At the Potomac River, the frontier outpost of Fort Cumberland (not to be confused with the Cumberland Gap between Virginia and Kentucky) was the pioneer gateway across the Alleghenies to Pittsburgh and the Ohio River. With the completion of the C&O Canal and the arrival of the railroad in the 1800s, the city became a commercial hub, transporting goods and natural resources down the river to Georgetown.
Cumberland today has expanded into the outdoor recreation trade to guide visitors into the region's rivers, forests and mountains. The heart of the outdoor scene is Canal Pl, where two long-distance hike-and-bike paths meet: the C&O Canal towpath and the Great Allegheny Passage. Their junction point is just a few steps from the depot for the popular scenic railroad. Canal Pl is also just a short stroll from the pedestrian-friendly streets of downtown.