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The C&O Canal Towpath Trail and Great Allegheny Passage

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HI Harpers Ferry Hostel in Harpers Ferry
 - 
Climbamt from Baltimore on 11/08/2019 01:42 PM
The Hostel is permanently closed as of October 25, 2019 per the phone recording.

 
Ray (webmaster) on 11/08/2019 05:49 PM
Thank you for the heads-up on this. I have updated the listings.

Happy trails!


Leesburg
 - 
Dan from Fort Worth, Texas on 10/30/2019 07:06 AM
Is Whites Ferry the only way to get to Leesburg from the Towpath? Do I have to backtrack to the Ferry to continue East?

 
Willy from Alexandria VA on 10/30/2019 09:16 AM
Coming from the west, Whites ferry is the closest to Leesburg.

I wouldn't recommend crossing at Point of Rocks and taking route 15 into Leesburg. No shoulder and crazy traffic.

Now once in Leesburg, you don't have to backtrack to Whites Ferry. The Washington and Old Dominion Trail runs through downtown Leesburg. You can take the WOD all the way to Arlington VA. Then use the four mile run trail from Arlington to National Airport, then the Mt Vernon Trail to DC.

You miss all the canal scenery for the last 35 miles to DC by taking the WOD instead of the C&O. There are more opportunities for food and beverages on the WOD though.

 
Richard from DC on 10/30/2019 11:00 AM
I agree with Willy, but I'd add that it isn't very far from White's Ferry to Leesburg, or at least downtown Leesburg. It's maybe three miles. The canal from White's Ferry to Georgetown is a lot more scenic than the W&&OD. And, it seems to me that if your idea is to bike the C&O Canal, you should bike the C&O Canal. There is nothing particularly historic about the W&OD.

 
Rivnuts from Homestead,PA on 10/31/2019 06:37 PM
While it is only 3 miles from the ferry to Leesburg, much of it is on Highway 15. As noted in various previous threads, Highway 15 is a busy road with certain sections with little or no shoulder. If you are taking a shuttle from the ferry to Leesburg then that is irrelevant.

 
bobthe builder from Cleveland on 10/31/2019 08:58 PM
Leesburg Colonial Inn shuttled us. Nice folks


Conditions Between Harpers Ferry and DC
 - 
Gabe from DC on 10/16/2019 05:22 PM
Hoping to do a long day trip from HF to DC this weekend with a friend. A bit ambitious and not enough time for camping and sightseeing, but wanted to be outdoors for a good long day. I've seen comments on this board about the section between Shepardstown and Brunswick being recently resurfaced. Anyone have info or observations about the condition of other sections of the towpath in the HF to DC stretch?

 
Charlie from Manassas on 10/16/2019 09:07 PM
Road from Shepherds Town to Brunswick Monday and Tuesday . It has been resurfaced, like riding on pavement.

 
SGK from Northern Va on 10/28/2019 11:07 AM
I know it’s a little late for Gabe but just got back from a week on the trail and about 5 miles of trail below Whites Ferry is resurfaced. Also about 3 miles above Whites Ferry, then you get a longer section that’s been scrapped in preparation for resurfacing but right now its very bumpy.The slack water paved section is in excellent shape as well.


Electric bikes
 - 
NW from Irwin on 03/17/2019 07:35 AM
Are electric bikes allowed on the trail?

 
Rivnuts from Munhall, PA on 03/17/2019 04:06 PM
Of course, "motorized vehicles" are prohibited on the trail, but I am unaware of any prohibitions of ebikes and have seen several on the trail. That said, there isn't a whole lot of need as the grades are very slight and gradual.

 
Cenzo from Hatfield PA on 03/18/2019 08:05 AM
I must say I am flat out against ebikes on the trail. I would be OK on a permit only basis based on disability for example but otherwise these things move way to fast compared to a pedal bike or hike and I think they should not be allowed. Just my 2 cents.

 
martyfromTampa from Tampa on 03/18/2019 09:38 AM
I used to be against electric bikes on the trail. But then I met an older gentleman and his wife on that paved trail and spoke with him for a while. He said he used to ride bikes a lot and wanted to keep riding. Apparently, with these EBs you can “dial in” how much work you want to do. So, without the EB he wouldn’t be riding at all. With the EB he can still enjoy life on his bicycle. I don’t think it is safe to ride an EB fast in the C&O or GAP. After talking to him, I changed my mind.

