This beautiful cycling trail follows the Chesapeake-and-Delaware Canal from Chesapeake City in Maryland to Delaware City in Delaware.

The Ride

30 miles roundtrip

Difficulty

Moderate | Flat, but constant peddling, plus a couple short, steep hills

The Payoff

Riding with a water view most of the way

Highlights

  • Start at North Chesapeake City  – the non-historic side
  • Smooth asphalt – older sections of the trail narrow a bit
  • Most of the trail is along the canal
  • Two short, steep hills – but they have switch-backs to help the climb
  • Turnaround at historic Delaware City – fun to stretch legs & explore
  • Plenty of parking options – you can shorten the ride easily

 

C&D Canal Bike Trail Overview

C&D Canal bike trail

You may find yourself pacing huge cargo ships chugging along the major shipping channel from the East Coast to Baltimore during your trip along the sunlit trail.

Along the way, you’ll go through a nature preserve, around a marina, and past wetlands, traveling between two beautiful, historic villages anchoring both ends of the trail.

The C&D bike trail is actually several local bike trails through Maryland and Delaware that have been connected to make the overall C&D Bike Trail. We treat it as one long trail.

The start of the C&D Bike Trail in Chesapeake City can be seen on the left side of the canal (below).

This route starts in Chesapeake City but flip it around if starting in Delaware City.

Chesapeake City Bike Trail Parking

Chesapeake City added a new asphalt parking lot in 2021 next to the bridge. It’s paved and lighted. The old gravel parking lot under the bridge is still there.

It’s about a three-block cycle to get to the trailhead next to the water. There used to be a few parking spots there, but those are gone.

The Chesapeake City trailhead has a sign, a noticeboard, and a great view of historic South Chesapeake City across the water, and that’s it. There are no restrooms, picnic tables, or other park-like features.

The trailhead is next to Ferry Dock, a stopping point for the water taxi between the two sections of Chesapeake City. If you’re in South Chesapeake City, you can take the Chesapeake City Ferry from April through October.

And before you start, be aware that North Chesapeake City has no convenience stores or chain restaurants for a quick rest-stop before starting the ride.

Delaware City Bike Trail Parking

If you start the C&D Bike Trail in Delaware City, there’s now a parking lot at the trailhead. It’s a gravel lot with cameras. The signage is small, so keep a lookout for it.

The Delaware City bike trail parking lot is at 5th and Green streets. 

Castle Bike Trail Parking in Delaware City

Start of the C&D Bike Trail

C&D Bike Trail

Only 1.8 miles of the route is in Maryland on the Ben Cardin Trail.

Delaware’s 12.1 mile Mike Castle Trail takes over at the state line and continues to Delaware City.

C&D Bike Trail sign on canal

NOTE:

The Delaware state line is about two miles in. From there, it’s 3.5 miles to the South Lums Pond Trailhead; 8.3 miles to the St. George’s Trailhead; and, 10.2 miles to the Biddle Point Trailhead. These trailheads all have parking, restrooms, water, and picnic tables.

 

You continue on the Michael Castle Trail until Delaware City’s 0.4 mile Branch Canal Trail connects cyclists to the town’s Canal-Front Promenade.

The land along the C&D canal is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Maryland and Delaware have long-term leases to maintain most of that land as wildlife areas.

That means there are very few amenities along the trail.

The trail’s route has changed several times over the years due to washouts and other needs. That’s why you have to veer off into the woods and up a hill a few times.

But those changes can also be confusing. The remaining old trail is gavel. You’re on the wrong path if you’re riding on gravel.

Unless you’re a gravel cyclist. In that case, go for it. The gravel sections are short and they don’t connect, but it gets you on gravel. 

C&D Canal Bike Trail

In this case, the route shifts to the left even though the sign says straight. General rule: stay on the asphalt.

For you gravel types… there are side routes off the C&D Canal bike trail near Lums Pond State Park.

There’s also a gravel road on the other side of the water that parallels the canal. I’ve been told about South Canal Road out of historic Chesapeake City but haven’t tried it. It ends at the Dupont Parkway bridge which crosses into Delaware City. But, again, we have no recommendation on that since we haven’t ridden it.

Back to the paved trail — A couple of other off-shoot sections are asphalt, so you need to keep a lookout.

