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Matt from Charlotte on 04/06/2020 10:34 AM
I had planned on doing a solo trip (west to east) of the GAP/C&O at the end of May. I felt that even under current circumstances, doing the trip solo was still with-in guidelines. figured I would just make arrangements to cary a little more food & water than I had planned. However, it looks like under CDC recommendations I'm going to have to cancel or at least postpone until fall.

All campgrounds along the C&O are now closed.

I recognize that things could change in the next 6-7 weeks, but it looks like I'll be social distancing at home rather than on the trail.

John from Pittsburgh on 04/06/2020 06:14 PM
Bummer. I was scheduled for June, the same direction, and although I haven’t cancelled yet, I’m probably gonna pull the plug very soon. We’ll see how this plays out but I’m not hopeful at this moment in time.

Things You Love About the GAP/C&O
John from Pittsburgh, PA on 03/22/2020 02:52 PM
Since we're all home due to COVID-19 and it's still too early for summertime trips, thought I'd start a discussion on what things you like best on the GAP/C&O, large or small.

--The hunt for Mile 0 in Georgetown. Yes, it should be marked better, but there's something about trying to find it, especially the very first time riding the trail. The great way to close out a week long adventure.

--The downhill to Cumberland. This mellow downhill has it all. Gentle grade, two tunnels, awesome scenery of the mountains after Big Savage, riding alongside the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, and the Mason-Dixon Line.

--The restaurants! The Trailside in West Newton, Crabby Pig in Cumberland, and Buddy Lou's in Hancock are three of my favorites. Love Sheetz if I need to grab a sub to take to a campsite or a quick breakfast sandwich.

--Free Hiker/Biker sites. How great are these? Spaced out every 5-10 miles, water pumps, port-a-johns, table, and fire ring. No reservations required. We're so lucky to have these available.

What are yours?

James from Central Florida on 03/22/2020 09:33 PM
Hey, John. Thanks for your post. I have nothing to add except to say, thanks for the positive and uplifting message. It made my day. It's nice to read something fun amidst all that news. Ride safely!

Rivnuts from Homestead, PA on 03/26/2020 07:58 PM
Oh my, where to begin. Other restaurants that John did not mention that I can recommend include:

Sutersville – Twister’s for ice cream
Perryopolis – The Inn at Lenora’s for dinner (Reservations and appropriate dress required)
Ohiopyle, PA – Falls Market for breakfast, lunch or dinner
Rockwood, PA – The Opera House for breakfast and lunch
Meyersdale , PA - Morguen Tool Company for dinner
Meyersdale, PA - Yoders Bakery for pastries
Meyersdale, PA - GI Dayroom Coffee Shop for breakfast
Cumberland, MD – Queen City Creamery for ice cream and sandwiches
Hancock, MD – Weaver’s for all meals…and pies!
Shepherdstown – Shepherdstown Sweet Bakery Shop for coffee & pastries
Brunswick, MD - Beans in the Belfry coffee and sandwich shop

The free, trailside primitive, but well kept, campsites along the GAP Trail including:

Dravo Cemetery Camp Site
Cedar Creek Park
Round Bottom Camp Site
Connellsville Camp Site

For the adventurous types try some of the adjoining or spur trails including:

Connellsville - Sheepskin Trail to Dunbar (See the glass sculpture and its history along with the restored beehive coke oven)
Washington – Capital Crescent Trail
Washington – Mt. Vernon Trail
Washington – Custis Trail

Some off-the-mainstream sites along the way including:

Whittsett, PA – Sager Ruins Project Mosaics
Dawson, PA – Memorial United Methodist Church and Restored James Cochran House
Ohiopyle, PA – Falling Water House
Rockwood, PA – The Opera House
Frostburg, PA – Western Maryland Scenic Railroad Engine Turntable
Hancock, MD – C&O Bikeshop “Chicken Coop” Bunkhouse
Big Pool, MD - Fort Frederick
Dickerson, MD – 1992 Olympic Whitewater Paddling Course
Leesburg, VA – White’s Ferry
Various – Railroad Stations

There are many remnants of the histories of both the GAP Trail and the C&O Towpath Trail to take in as well.

