Towpath Trail


The Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail is the main recreation route through the Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area. Currently 87-miles long across four counties, the Towpath Trail will be 101 miles when complete. The trail follows closely, though not entirely, along the original route of the Ohio & Erie Canal and provides natural, cultural, historical, and recreational opportunities throughout.

Towpath Trail through Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

The Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition supports the development of the Towpath in Summit, Stark, and Tuscarawas Counties, with our sister organization Canalway Partners leading efforts in Cuyahoga County. Though more than 50 miles of trail have been completed in the southern most counties, nine miles of the Towpath Trail remain to be completed in Dover and New Philadelphia.

To learn more about visiting the Towpath Trail, visit the Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area website.


Towpath Development

Currently, nine miles of the Towpath Trail remain to be built on the southern end of the Towpath Trail, in addition to five miles in Cuyahoga County. The nine southern miles are located in Tuscarawas County - more specifically, in the cities of Dover and New Philadelphia.

Bolivar trail dedication in fall 2016.

Current plans will take the trail from its current southern terminus at State Route 800 to Dover along the Tuscarawas River. A small, quarter-mile connection does remain to be completed in Bolivar, connecting the McDonnell Trailhead with a one-mile section of trail on State Route 212 in Bolivar.

The goal is to complete construction of the Towpath Trail by 2020. If you are interested in donating to make this goal possible, please visit our donation page.


Towpath History

At the beginning of the 19th century, Ohio was geographically isolated from the main hub of economic activity back east. Though rich in natural resources, it was virtually inaccessible to the established eastern markets.

Change came with the advent of the Ohio & Erie Canal. Built in the 1820s and 1830s, the canal was carved out of wilderness to provide an invaluable link from Lake Erie to the Ohio River, thus providing an inland water route between the east coast and Gulf of Mexico and transforming Ohio from an isolated frontier into the third most populated state in the union.

A canal boat carries lumber along the Ohio & Erie Canal.

The canal experienced its heyday during the 1830s and 1840s. However, the rise of the railroad system in the 1850s, which proved to be a faster and more direct mode of transportation, began to mark a period of decline for the canal. In 1861, the government turned the operation of the canal system over to private ownership, marking a further decline in use. Massive flooding in 1913 destroyed what was left of the operating canal, bringing this once-vital aspect of transportation to an official end.

Yet the collapse of the canal system as a viable-transportation route would prove to be just the opening chapter in its ongoing story. In the decades to follow, civic leaders began to see a new future for the Ohio & Erie Canal. By the later part of the twentieth century, various conservation groups began to see the potential of converting the footprint of the old canal system into a regional recreational and greenway area. These groups included the curent day Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Canalway partners, Cascade Locks Park Association, and National Park Service, along with the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition.

Art of Cascade Mills from Don Getz.

In 1996, Congress designated the Ohio & Erie Canalway as a National Heritage Area, helping to preserve and celebrate the rails, trails, landscapes, towns and sites that grew up along the first 110 miles of the canal in northeast Ohio. The vision of Congress and local partners like those listed above has led to the development of the nationally-recognized, recreational Towpath Trail, which attracts more than 2.5 million people annually.