C&D Canal Bike Trail

This route change is well marked, but not all are. 

Middle of the C&D Bike Route

The middle section of the C&D Bike Trail is where the hills start. You need to go up and down hills to get around water inlets and other obstacles.

The hills are generally short. The longer one’s have “S” curves and switchbacks to make it a bit easier. 

Go slow so you don’t run into a cyclist going the other direction.

On my latest ride on the C&D, a cyclist coming downhill above me shouted out “Cyclist ahead!” My head was down as I was pumping up the hill, so I found that warning really helpful.

C&D Bike Trail curves

At the of the first big hill, you’ll come across the Lums Ponds South Trailhead, with restrooms. That’s good for a break, but about a quarter-mile down the trail you’ll find an oasis. 

 Grain H2O is a pub that welcomes cyclists. It has an outdoor bar in good weather. 

Grain Craft Bar & Kitchen on C&D Canal bike Trail

There’s also a marina with a little store nearby. You go by the marina and store on the trail when you continue. 

Once you’re past the marina, you head downhill and along the canal for a while.

There are two more trailheads in this section, St. Georges Trailhead by the town of St. Goerges and Biddle Point Trailhead. Both with restrooms.

At Biddle Point, you’re about two miles from Delaware City! 

Delaware End of C&D Bike Trail

This is an interesting section of the C&D Bike Trail. Topography changes. You’re moving inland and past tidal ponds. 

Delaware City Branch Canal Trail

In the middle of that is the African Union Church Cemetery established in 1835 when church trustees bought the half-acre of land for $80. The church is gone, but the cemetery is still there and beautifully maintained.

It holds the remains of generations of African Americans who lived in Delaware and also five members of the US Colored Troops who served in the Union during the Civil War.

When you see the water tower, you’re almost to Delaware City.

This is about there where the Michael Castle Trail ends and the Branch Canal Trail into Delaware City begins. You follow the town’s 1920’s-era towpath.

C&D Canal Bike Trail by Delaware City

The C&D Canal Bike Trail officially ends at two big red and green balls as you arrive in town.

But go straight, across Fifth Street, and another bike path takes you into historic Delaware City.

Historic Delaware City

Central Hotel in Delaware City

Our route continues to take you through town along the towpath, the Delaware City Branch Channel. The channel is now a long, skinny marina.

The ride into the city center is about 3/4 of a mile to the Delaware River waterfront. Give yourself time to walk about and check it out.

Merchant Row faces Fort Delaware State Park. A ferry takes visitors from the park to a fortress constructed in the mid-1800s on a river island. Costumed interpreters give tours of Fort Delaware and hold re-enactments.

Delaware City has a number of shops and restaurants in the waterfront area.

In September, the town hosts the River Towns Ride & Festival between New Castle and Delaware City. They’re ten miles apart and the the town turns into a party.

Return Ride to Chesapeake City or Delaware City

Depending on how long you took before turning around, the C&D Canal might take on a different look.

A little dusky, the water gets a bit of sparkle. Fishermen are bringing in their catch from along the gravel sections of the route.

Fisherman on C&D Canal

The wind might also pick up a little. Often it turns out that you came in with the wind at your back and now you’re riding into it.

Lean into it and enjoy the view. Take your time and enjoy the peddle.

C&D Canal Bike Trail

North Chesapeake City vs. Historic Chesapeake City

Chesapeake City, Maryland

When you get to North Chesapeake City, where the trailhead is, you’ll find there’s not much there. The only place for the public to gather during or after a ride is Schaefer’s Canal House, a waterfront restaurant with a lively boating atmosphere. They have live music on weekends during the boating season.

To experience historic Chesapeake City, you have to cross the bridge. We recommend you drive across.

The Route 213 bridge is busy, has no shoulders, and barely enough room for a car and a truck to pass each other. There’s a narrow walking path but not wide enough to ride a bike safely.

However, you do get a great view of the area from that high bridge. Walk up without the bike to take a look around. There is a staircase from the gravel parking lot under the bridge that takes you up.

South Chesapeake City in Maryland

 Check out our Historic Towns section to learn more about what’s in historic Chesapeake City,

With all this, you should have a great day trip or a fun weekend getaway. Enjoy!

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