Rivnuts from Homestead. PA on 03/27/2020 08:40 AM
I forgot to add the Washington and Old Dominion (WOD) Trail from northern Virginia to Washington among the list of adjoining trails you might want to consider. So many trails and so little time. :-)

Bike Traveller from Austin Texas on 03/27/2020 09:54 AM
The approach to Ohiopyle State Park from the west. It’s a gradual climb through a continuous canopy of trees with the river running to your left. As you approach the park, you pass over two bridges with fantastic views of winding water water below. I hope I go back someday.

John from Pittsburgh on 03/28/2020 11:53 AM
Thanks for all the nice comments and suggestions! There really are a ton of nice things about this trail.

I, too, love the approach to Ohiopyle. And just before that you can hear all of the white water rafters howling with delight below you. Such a great section. I’ve also swam in the river in “downtown” Ohiopyle. Just bring your shorts! What’s great public resource and at no cost.

I’m a huge fan of the W&OD trail also. I fact, I will take that when I do my next Pittsburgh to DC trip (branch off at Whites Ferry). I’ve done the GAP/C&O in its purest fashion (downtown Pitt to Mile 0 in Georgetown) so it’s no big deal for me now to stick to the trail, but I love the W&OD and prefer to end at the Mt. Vernon Trail at National Airport. After the mud and rocks of the C&O, that ferry across to Leesburg looks pretty good! I realize I will miss Great Falls going this way but I prefer the approach to DC on this route. Lots of cool bridges to cross too.

How cool is watching the planes takeoff/land at Gravelly Point? If you haven’t done so, I recommend it.

Bills place in Little Orleans is closed and for sale
John m from Richmond va on 03/25/2020 10:32 PM
We rode through 2 weeks ago and Bills Place was closed up and for sale. Don’t count on getting food/drink there.

Rivnuts from Homestead, PA on 03/26/2020 06:31 PM
The fishing must have gotten better than the restaurant business. Bill's son who owned the place always would have rather have been fishing. I wonder who'll get all those dollar bills in the place?

Trails are open (Big Savage Tunnel too)
Ray (webmaster) on 03/26/2020 07:32 AM
If you need a socially-distanced sanity break, the C&O and GAP trails remain OPEN. Facilities such as restrooms and visitor centers may be closed.

C&O details: https://www.nps.gov/choh/planyourvisit/conditions.htm

GAP details:

And as you'll see on the GAP link above, Big Savage Tunnel is OPEN

Follow the guidelines, be smart, be safe, enjoy the wind and sunshine.

White's Ferry
Arminius from Richmond, VA on 03/17/2020 04:33 PM
One more thing- any word on White's Ferry? As more and more localities are self-quarantining (if that's a word) I'm wondering about things like ferries. I see that Dare County, NC is blocking all non residents from entering. I can see points like this ferry closing, though it would be simple enough to drive across the border.

Just wond'rin.

Condition of the trail
Arminius from Richmond, VA on 03/15/2020 05:02 PM
With the country shutting down and social distancing seems to be what is needed to combat the corona virus outbreak, I'm considering doing my part and getting away from it all on the trail.

It'll be a last minute decision as to when I go, but I'm hoping in the next two weeks or so, depending on the weather.

Does anyone have an update on the conditions of the trail- specifically between Leesburg and Hancock and then also Little Orleans to Oldtown? Muddy? Dry? What tires do you recommend?

Also, how has the washout been fixed?


MD_Trails on 03/16/2020 09:30 PM
I was out between point of rocks and shepherdstown over the weekend and it was all fine. The resurfacing feels like it was just done in my opinion. There were a couple of quick detours due to washouts, but no real problem. I rode on my Gravel Kings.

Arminius from Richmond, VA on 03/17/2020 04:32 PM

Ultralite Tent vs Bivvy
John from Pittsburgh, PA on 03/15/2020 11:23 AM
I'm already getting excited about a self supported, all camping trip from Pittsburgh to DC this summer. Plan is to camp each night at the free hiker biker sites (C&O has many more choices than the GAP).

Last time I did a camping trip, I took a 30 year old, traditional two man pup tent and realized immediately that this was on the heavy side. The tent weight was just too much for bikepacking. I fought with the weight and completed the trip, but vowed to upgrade the tent the next time I camped.

