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  1. #1
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    C & O tow path questions

    After many years wanting to, this fall I'm finally doing it .

    So far I'm doing a cross bike with a bob trailer. Fenders, rear racks, panniers, many years bike commuting experience.

    Where do you camp there? I'm going from dc to Pittsburgh .

    Going to bring water filters.

    Any good or must have books for the trail? Or just wing it ?

    Bill

  2. #2
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    This is a ride I would like to try someday too.

    I have no first hand info.

    But would suggest you check out crazyguyonabike.com: Bicycle Touring: A place for bicycle tourists and their journals.

    Do a search for C & O and you will find many trip reports from others who have done this route. My interest comes from reading many of these reports.

    Good luck.

    R

  3. #3
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    I'm actually doing this ride in September with some buddies, but we're going from Pittsburgh to DC.

    There are actually two trail systems used, the Great Allegheny Passage: Great Allegheny Passage - www.gaptrail.org

    And the C&O Towpath: Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park - Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park

    There are numerous camping and lodging sites along the paths. Just take a look at this section from DC to Cumberland (C&O Towpath):http://www.nps.gov/choh/upload/Recre...t-nov-2011.pdf

    The GAP link above also has links for Camping and Lodging. It seems like a well developed trail system so finding food and water also shouldn't be much of an issue.

  4. #4
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    C & O tow path questions

    Anybody have a suggestion for a shuttle service? I'd like to ride from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.


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  5. #5
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    Cumberland Trail Connection (Cumberland, MD)...they are a bike shop right at the trailhead of the C&O and GAP. They shuttle either direction.

    You might also look into Amtrak. They run from DC to Pitt. If the Pittsburgh terminal handles freight, you can load your bike in DC and get it in Pittsburgh. There's a terminal in Cumberland, MD but they don't handle freight so you can't unload your bike there.

  6. #6
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    What do you think your daily mileage will be? The trail is pretty much dead flat and if you can get 60 miles a day you will definitely pass through towns with services every day. No need for water filters unless you really want them, there are water pumps treated with iodine all along the C&O, and on the GAP there are plenty of shops for gatorade, ice cream, restaurants, etc... Cross bike is fine, BOB is overkill-- if it wont fit into a set of paneers with rear rack and a backpack then just dont bring it! You wont need much gear at all for the ride it's pretty casual. Definitely buy the trailbook from the ATAtrail website it has mile by mile info on whats along the trail. Theres a good iphone app for the GAP and one for the C&O as well that has all the services listed. Came in handy when I accidentally left my guidebook at a B+B!

    It's an awesome ride. I did it last summer with my girlfriend and we stayed at B+Bs every night. Im heading back to do it again this spring by myself as well. I'm from Pgh, and I got a one way car rental from PGH to DC then biked back. Wasn't too expensive at all especially split between 2 people.


    ENJOY the ride!

  7. #7
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    My wife, daughter (2YO) were thinking about doing this trip, but the shuttle part gets a little complicated with our Big Dummy. We are leaning more towards an Outer Banks loop instead.

    Amtrak is an option, but I have read that you will need to box your bike up for the trip.

    We have done about a 100 miles of the GAP trail, awesome area for sure! Your Cross bike will be perfect.

    Keep us posted with your plans.

  8. #8
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    From the Amtrak site:


    *Full-size bicycles may be carried on certain trains with designated walk-on bicycle service. Bicycles must be stowed in the designated space within the body of the car. Reservations may be made online or by calling 1-800-USA-RAIL.

    *Passengers utilizing the walk-on bicycle service, where bikes are carried on select trains by the passenger and stored in designated areas, must be able to fully handle their bicycle, and be able to lift their bicycle to shoulder height. Passengers are responsible for stowage and security of bicycles.

    Seems to me that the Amtrak from DC to Cumberland/Pittsburgh has this option. I forget where I read or heard that. If not...it may be possible to buy a second ticket and bring the bike on as a "passenger". I don't know if they'd allow it...might be an idea though. Cheaper than using a shuttle service at least. I've wanted to do the C&O trip for awhile. Maybe this year. Heck, I only live 15 minutes from the trail...I've never really ridden it.

  9. #9
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    Nubster: good info! Utilizing the Amtrak option is the way to make this happan if you ask me.

    Checkout the below link discussing some of the difficulties potentially faced though.
    The C&O Canal Bicycling Guide - Transport and Shuttles

    Look forward to hearing some sucess stories on the train.

    Cheers

    Butch

  10. #10
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    C & O tow path questions

    Walk on would be ideal. Even boxing your bike would be ok if you're going from dc to Pittsburgh.


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  11. #11
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    Here is the page that details bicycle allowances.

    Amtrak - Plan - Policies - Baggage Policy & Service - Special Items

    There is walk-on bicycle service on certain routes, but not the one in question (Capital Limited). Bicycles can be boxed and put on the train as checked luggage, which can only be loaded and unloaded in DC and Pittsburgh. That works great if you are doing the GAP & C&O, not so great if you only want to ride one of them.

  12. #12
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    Here's a good rundown on the ride and train: Bicycle Times rides to Washington | Bicycle Times Magazine

    They have experimented with roll-on roll-off service for bikes on the Captiol Limited line, but nothing has been committed yet. My guess it will happen eventually though.

    Like the above poster said, you can NOT stop halfway. There is no baggage service in Cumberland.

  13. #13
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    I rode a recumbent trike from Florida to Pittsburg a few years ago and did the C&O and GAP trails into Pittsburg.
    There are some great campsites along the rivers on the C&O and many inexpensive hostel sort of lodging along the GAP. There are water pumps at most campsites on the C&O but the water always tasted of iron so bad it was only drinkable in a survival situation IMO.
    have a great trip!

