site. It was a bit muddy right as I exited the tunnel but other than that nothing else. Ignore the detour and go right through.


IndyRider from Indianapolis on 06/22/2021 06:52 AM:
We rode through the tunnel on June 13, no problems. HOWEVER: we stayed with a very knowledgeable Paw Paw resident the night before, and he said that all indications are that actual closure is imminent. He said that the trailers for the construction workers to live in are receiving final preparations.

Andy from Pittsburgh on 06/22/2021 08:57 AM:
Thanks for your responses. Hopefully it is still open on Monday!

Andy from Pittsburgh on 06/29/2021 06:52 AM:
I rode through the tunnel yesterday, June 28. No signs of construction anywhere near the tunnel and someone tossed a sawhorse into the canal downstream from the tunnel. There do seem to be some bigger puddles in the towpath in the tunnel than in prior years, particularly towards the downstream end.