 
Stillriding from Pittsburgh on 03/18/2019 10:04 AM
E-Bikes are very legal to ride on the trail. Everyone on a E-Bike or regular bike has to obey all the same rules. The speed on the trail is 15 mph. With that said, yes,I have seen E-Bikes go over that but also regular bikes go over that. When you see someone on an E-bike chances are they are older, heaver, or may have a disability that you may not even be able to see. The point is these bikes cost more money and they are spending it so they to can still enjoy the trail or maybe just being able to ride a bike again. I don't like being passed but if a person calls the pass out before hand and for the most part the trail is plenty wide enough, it's all good. And yes, I have an E-Bike,and two regular bikes and depending on the ride location, length, time and how I feel that day, then I decide on which bike I take. It's never just because I want to go fast, however, I do enjoy being able to pass people again at 67 which does not happen on my regular bikes. Hope this helps. Any comments are welcomed. Enjoy the ride.

 
tl from robinson pa on 03/18/2019 11:02 AM
I have very mixed opinions pertaining to e-bikes. I have been through the C & O trail a number of times now, and have come to feel an almost spiritual reverence for the sights, smells and sounds when passing through this historic and majestic place. The thought of any type of electrically propelled bike seemed to be inappropriate for these types of trails.
I kind of changed that outlook one day on a trip from DC to Pgh when I happened to meet an elderly gentleman who was slowly making his way up the towpath riding on an electric wheelchair-type scooter. He said he was 86 years old and he had been hiking the C & O since the 1960's. Bad knees and hips now prevent him from walking the trail. As he looked around as he talked to me, I saw the same reverence in his eyes and his words for the trail that I felt. Apparently his grandson drops him off at a trailhead, and he tries to make it to the next trailhead to be picked up. How fantastic to be 86 and still set goals. E-bikes should be allowed possibly with special permits to limit the use to people who really need them.

 
Sunbiker from Santa Monica on 03/19/2019 01:39 AM
Been reading the recent posts re: e-bikes. I’m nearing age 70 and have biked all around the world. Still love to ride, but putting big mileage on day after day for a week or two or even more is getting difficult. Just bought an e-bike a few weeks ago. For me, it’s not about the speed, it’s about endurance and continuing to enjoy what I love most. Biking!!! Still have my regular road and mtn bikes, just another option when needed. (I admit I felt a little guilty when I first bought it, but it sure feels great to stay in the saddle longer).

 
Rebecca from New Bern, NC on 09/18/2019 03:31 PM
Are electric bikes allowed on the C&O Canal NHP Towpath?

 
Rivnuts from Homestead, PA on 09/18/2019 06:27 PM
As I recently noted an earlier forum thread on e-bikes the National Park Service as of August 30, 2019 has adopted a new policy that generally permits e-bikes within the national parks albeit subject to any specifically different policies of the individual parks. A search of the NPS webpage for the C&O Canal Towpath does not appear to identify any restrictions to the use of e-bikes therein.


 
Jwiffle on 10/08/2019 02:31 PM
Currently, according to the NPS website on the C&O, ebikes are NOT allowed (how some did searches without finding it shows they don't know how to navigate a website).

https://www.nps.gov/choh/planyourvisit/hikingandbiking.htm

Having said that, I've heard that it may be changing. But the official website still shows them as not allowed.

 
Rivnuts from Homestead. PA on 10/09/2019 07:49 AM
See the attached Executive Order for additional information.

https://www.nationalparkstraveler.org/sites/default/files/attachments/so_3376_-_increasing_recreational_opportunities_through_the_use_of_electric_bikes_-508_0.pdf



Rough shape
 - 
Sue from Buffalo on 10/06/2019 09:24 AM
Friends and I would like to plan a bike trip next year, either spring or fall, to bike the GAP and C&O; however, we heard the C&O is in bad shape and not really maintained. We’re wondering your thoughts on this. We may skip the C&O and just do the GAP, as we’ve heard wonderful hints about the GAP, not so much with the C&O. FYI, we all have hybrids.

 
Rivnuts from Homestead. PA on 10/06/2019 12:05 PM
The C&O can certainly be less enjoyable than the GAP, particularly in wet conditions. However, the history along the way is worth experiencing, at least once. Sections of the Towpath have, in fact, been improved. As noted in an earlier forum thread, the section between Shepherdstown and Brunswick has been resurfaced and is much smoother and with better drainage than its earlier, natural condition. I'm told that another section of the Towpath downriver from Brunswick has also been similarly resurfaced.

Also the WMRT that parallels the Towpath is a very nice, paved trail.

So, I guess it depends on your tolerance for some mud, roots and rocks.

 
DAN from JOHNSTOWN PA on 10/08/2019 01:53 PM
Guys I set out to do both the c and o and the GAP trail Last year October 8th I made it 286 miles until I had rear wheel failure I will say the C and O path is definitely a lot rougher than the GAP however it is ok when the conditions aren't super wet some parts are not passable when it is soaked. The bugs are surprisingly bad this time of year so plan accordingly the bugs were a problem. the temperature is absolutely perfect though and the scenery and historic stops are amazing plan accordingly and research your stops and camp sites headlamps head lamps head lamps and maybe an extra headlight just in case.