  14. #14
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    I have done the C&O 5 times. Don't forget about amtrak if you are doing Pittsburgh to DC, you can check your bike. Otherwise, it is only a two hour drive from cumberland to DC, the Holiday Inn in cumberland will be happy to hold your bikes while you drive to DC and train back up...BTW, they serve Sam Adams on Amtrak.

    Any other questions, post here and I will do my best to answer. I know all the best places to eat, stay and grab a cold beer.

  15. #15
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    Rambo47

    First time DC to Pittsburgh rider and would welcome any advice. Looking for fav restaurants, interesting stops or side trips along the way. Leaving this Tuesday morn out of Pitts on Amtrak. Have made all B & B reservations and intend to take my time along the C & O for exploring (40 mile days 1- 3) then pickup the pace and miles from Hancock home. Schedule as follows:

    Day 1 - Spend first nite in DC, 4 hrs pedal among the monuments.
    Day 2 - DC to Leesburg, about 35 miles. Leesburg Colonial Inn
    Day 3 - to Shepherdstown, 40m. Thomas Shepherd Inn
    Day 4 - to Hancock, 50m. River Run B & B
    Day 5 - to Cumberland, 60m. Cumberland Inn & Spa
    Day 6 - to Confluence, 60m. Parkerhouse
    Day 7 - to the Point! about 90 miles.

    Thanks in advance for any input!

  16. #16
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    ^^ That sounds like a good plan/pace. The last 90 mile day to the point will be as easy as your 50 miles to Hancock-- it's all smooth and downhill!

    I'll maybe see you on the trail. I'm going Pgh to DC and leaving on Wednesday, biking through the night trying to do it all in one push.

  17. #17
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    Tsidey,

    Sounds like a cool trip. My expertise would be in the C&O section, so here it goes:

    -DC- be sure to have a bell for your bike, the traffic dies off once you get past Great Falls. I would make time to walk the trail out to the falls viewing area, it is not far and well worth the view and pics to show later.

    -Leesburg, unless you have shuttle taking you back to White's Ferry, be VERY careful of the traffic on rt 15, it is heavy and rush hour starts early

    -Shepardstown is a small college town so there are lots of cool places to eat and carb reload

    -Williamsport (mp100) is a funky small town, lots of places to grab lunch

    -the Western Maryland Rail Trail parallels the C&O for 25 miles, you pick it up just past Ft Frederick State park (MP 112) and it takes you right into Hancock and it is paved.

    -If you have time, check out Ft Frederick state park, the fort is pretty cool

    - in Hancock, there is a laundromat next to the Pizza Hut, Weaver's family restaurant is a great place to eat, wierd hours though. Place on the east side of town, Terrace Restaurant maybe, awesome big breakfast with easy access to the WMRT. There is also a Sheetz, should make you feel at home.

    -If you take the WMRT out of Hancock it will dump you back onto the canal 15 miles up

    - little Orleans, there is a bar/greasy spoon if you go through the via duct when the trail zig zags to the other side of the canal (NHP campsite there as landmark)

    -Paw Paw - you will need a light for that tunnel, Pawpaw, WV is a bit off the canal but there is a convince store there if you need some supplies.

    -Old Town - there is an old elementary school there where someone has converted the cafeteria to a greasy spoon. When you hit the Old Town lock house, cross the canal, turn right at the stop sign and the school is on the right.

    -Cumberland- there is a downtown pedestrian mall, not a lot going on there but there is a bar with good food and cold beer.

    Have not done the GAP trail yet, work got in the way of doing the Pitt to DC trip this summer.

    Have a great trip, let me know how it goes.

  18. #18
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    C & O tow path questions

    Does anyone have a GPS track (.gpx) of the GAP?

    Edit: nevermind found it
    Last edited by Couloirman; 10-12-2014 at 08:00 AM.

  19. #19
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    i have done this 3x, just got back again. if anyone has any specific questions, just pm me

  20. #20
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    We did the GAP/C&O Canal Towpath in early June, from Pittsburgh to DC.
    The GAP is converted rail trail and very consistent in that it was in good shape and smooth, as well as being totally ride-able in the rain. The Towpath surface was very inconsistent -- some parts were smoother than others, lots and lots of small potholes on some areas and large holes in other areas and it changed constantly.

    We had one very rainy day on the Towpath and fenders are absolutely required, unless you want to wear the trail on rainy days. We were riding with rear panniers and I knew that if I could find a corplast sign, I could create a "fender" that would attach to the underneath part of the pannier frame and extend out enough to keep mud spatter off the back of my rain jacket. I found an old political sign and that made enough for "fenders" for my husband and myself. We used zip ties to attach.

    Another thing (just do it) is get a stable kick stand. Like I said, just do it.

    Ohiopyle was my favorite town on the entire trip.

    Also, it may be late enough in the year to not be a problem, but one of our group contracted Spotted Tick Fever and we were not even camping. DEET is not effective as a tick repellent. Use a promethrin. Most of the campgrounds that we passed on the C&O were not mowed; the grass was fairly high.

    You will be riding many hours every day with no change in your position on the bike. Make sure whatever saddle you are using will be comfortable for 6 or 7 hours of saddle time.

    Personally, two 90 mile days back to back sounds totally nuts. Load up your bike at home with all the things you'll be taking and do at least one 90 mile day with that load on natural surface roads. If you wake up the next day ready to do another 90 miles, great. If not.........

    I fell in love with the paved trails along the rivers in Pittsburgh, so spend a little time there. The people were also really nice.

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