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HostelHiker Tours, Trips, and Shuttle Service in Harpers Ferry
MH from Kensington on 05/21/2019 09:25 PM
I'm planning a mid to late June c&o canal hike. Harpers Ferry to mile 123 or so. I live near Rockville MD. Is there transportation from my area to Harper's Ferry and a return trip from Harper's Ferry or an access point North of Harper's Ferry? I'm flexible with entry point drop offs or pick ups.

general condition (other than detours)
Kim from Polk City on 05/11/2019 04:06 PM
We are planning on riding from Cumberland to Washington D.C. using touring bikes. We will starting on May 20th. What is the general condition of the towpath concerning the surface (mud or soft areas)?

Rivnuts from Homestead. PA on 05/11/2019 09:28 PM
Without being flippant, if you can identify what the weather will be on May 17, 18 and 19 before you depart, one could perhaps provide a reasonable estimate of the conditions along the trail. If it has rained a lot in those preceding days, you can expect a fair amount of mud and puddles. My experience is that the trail conditions are worst after rain between Cumberland and Paw Paw with trail conditions generally better as you approach DC. In those muddy sections, you may likely incur lots of mud under the fenders albeit better there than on your back side.?? Other forum members may have a different opinion especially those local to various sections along the way.i

If you have not reviewed earlier forum posts, you should read those pertaining to the washout beyond Brunswick, MD to determine how you wish to deal with that damage to the trail. It may affect your plans.

Kim from Polk City on 05/16/2019 10:28 AM
Thanks-Sounds like the first leg of the trip could be a mud-slog if there is some rain. We have made the C&O a part of a few vacations, but have never biked the whole way and those visits were a few years back. We know there have been improvements and weren't sure how many. I am wavering between "just going for it" and "wimping-out" by biking from a couple of towns along the way.

Rivnuts from Homestead, PA on 05/18/2019 03:06 PM
Just arrived in Cumberland from DC today. I didn’t see any “improvements” on the towpath from Harpers Ferry. The trail showed all the signs of spring rains but I’ve seen worse.

Bivouac on 05/16/2019 03:12 AM
Two Slow Bikers doing GAP C&O, 25-40 Mile's/day, not camping, motels ok.In early to mid-June, do you need reservations everywhere or can we call ahead day before OK? Any particular stretches that get heavily booked up we should plan more for?

Stephen from Jamestown,NC on 05/16/2019 08:21 AM
I've done the GAP/CO twice in the last three yrs and will be doing it again next month. I've always made reservations a couple of months ahead of trip just so I know I'll have my name on a place to camp or a motel room. Last yrs trip was very wet and muddy and we ended up making last minute decisions to motel it instead of camping. We had no issues getting a room the day of. Every campground we've stayed has had plenty of other sites to pitch a tent and the motels have had rooms available. I like the comfort of knowing I have a reservation. Peace of mind, so to speak. Hope this helps.

Pat from Greencastle, IN on 05/17/2019 10:06 PM
Hi. My husband and I are riding the GAP / C&O whole length June 21 to June 28....32-51 miles per day. We are staying at a few hotels, but mostly B&B's along the way. It is HIGHLY recommended to reserve months in advance as these trails are very popular if the weather cooperates. I made our reservations back in January.

Bicycles at the Washington, DC Hostel
Warren from North Carolina on 05/02/2019 10:31 AM
Has anyone spent the night at the HI Washington, DC? Just wondered how secure their bicycle storage is.

Rivnuts from Homestead. PA on 05/05/2019 07:22 AM
I was waiting for someone else to respond as I have not stayed there but thus far no one has. A web site describing their services indicates that "bike parking" is available but does not elaborate. Why not just give them a call and inquire as to where and what security may be provided in that bike parking area.

I'm hoping to ride to DC within the next month and would be staying near that hostel, I'f so, I'll attempt to stop by there and see what that parking area consists of. If I get any further info and no one else has responded, I'll post a future comment.

Warren from North Carolina on 05/05/2019 07:58 AM
Thanks Rivnuts. I talked to the front desk and was told that bikes can be left on the back patio or locked in a storage room. I'll be there one day next week and will do a report.

