C&O Canal Quarters, Md. and Va.
The C&O Canal was in operation for more than 100 years, moving people and freight between Washington, D.C. and the coal country of Cumberland, Md. Lockkeepers, the unsung heroes of the era, lived alongside the canals, answering the call day and night to help barges navigate the lock system. In 1971, the entire 184-mile C&O Canal Towpath was designated a National Historic Park, making it a popular spot for biking and hiking. In a unique twist, seven of the original lockhouses have also been restored and are available for overnight stays, under the supervision of the C&O Trust.
Located at intervals from Mile Marker 5.4 to MM 108.7, the stone residences date to the early 19th century and come in varying degrees of comfort. Three of them have full electricity, plumbing, heat and A/C, while others are bare bones: just the structure and a few basic furnishings, but no electricity or running water. All houses come with an outdoor fire pit for cooking, and period-inspired décor and information that tell the story of different eras of
I stayed in Lockhouse 10, one of the cushy ones. It’s located near Cabin John, just off the Clara Barton Parkway, but it feels much more remote; you can’t hear any traffic (or get much cell service) in its spot along the towpath. Furnishings are simple, with steel-frame beds in the two bedrooms (one queen and three twins; bring your own linens), and wooden rockers and a dining table for four in the living room. Add in a full kitchen and extras like a clawfoot tub in the sole bathroom, two rocking chairs on the porch, and a picnic table by the fire pit, and it makes a perfect escape for history lovers who want to stroll the canal. The lockhouses sell out months in advance, but the experience is well worth the wait.
Canaltrust.org. Houses from $110 to $160/night, 3-night maximum stay per house.