That got me thinking about ultralite tents. While researching these, I kept coming across people suggesting bivvy bags. Both sound like they could work for me and the range of prices all seem to be the same scale based on quality.

I'm mostly concerned about rain and how they hold up when it comes down. Also, is not being able to sit up in a bivvy bag too much of a hassle?

Does anyone have any thoughts on either and what's worked for you in the past? I'm leaning towards Ultralite tent but am intrigued by a bivvy bag.


Arminius from Richmond, VA on 03/15/2020 05:16 PM
I've had the same conversation with myself after the first time I biked with a heavier tent!

I upgraded everything to fit what I desired/looking for. But keep in mind, this is what I prefer.

I got an REI Passage 2 tent (two-man, but really 1 plus space) weighing about 4 pounds. There are lighter 2 mans out there but this had what I was looking for. Just this tent alone saved me 6+ pounds from my last one. I prefer tents instead of bivvy bags because I like to bring my panniers inside at night and keep them by me. I'm just paranoid. But also I can rearrange stuff inside if I need to, especially if it's raining.

Depending on the weather, if its warm enough I'll just take a sleeping bag liner and leave my bag at home. But, if I go early spring, I have a Kelty bag that is less than 2 pounds.

With my Big Agnes sleeping pad, all told, my camping gear adds up to less than 14 pounds. You could do better but my setup works for me.

LHM from Middles x on 03/15/2020 09:11 PM
The tent I use is Six Moon Designs Trekker, it weighs 28 oz. when I’m on the AT in the summer I carry my Warbonnet hammock so I don’t have to find a flat spot which is difficult at some of the shelters. The tent has plenty of room to get gear out of the weather

Rivnuts from Homestead, PA on 03/15/2020 09:38 PM
I carry a 1-man, relatively light weight (4.5 lbs) tent in my handlebar bag on self supported trips such as the GAP/C&O. (I have a 2-man tent (5.5 lbs) by the same manufacturer for supported tours where the extra room is nice and I don't have to carry it on my bike.) With both a netted inner tent with floor and outer flysheet, it provides both rain and bug protection. It also allows me to sit up, change clothes and pack most of my gear if it is raining. I've considered lightening my load by only taking the fly sheet which would protect me from the rain. However, I am not anxious to travel the C&O in the summer without the barrier to the bugs.

While I have not used a bivvy bag per se', I have used a low profile, light weight biv tent. I abandoned it and elected to carry the extra pound or two of my 1-man tent so I could sit up. You are welcome to try it out if you'd like. Its not quite as light as a biv bag alone but it will keep you dry and bug free.

John from Pittsburgh on 03/16/2020 12:30 PM
Thanks for the feedback guys.

I’m gonna go with an ultra lite tent. One man if it has a bit of space or two man if it’s more like “1 plus space”. I think it comes down to being able to sit up, read, and also be able to rearrange things inside a tent. I like that as a refuge. As Arminius said, I like to bring bags into my tent at night (or at least some of it).

I feel like a bivvy bag is too constricting for me and offers no wiggle room to do anything other than sliding in and sleeping. Plus I always get dressed for the day in the tent. ;/)


LOA from Chevy Chase, MD on 03/16/2020 01:44 PM
Have you thought about using a hammock? My cycling buddy convinced me to use one before we did the C&O/GAP from DC-to-Pitt last year, and I'll never go back. I used an ENO hammock, blanket, and mosquito net. Had a rain cover, but didn't need it, since two of the three nights we hung the hammocks in shelters. The hammock, straps, and two covers only took up about 1/3 of my Ortlieb saddle bag.

Hammock = 16 oz
Bug net = 9 oz
Rain cover = 22 oz
XL straps = 13 oz

Blanket (or small bag) of your choice.

Dave Gorman from Hollidaysburg on 03/17/2020 05:31 AM
I find regular hammocks too confining as I sleep on my stomach or side. Anyone out there used a bridge hammock?

Thru Ride Direction
Beaux58 from Sterling Heights MI on 02/26/2020 02:38 PM
I'm starting to plan a thru trip of both the Towpath and GAP and looking for recommendation as to which direction to travel. DC to Pittsburgh or Pittsburgh to DC?