Treehouse Camp At Maple Tree in Brunswick
 - 
Ann from Pittsburgh on 10/02/2019 05:35 PM
How far from the C&O trail is the campground? How steep is the access road?

 
Rivnuts from Homestead, PA on 10/06/2019 04:05 PM
According to Google Maps and Ride With GPS, the Treehouse Camp at Maple Tree in Rohrersville, MD is 8.3 miles from Brunswick with grades up to 11% as you approach the camp.


Best section of C and O to “sample” the trail
 - 
Purple Paul from Allentown PA on 10/06/2019 08:45 AM
I’m looking for suggestions for a section of trail to sample on a one day out and back ride. I’m considering a full trail trip next season but find myself with a free Saturday this month and an itching to try out the C and O. I’ve done the GAP twice, so it’s time to try something new.

What is the best section of trail to try out?

Thanks...

 
Rivnuts from Homestead. PA on 10/06/2019 09:11 AM
My suggestion would depend on a number of things such as your location, what you want to experience and the distance you'd like to ride in a single day. One thought would be to start in Hancock and ride toward Little Orleans on the paved WMRT that parallels the Towpath and then drop down on the Towpath itself and head back to and beyond Hancock to the downriver end of the WMRT and return to Hancock on the WMRT.. That would be about 45 miles and you would get a good sample of the Towpath and a fairly easy ride. Perhaps the best part of this ride would be the ability to finish off the ride with dinner at Weaver's Restaurant in Hancock.

There are numerous other options depending on your location and preferences.

 
Tom from Pgh PA on 10/06/2019 09:51 AM
Possibly the section between Williamsport and Shepherdstown would be good for you if your coming from Allentown. Williamsport is probably the nearest trailhead to you, plus the Conococheague aqueduct at Williamsport was just rebuilt and rewatered & appears to be an interesting location. Also the concrete structure section of trail at Slackwater around mile 87 is worth seeing although probably not recommended for inexperienced riders & kids due to the unprotected drop to the river. If you have access to Google-Earth you can actually see what the trail looks like in "street view". Not sure how they filmed the trail, maybe in an ATV, but it gives you an excellent view of the trail as you would see it from a bike. Possibly have lunch in historic Shepherdstown, then back to Williamsport for a do-able 55 mile day.


Train that goes to Philly from Washington D.C. and permits bikes
 - 
Anonymous from Pittsburgh on 10/01/2019 09:21 PM
Once we make the trip from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. on the GAP and then the C&O we would like to take a train to Philadelphia. Is there a train that will accept us and our bikes?

 
Rivnuts from Homestead,PA on 10/01/2019 10:20 PM
I don’t have first hand knowledge but road this week with a chap from Philly who said he was taking the train with his bike to Philly from DC.

 
Roadrider on 10/02/2019 09:53 AM
There are four trains that have baggage cars that handle bikes between WAS and PHL during the week. Please go to Amtrak website and become familiar with making trial reservations for trains between WAS and PHL. Look for the bicycle and baggage symbols among the many listed trains.
You will need a reservation for yourself and the bicycle. You will have to roll your bike to the baggage car and pick it up.

Train 56 Vermonter *Recommended as it originates in WAS
Train 80 Carolinian
Train 90 Palmetto
Train 66 Northeast Regional

 
Kimo Goree from Bronx, NY on 10/03/2019 09:14 AM
Good news from Amtrak this week! The Pennsylvanian now allows bike roll on without boxing the bike. Service available at:

Pittsburgh

Altoona

Johnstown

Harrisburg

Lancaster

Philadelphia

Newark

and NY Penn.

When you book your seat you will see the Bicycle logo and you pay 20 USD.

I'll be taking the train with touring bike from NYP to Pittsburgh tomorrow and riding the ACA Chicago to NYC alternative.

Kimo Goree lgoree@gmail.com


Shepherdstown to Brunswick Resurfacing
 - 
Rivnuts from Homestead,PA on 10/01/2019 10:42 PM
I had read that one or more sections of the Towpath had been resurfaced. Yesterday in route to DC I rode from Shepherdstown to Brunswick on one of those sections. What a delight. Compared to the Towpath upriver, it was smooth and without mud and puddles. It was much like the GAP Trail albeit different color. I don’t know what aggregate material was used or what installation procedures were used but it was a very welcomed improvement. I hope more sections will be similarly improved.


Williamsport Town Access
 - 
Rivnuts from Homestead,PA on 10/01/2019 10:33 PM
While the aqueduct restoration project in Williamsport is complete, I noted that the former path across the canal at the “basin” has not been returned. Instead, an elevated wooden crossover walkway with steps was built which is not bike friendly. The detour to town that was built while the restoration was underway is still there but not marked and eroded near the top. There is a canal crossover at grade a little further down river but you’d do well to get some local assistance to direct you to it from town.

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