Warren from North Carolina on 05/15/2019 11:47 AM
I spent the night at the HI Washington, DC last week so I can now answer my original question. Bike storage is out on the patio which has walls on 3 sides and a tall fence on the fourth side. I locked my bike to the railing behind the stair well and removed the front tire. I could have also locked the bike inside a wooden shed located on the patio. I felt like it was a safe place to leave a bike overnight.

The hostel itself was nice and the staff was friendly. I would definitely stay there again.

Hancock to Harpers ferry
Steve from Draper VA on 05/13/2019 03:56 PM
Taking the family and some friends on their first hiking trip. Roughly 70 Mike's on the C&O and I am stoked to have 10 of the closest people on this beautiful hike. Spent a small fortune getting good quality gear for my four but it will be so worth it. Anyone going to be in the area between the 15th and 22 of June?

Summer of 2019 - Brunswick Washout
Gary M from Charlotte, NC on 03/18/2019 08:29 AM
Reading the last post made me start to think of this summer. Does anyone local have a update on the Brunswick washout for this summer?

"You can avoid the washout at mm52 before Brunswick by using the WOD past Leesburg to almost Purcellville. Look at google maps. Take Rt 287 and go north to Brunswick"

Cenzo from Hatfield PA on 03/18/2019 11:06 PM
Someone mentioned something about a path cut that goes down to the creek and arround the washout. Passable only when the water is low. I saw the video. I'd say, if no rain for 7 days give it a shot. Otherwise take the shuttle.

David Anderson on 03/19/2019 01:52 PM
I am looking at alternate bypasses as well. Once in Brunswick, it seems do-able to cross the river into VA on 287, then take back-roads to 15, crossing over the river again back into MD at Point of Rocks. This route is only about 10 minutes longer than the actual distance on the C&O between Brunswick and POR. My only concern is whether there is access to the trail from the RT 15 bridge. I can't recall last time I rode through there. Anybody know?

John from Pittsburgh on 03/19/2019 04:38 PM
David, looks like you should be good crossing back over at POR. Just turn right off the bridge onto Clay St. (Hwy 28) then a quick right into Commerce St. then another right onto Canal Rd. You will immediately cross over railroad tracks and then you’re there. There’s even a big C&O Canal parking lot and sign. Good luck!

Kate from Frederick, MD on 05/08/2019 12:12 AM
Signage on the trail gives no specifics to a fix or timeline for the washout. The trail is closed a ways before on each side of the washout.
We had a lot of rain this week - so I would recommend the shuttle and not trying to cross the creek for the time being.

Also, route 15 is very dangerous.
I would recommend against biking on it.
But if you choose to do so, please be extra cautious - there are a lot of accidents on that highway. And it gets very busy with commuter traffic.

Safe travels, everyone.

Cenzo from Hatfield PA on 05/08/2019 12:55 PM
Do 6ou think there is a chance that the creek will be low enough to cross in the next 2 weeks?

Wayne from near Wash DC on 05/08/2019 10:14 PM
On 5/6, Potomac was at flood stage: Whites Ferry ceased ops...I would not consider a time frame or period of no rain as a gauge to cross. The suggestion for RT287 is a stressful ride. You would take Rd 287 from Brunswick MD into VA, into Lovettsville, VA and turn onto Rd 672 (lovettsville RD) for 8 miles to Point of Rocks on RT 15, the bridge is right there and cross over and the end of the bridge turn right and then right again to get back on the C&O. But caution: Especially with a troop of boy scouts...You MUST realize this detour is a well paved road but a number of very steep hills and a number of blind curves with little to no shoulder and speed limit of 45mph...The NPS website even states that there is no viable detour due to road/traffic conditions. They are being very truthful. Get to Brunswick and shuttle around to Point of Rocks. River and Trail Outfitters has a great van and a trailer so depending on the size of the troop, this may be better than biking on RT287 and RT 672 to Point of Rocks. I have biked the C&O for years and on RT672 and even 287 is heavy on traffic-real heavy...take the shuttle or use yours. I am getting ready to bike with 12 others from Yorktown VA to Oregon. We are coming up to DC in 4 days of biking and getting on the C&O to Cumberland on the GAP and we are using the shuttle services. From Pittsburg we go to Wheeling WV thru Ohio, IL, IN into Ks and to Denver, and so forth...Again suggest you check with NPS website for updates on the wash out.