Rivnuts from Homestead,PA on 02/26/2020 03:40 PM
This question comes up regularly. There is no standard or definitive answer. It depends on what is most important to you. Solely from a trail perspective, the main difference is the section of the GAP from Cumberland, MD to the Eastern Continental Divide. That section is 23 miles
long and is continuously uphill from Cumberland albeit at a modest 1 to 1.25% grade. Your choice of direction may depend on whether you want/can ride uphill or downhill on that section.

Aside from the trail itself, another issue for many riders are the logistics of getting to and from Pittsburgh and Washington, DC. Car, train or shuttle issues may dictate which direction is best suited for you.

Another issue that often dictates which way I ride it is the weather. The C&O Towpath is much less enjoyable in wet conditions.

I’m sure others on this forum will have additional thoughts as well.

John from Pittsburgh, PA on 02/27/2020 10:02 PM
Both directions are great!

I personally like to go Pittsburgh to DC. I live in Pittsburgh so it's kind of anti-climactic for me to arrive at something I'm familiar with...DC is somewhere I'm not from so it's kind of exciting to arrive there and see the buzz of the city and all of the sights.

The uphill on the GAP from Pittsburgh to the Continental Divide is barely noticeable. Then you are rewarded with 24 miles of downhill bliss at 1-2% grade to Cumberland. The C&O Canal from Cumberland to DC is very flat except for the locks where you get these little plunges down a few feet. Not much but at least you aren't going up them.

Others like the opposite direction because although they have to grind up the continental divide for 24 miles (really, it's not that bad), they feel the gradual downhill over 124 miles to Pittsburgh was worth the sacrifice and they expend less effort.

Not sure if wind is any factor. The trail meanders in so many directions and you are also covered by tree canopy in many places as well.

It's a great debate that always brings up many different answers but either way is fine.

Happy Riding!

Willy from Alexandria VA on 02/28/2020 12:46 AM
To quote the Beatles "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah."

I believe that it is best to go from one end to the other.
Which end is more convenient to you to start-go do it.

Pittsburgh is vaguely at 1300 ft above sea level.
DC is vaguely 400 ft above sea level.

Most of the difference is between Cumberland and the continental divide.

In the end you got 300+ miles to get from here to there.

Enjoy the ride either way.

tom from Robinson on 02/28/2020 06:47 PM
Pittsburgh elevation (at the point) is actually 721' above sea level and DC is 9' above sea level at C&O milepost 0. Don't know where you came up with those numbers. This means that the net elevation difference is negative 712' going from Pittsburgh to DC. It is generally accepted that Pittsburgh to DC is a bit easier mainly due to the significant drop in elevation from Frostburg to Cumberland.

Rivnuts from Homestead. PA on 02/28/2020 09:07 PM

As fellow Yinzer's it might be enjoyable to get together sometime, on or off the trail, to share our experiences and stories about our trips along this trail.

Ted (Rivnuts)

Willy from Alexandria,VA on 02/29/2020 08:57 AM
Ok. I stand corrected on the elevation specs.
Like I said before, just do it.
It's a wonderful ride either direction.
It other news, although I live in Alexandria these days, I'm a yinzer too. Born and raised in Canonsburg.

Rivnuts from Homestead,PA on 02/29/2020 09:31 AM

Given you are from Big Mac country you should, if you haven’t already done so, start or finish your next bike trip to/from home on the Montour Trail in route to/from the GAP Trail.

Willy from Alexandria VA on 02/29/2020 01:48 PM
Hendersonville (Tandem Connection) is 3 miles from my parents house.
I used to walk the Montour line when trains still ran on it.

Rivnuts from Homestead, PA on 03/01/2020 10:09 AM
Tandem Connection....best ice cream on the Montour Trail.

Arminius from Richmond, VA on 03/11/2020 01:37 PM
I agree with John from Pittsburgh, but in the opposite direction!
Living near and visiting DC a lot, I prefer to head towards Pittsburgh as west to east seems anti-climactic. Remember, the elevation gain is not that much and it's spread out over hundreds of miles. You really don't feel the elevation gain going west, at least up to Cumberland.

In terms of winds: generally, the prevailing winds are W-E, with some NW or SW variance. Sometimes it doesn't matter. One trip, I left Mt. Vernon in a 30 mph headwind. It didn't let up until I got to Brunswick where I camped. 70+ miles into that wind sapped me of any energy I had left!

