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Opinion: Swain’s Lock (Lock 21)

By Nathaniel Wu




Swain’s Lock is a popular destination along the C & O Canal, but personally, it is overrated. It’s for one reason only: Parking. Parking at Swain’s is extremely tight and busy, so be prepared to not find much space at all. Cars must take a very narrow bridge to get into the lot, which adds to the stress. The surface is like gravel, so cars may also get a bit dusty. An alternative option is to park in the neighborhood on the opposite side of River Road, but the best way to approach parking is to go early to claim a spot before the rush at 9 am.


Despite the stressful parking situation, Lock 21 is close to many attractions like Great Falls. There is also a scenic campsite across the canal with grills and picnic tables available. More information can be found on the website.

(Swain's Lock Camping site)


Swain’s Lock is perfect for some, but for me personally, it is not worth it. There are several locks nearby such as Great Falls or Lock 22 (Pennyfield) that have much more parking. Drop off is a much better option if you plan to venture to Swain’s. Nevertheless, whether you want to bike, hike, camp, or walk, Swain’s Lock can accommodate your needs.

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