John from Pittsburgh on 05/09/2019 11:49 AM
According to the C&O NPS alerts I found this piece of info: “Due to repeated flood events, attempts to install a temporary bridge have been halted. The park is working on a long-term solution.”

Doesn’t look hopeful for this season. I would just take shuttle. It’s shame they can’t find a way around it safely.

Jim M on 05/09/2019 01:33 PM
Has anyone tried riding the Point of Rocks Road (HWY 464) to Lander Road and then down to the towpath near lock # 29?

Wayne from near Wash DC on 05/09/2019 07:18 PM
Hi Jim M. I am local....under no circumstances would I considered 464...this is 50 mph, curves, worse hills than 287/672 on the Virginia side....I have never seen anyone bicycle on 464...there are a few very steep hills...no shoulder but also there is a one very long stretch the guard forces you to bike in the road. If forced to bike from Brunswick to POR....and it is a an early Sat or Sunday...roll the dice and use the VA side...one hour detour...but again....depending on the size of the Canadian Boys Scout troup....decide based on that...and my advice all along has been has been towards the youth. If a solo or a pair of bikers come in Brunswick it is only a short trail ride to the washout out. From POR it is 6 miles or so before you can consider crossing the creek down by Potomac River or turning around and use 672 to 287 Lovettsville Rd to Brunswick. or sit, relax and wait for the shuttle you called to come and get you. An hour wait tops..?

Rivnuts from Homestead, PA on 05/09/2019 09:21 PM
Wayne: Can you comment on riding on Rt 287 from Brunswick to Lovettsville in route to Purcellville to pickup the WOD on to DC? Looks like about +3% average grade for 2 miles leading into Lovettsbille with a max grade of 5.5% for a short distance. Google Earth appears to indicate it as a 2-lane highway with a narrow shoulder. Once reaching Lovettsville, Google Maps' primary bike route takes me off Rt 287 on some other roads in lieu of continuing on 287. They appear basically flat in into Purcellville.

pappy from western pa on 05/11/2019 09:06 AM
Not sure why the NPS is not holding the railroad partially responsible for the Brunswick culvert washout? I passed thru that part of the trail a year prior to the flood, and the culvert under the railroad tracks was 90% obstructed with trees, mud and misc debris. In my opinion, when the waters backed up in front of the railroad culvert, it eventually overflowed the tracks causing a huge waterfall type effect and that is what caused the wooden trail bridge to wash away. If the railroad had done proper maintenance at their culvert (keeping it clear of debris) I don't think the degree of damage would have been as devastating as it turned out to be. I worked as a civil engineer for 35 years and I have seen the force of flood waters and the damages they can create.
The very least the railroad should have done was to provide controlled access to the railroad tracks that would allow bikers to safely cross the railroad tracks during certain hours of the day. This washout has deterred many people (including me) from enjoying the unique beauty and solitude of this national treasure and I would love to see it back to some degree of normalcy. Sorry for venting, had to get it off my chest.

Camping spots that accommodate a support vehicle
James Linscott from Toronto on 05/05/2019 02:42 PM
Taking Boy Scouts from Cumberland to DC. What campsites along the trail can our support vehicle and trailer park and get to us. Trying to keep the gear with the trailer instead of hauling it on the bicycles. campsites that have showers would definitely be a bonus.
Thank you

Wayne from near Wash DC on 05/05/2019 07:54 PM
Here is a decent listing but I am not sure about a support vehicle authorized to park overnight on the following suggestions: But FIRST you must visit the NPS (National Park Service - https://www.nps.gov/choh/planyourvisit/conditions.htm . The reason is there is a critical part of the trail closed and no real option to detour. The sight suggests a shuttle between Brunswick and Point of Rocks. Biking is NOT an option on the road and the site states that. Too dangerous. You may also be able to find a copy of the C&O Map that provides the same info that follows. Also Google Maps zooming down , you can see campsites near the road. One, I know that none of the C&O Campsites on the actual trail have showers but they have a well and pump and I use that to bath.
So out of Cumberland, approx 30 miles is Paw Paw Tunnel (under repairs) but a flagger will let you pass at designated times (see website NPS) If the troop can go further (mile marker 140) there is Fifteen Mile Creek (there is a parking area for the boat ramp next to camping. next one is at mile marker 118 or so and there is a campground at HISTORIC Fort Frederick State Park. Or just a 3 miles away is McCoys Ferry campsite with parking but not sure about overnight. Call the park services (NPS) then one campsite for a fee for the vehicle is Antietam at mile marker approx 68 and near the infamous Antietam Civil War battlefield National park.Then in Harpers Ferry are two sites (Potomac campground and a HI Hostel/campground. then Nolands Ferry (mile 43 or so) and Swains Lock is a large campground (C&O Canal campground) no fee but not sure about overnight parking allowed. All the campgrounds on the C&O have portapottie and well and fire pits and a table. Good luck *Note strongly recommend accessing the Western Rail Trail parallel to the C&O for 22 miles and goes through Hancock, MD (It is paved and senic and there are services noted on the trail signs)