Gary from Charlotte on 03/12/2020 01:33 PM
In my opinion DC to Pitt is best.

But, you need to consider transportation back to/from your car, and cost of parking your car.

First. After many years of hiking and bikepacking I have found that you always want to ride/hike to your car. This gives you the option of speeding up or slowing down your trip by a day or so.

My favorite trip:
Stay at a Pittsburgh hotel near the train station that will allow you to leave your car behind for a week or so for free. (Hampton Inn)

Train to DC, arrive early afternoon.

Leisurely ride through DC and then ride 20-30 miles to a Hiker/Biker site

Get up in the morning and continue on the trail at your own pace.

Yes, there is one big hill in the middle. But it is a 2-3 hour push and then it is all down hill to Pitt.

John from Pittsburgh on 03/13/2020 01:42 PM
Sorry I missed this. Tandem Connection is my closest parking area for all things Montour Trail. Would love a meet-up and ride!

Rivnuts from Homestead, PA on 03/13/2020 10:09 PM

As the spring weather improves and the Montour dries out, I'll create a new thread on this forum to suggest when we can meet up for a ride. I can get to the Tandem Connection easily enough. Also, as a retiree my calendar and days are generally quite open.


John from Pittsburgh on 03/14/2020 08:53 AM
Great! I wish I was retired! ;-)

Thanks Ted, looking forward to the trail/meet-up thread.


Calico Rocks Campsite in Point of Rocks
Misty from Germantown on 03/13/2020 06:56 PM
Where do we park if we use the camping facilities at Calico Rocks.

Rivnuts from Homestead, PA on 03/13/2020 10:27 PM
There is no parking immediately adjacent to the Calico Rocks camp site itself. There is a parking area at the boat launch in Point of Rocks. From there you would have to hike/ride to the camp site. There is also a large commuter Park-N-Ride lot on the north side of the railroad at Point of Rocks. While it might appear to be closer to that camp site, you would have to walk along and cross the RR tracks to get to the campsite itself.

In general there is no parking immediately adjacent to the hiker/biker camp sites along the C&O Towpath.

Solo Women's Ride
Shelly from Clevland on 03/07/2020 10:03 PM
Are there any women on here who have completed a through ride solo? I'm heading out this spring and would love to hear some inspirational stories.

John from Pittsburgh on 03/13/2020 01:45 PM
Not sure if my last message went through but I would try Crazy Guy on a Bike for forums/journals. YouTube for videos, just type in GAP/C&O. Also the Great Allegheny Passage web page has a section called Trail Info and under that is Trip Reports with journals or videos. Good luck!

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.

Cycle Chick from Portsmouth, OH on 03/13/2020 12:43 PM
Suggestions for getting from the bike trail to visit Fallingwater needed. No Uber, Lyft or taxi service offered from what I see and I remember the location as being way up a hill. I dislike steep hills!

How do you deal with trash on the C&O??
AA from Tyson’s Corner on 03/08/2020 04:26 AM
Hi everyone - I’m planning my first trip on the C&O in late spring and I’ve got a question.

How do you deal with your trash while you’re packing it out? In two senses:
1. How do you store it on your bike until you can dispose of it?
2. Where do you dispose of it?

I’m hoping to stick to the path as much as possible and go “unsupported” but town visits...but my guess is that’s not possible when dealing with trash.

Any advice?

John from Pittsburgh on 03/08/2020 09:30 AM
Pack in, pack out. There will likely be no trash cans along the trail at campgrounds (to deter wildlife). Just bring some old shopping bags with you and put your trash in there and stuff it in your panniers while you ride. When you hit a town, find a trash can and get rid of it. That’s how I do it.

Rivnuts from Homestead,PA on 03/08/2020 12:54 PM
I concur with John’s response. That said, with some planning you can try to minimize the amount of noncombustible waste you take onto the C&O. Note, you can burn combustible material with your campfires in the fire rings in the hiker/biker camp sites.

Anonymous on 03/11/2020 07:32 PM
Pack it out is the only option....I had a cargo net for my rear rack that I was able to secure a bag under until I found a trash can.

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