The Kessler Tunnel (1843′ in length) was completed in 1906 and abandoned in 1975 when the Western Maryland Railroad went out of business. It’s located in the Paw Paw Bends, and in spite of being part of the C&O Canal NHP, it is not readily available via the towpath.
Now for some more Kessler Tunnel trivia: it was acquired by the NPS in 1980; it’s named after original landowner John Kessler; and the WMRR right-of-way could someday become part of the Western Maryland Rail Trail. However–and perhaps most importantly–the tunnel is a lot harder to find than either the Indigo or Stickpile Tunnels. For those interested in hiking to the tunnel, the journey begins at the Tunnel Hill Trail.
Head toward the Paw Paw Tunnel from the campground just off of Maryland Rt. 51 and take the trail to the top of Tunnel Hill. The directional signs at the top are for the Tunnel Hill Trail, which leads to the towpath. Instead, turn right onto Tunnel Hill Road where it intersects with the trail. Eventually, the road will pass through a gate and head downhill toward a sharp right-hand turn. On the right side, there will be a clearing. Pass through this and head straight toward the river. Toward the lower ridge overlooking the Potomac, there is a deep, impassable railroad cut. Follow this to a steep (but passable) bank made up of shale and loose dirt, and this will lead to both the trestle and an entrance into the gap leading to the tunnel.
After “Googling” the Kessler Tunnel, I chanced upon a couple of really vague maps showing its approximate location in conjunction with Tunnel Hill Road. We made the mistake of taking the road to the end, and it literally leads to the middle-of-nowhere and ends on a ridge-line overlooking the river and the B&O trestle in the second picture. From there, it was a long, uphill hike to the top of two large hills, so be sure not to overshoot the target! For those interested in a less-strenuous hike, Tunnel Hill Road is available from Malcolm Road off of Rt. 51. One can literally drive to within a mile or so of the tunnel. It’s the same idea–take Tunnel Hill Road downhill to a hard right and cut through the woods. There’s one other thing though: much of the land is state owned hunting grounds, and signs of hunters are everywhere.