Cenzo from Hatfield PA on 05/06/2019 07:34 AM
None of the hiker-biker camp sites have showers. Non of them as remember have parking close to the hiker biker camp sites.

Gary on 05/06/2019 07:54 AM
James -

We did this with a troop a few years back. We had the same set up. Two cars, one with trailer. The drivers would drive ahead, then ride north to meet the group.

Cumberland. Park under the overpass.
Paw Paw. $20/site. Plenty of parking
??? $20/site Can not remember the name. Parking across canal.
Brunswick Family Campground - We rented a Pavilion
Swains Lock

Rode into DC, rode down the mall and then went to Jefferson Mem, behind it we found the trail that goes across 14th street bridge. Got on the Mt. Vernon trail, South, and went to the Gravely Point parking lot. Plenty of room and did not require driving in Downtown DC traffic with the trailer.

You will need to figure out the shuttle around the outage. Maybe shuttle from Brunswick to Point of Rocks. Is there camping at Point of Rocks?

Remember, Google Maps is your friend.


Gary on 05/06/2019 08:02 AM
James -

Just remembered we stayed another night south of Hancock. Was able to drive right up to the campsites.


James Linscott from Toronto on 05/06/2019 02:49 PM
thank you for the updates. I am continuing to research spots where we can get a support vehicle parked by a campsites. if anyone can think of additional spots. i'll be checking back often. i appreciate it.

James Linscott from Toronto on 05/06/2019 10:00 PM
Wayne, thank you for the heads up on the trail being closed. I will be sure to check out the park service for the details.

Cenzo from Hatfield PA on 05/07/2019 01:05 AM
Go check out Facebook page Great Allegheny Passage/C&O Canal enthusiasts page. People are posting daily about the various washouts, waterlevwls, detours, and downed trees. The Canal is always an adventure. This year mother nature seems bent on making that point clear.

Cenzo from Hatfield PA on 05/08/2019 10:13 AM

Please Consider sending this letter edited appropriately.

NOTE: Please address and send all Letters to Kevin D. Brandt, Superintendent, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal NHP at the following address or emailed to ben_helwig@nps.gov All letters must be received in the mail or electronically by COB May 13, 2019.
Kevin D. Brandt, Superintendent
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park
1850 Dual Highway, Suite 100
Hagerstown, MD 21740
Dear Superintendent Brandt:
__________(Municipality/Individual/Organization) is/am is writing to express support of the C&O Canal National Historical Park’s “Phase III, Towpath Rehabilitation: A Safe Towpath” project being submitted for consideration for a grant through the Maryland Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) in 2019. Please include this letter in the application package, whereby we also request favorable consideration of this project by the team assessing TAP proposals.
We truly believe that repairs to the towpath will bring tangible benefits to our communities, as well as a safer and improved experience for park visitors.
Local businesses are already reaping the economic benefit of the increase in park attendance since the completion of the Great Allegheny Passage Trail to Pittsburgh. Attendance topped 5 million for the first time in 2014, and in 2017, park visitors spent an estimated $89.5 million in local gateway regions around the C&O Canal National Historical Park (C&O Canal NHP).
This year’s project is phase three of a five-phase program to address the worst portions of the canal towpath and create a world-class riding and hiking surface for our visitors. TAP funding will continue to match the $5 million the C&O Canal NHP has requested for this program over five years.
We believe the State of Maryland would benefit considerably from the many Marylanders and the out of state hikers/bikers that enjoy the C&O Canal National Historical Park.
__________(Municipality/Individual/Organization) fully supports the TAP application being made by the park, and urges favorable consideration by the TAP assessment team for the proposed Towpath Rehabilitation project.

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