Finding the beginning of the C&O Canal trail is a bit of a scavenger hunt. I had three people meeting me at the beginning of the trail to start the ride with me, and we were all at different points for the "start." To find mile marker zero, head to Thompson Boathouse, then walk around the front of the boathouse and to the east side (it will seem like you shouldn't be there). On the east side of the boat house is a dirt path that takes you about 20 feet to the concrete mile marker. You'll be pushing your bike there!
To begin my journey, I scheduled a light day of biking so we could travel to the starting point without having to begin the journey from our homes before the sun. I chose to do the bike trip the opposite direction of most people, because it was easier to get to the start in DC and have people join me for a Saturday start.
Day 1: Georgetown to Marble Quarry Campsite - 37.8 miles
An easy day of riding with a fairly well groomed trail. Notable stops were at Great Falls (hike out for the view of the Potomac River) and the Great Falls Visitor's Center (catch a look at the horses pulling the boat).
We hit a storm rolling in about 2 miles from the campsite, so we hunkered down in a pavilion next to the Whites Ferry for about 2 hours. It turned into a perfect shelter from the rain. My cousin's wife was able to meet us with dinner.
The rain let up, and three of us continued down the trail to Marble Quarry campsite. Each campsite on the C&O canal has a port-a-john, well pump, picnic table, and fire ring. The wells are treated with iodine, so to help with the flavor, I would filter the water. Filtering wasn't necessary, but I felt better drinking filtered water.
Choosing a campsite is relatively easy, especially considering they are spaced out every 5 - 10 miles on the C&O Canal. I used this website when choosing which campsites to set up tent. It provided useful information like noise levels and car access. The distance to car access was important to me because I figured if a car was within a walking distance, then people would have more access to the campsite for potential nefarious activity. If someone had to walk far or bike to a campsite, there was less of a chance for thievery. Frequency of port-a-john use also decreased the further away from car access it was, you can guess what that meant. Marble Quarry was a great site, the bullfrogs particularly liked it as well (they weren't mentioned on the list).