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The C&O Canal Towpath Trail and Great Allegheny Passage

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C&O Canal Trail Frequently Asked Questions

Here you'll find many of the common questions about the C&O Canal Trail and Great Allegheny Passage, but also be sure to check out the C&O Canal Trail Forum for lots of good questions, answers, and discussions.
Where do the C&O and GAP Trails start and end?
The C&O runs from the Georgetown area of Washington DC through Cumberland, MD. The C&O is located mostly in Maryland but also is in or very near Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and of course DC. The GAP runs almost entirely in the state of Pennsylvania, between Cumberland and Point State Park in Pittsburgh.

If you are trying to run completely end-to-end, be aware that the C&O Mile 0 in Washington is notoriously hard to find.
Yes, e-bikes are allowed on both the C&O and GAP.

The C&O is part of the National Parks Service, which spells out their rules in these Guidelines for Electronic Bikes in National Parks. That web page is lengthy and detailed, but the bottom line is that electric bicycles with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of not more than 750 watts are allowed. Again, check the above link for full details.

According to the GAP Rules and Safety guidelines,
No vehicles powered by internal combustion are permitted on the GAP, except those authorized for maintenance and emergency purposes. Other power-driven mobility devices, not specifically designed for disabilities, may be used in Pennsylvania, provided:
  • Motors on electric vehicles are 750 watts or less
  • Devices weigh less than 100 lbs.
  • Device are no more than 36″ wide
  • Devices have fully operating pedals
I don't want to go it alone - how can I get support in planning my trip, arranging lodging, etc.?
There are touring companies and various organized rides that have already worked out all the details for organized group trips and customized trips.   Generally they will provide or arrange any needed transportation and lodging, offer maps, routes, and directions, etc.   Click the following link for a Plan-a-Ride list of companies offering tours on an ongoing basis.
Can I get my bike shipped for a one-way ride?
There are shuttle services which will carry you and your bike from one point to another - perfect for a one-way point to point ride.  Click this link for a list of C&O and GAP shuttle services.

Another option is to ride Amtrak in one direction, with your bike, and then pedal your bike back in the other direction.  See the next question & answer for a discussion of this option.

Some B&Bs may let you ship your bike to them.
Can I ride the train along the C&O and GAP Trails?
You can ride Amtrak between Pittsburgh and Washington DC, and there are also stations in Harpers Ferry and Cumberland. If you are bringing your bike along, you must make bike reservations along with your train ticket.
Is camping allowed along the trail?
Impromptu "stealth" camping is not allowed along the trails.  However, there are many good camping options, both private campgrounds and public parks.    Click the following link for camping options along the C&O / GAP Trail.
I'd like to ride on the trail but don't have a bike. Can I rent a bike?
Yes, there are businesses at many points along the trail offering bikes for rent.  Follow this link for a list of bike shops along the Trail, many of which offer rentals.  Also, some of the B&B's offer bikes for their guests to use.
What should I bring on my bike ride?
For a one-day trip, here are some suggestions:
  • Plenty of water
  • Helmet
  • Sunscreen
  • Maps, and/or screen printouts from BikeCandO.com for the towns you'll be visiting (go to the trip planner to build your customized list)
  • Cell phone
  • Bike repair tools
  • Spare inner tubes or patch kit
  • Pump or compressed air
  • Insect repellant
  • Tissues / toilet paper (don't count on the trailhead restrooms being stocked)
  • Cash, credit cards
  • More water
For a multi-day trip, you'll need more stuff - maybe a lot more, depending on how long you'll be riding and how self-sufficient you plan to be (not to mention the fact that you'll need a trailer or panniers to hold everything).
Is the trail handicap/wheelchair-accessible?
The GAP is mostly paved and fairly smooth, and would work well for most wheelchairs and other assisted devices.

The C&O, on the other hand, is a much rougher mostly dirt surface, with tree roots and and uneven surfaces. We would not recommend the C&O for handicapped usage.

See above for e-bike usage.
How do I get my business listed on BikeCandO.com?
Is your business on or near the C&O Canal Towpath or GAP, and of interest to trail users?  Please visit the Contact Us page for a list of the info we need, and what address to send it to.  There are no fees whatsoever to be listed here.

Beyond that, you can get your message out to thousands of trail users while they are planning their trips with a reasonably-priced ad on this website. We can even create the ad for you!  For more details, check out the Advertising Rates page.
I spotted an error on the site.  How can I report it?
Your help is vital in keeping the website up-to-date.  Please contact BikeCandO.com with details of any errors or omissions that you see.
I love your website - what can I do to help support you?
We don't take donations, but there are a few things you can do to help:
1. Tell other trail users about this website.
2. Please support our advertisers - they make the website possible.
3. When talking to business owners along the trail, tell them that you saw them on BikeCandO.com. 
4. Please consider getting a C&O or GAP t-shirt and/or sticker - they make great mementos!