RE: Help with planning - Front Royal-Harpers Ferry-Shepherdstown? -
Daisy from Pittsburgh on 08/04/2020 07:52 PM
Hi, we are picking up our son from hiking the Appalachian Trail near Front Royal, VA on Saturday, Aug. 8 and would like to bike some of the C&O Canal Trail afterwards. We are thinking of staying overnight in a hotel but haven't done so since COVID-19 hit so we're a little uneasy.
Does anyone have suggestions for which part of the trail to bike near Harpers Ferry -- east or west? We're looking for a decent surface and not too hilly (the hiker may be a little worn out). Any suggestions for places to stay overnight near Harpers Ferry where we'd feel comfortable COVID-wise? Thank you.
John W. from Pittsburgh,PA on 08/04/2020 08:14 PM
The C&O is as flat as a pancake except at the locks which, in reality, are tiny elevation gains over and done with in seconds.
I’m not sure your distance tolerance but from Harpers Ferry you could go west and go to Shepherdstown, grab lunch, then come back or go east and go to Brunswick and back. Unless its rained really hard, this will be easy riding.
I would suggest googling hotels and calling them yourself to see if they’re open during Covid.
Richard from Washington DC on 08/05/2020 10:45 AM
John W. is right that the towpath is pretty flat, but since it follows a river which flows from the mountains to the sea, it is slightly downhill towards the sea. On turn-around rides, I prefer riding upriver on the first leg in order to make the return trip, when I am a little tired, easier. And although it is indeed relatively flat between Harpers Ferry and Shepherdstown, there is a bear of a hill from the towpath up to the bridge that takes you over the Potomac and into the town. I find Harpers Ferry pretty touristy and not a place I'd want to spend the night. I would suggest staying in Shepherdstown and, if you want to spend some time in Harpers Ferry, riding down there for lunch, looking around the historic part of town, which is relatively flat, before heading back. Of course, you still have the big climb to the bridge at Shepherdstown, but if you have your bikes on your car, you can simply drive down to the towpath, park, and thus avoid the hill. If you want a few more miles, Brunswick is only 5.7 from Harpers Ferry, so you could do all of that in a day with a stop for lunch.
Juan from Pacheco on 08/06/2020 07:32 AM
Holiday Inn Express just opened a new hotel in Brunswick. We stayed there on our Gap/C&O ride a few weeks ago. The opened the day before we got there. Very clean.
JM from Central Florida on 08/06/2020 08:22 PM
The C&O has a new surface (similar to the GAP's crushed limestone surface) that now extends from the Shepherdstown turnoff (approx. mile 74) to around Edwards Ferry (approx. mile 31). The new surface is very nice compared to the older C&O surface. You'll be happiest planning your ride on the new surface. Have fun.
John W. from Pittsburgh,PA on 08/08/2020 12:16 PM
Good point Richard, we think alike! (re: “On turn-around rides, I prefer riding upriver on the first leg in order to make the return trip, when I am a little tired, easier”). Definitely like to get the hard part done first then enjoy the easier riding when I’m in the last half of the ride (and typically more worn out than when I began).
The bridge at Shepherdstown, I usually just walk my bike up. Still prefer that bridge to carrying my bike and gear up the spiral staircase at Harpers Ferry. I’m hopeful they will add a switchback bridge there one day for cyclists.
Bobthebiker from CT on 08/19/2020 02:45 PM
I’m traveling through this area and have my road bike. Is this “new surface” around Harpers Ferry between mile 34 and 70 ok to try on the road bike?
Richard from Washington DC on 08/19/2020 08:24 PM
Probably. I rode it last weekend on a mountain bike with big tires and kept dreaming of how much faster it would have been on my road bike. The road bed is crushed limestone. There were no mud holes or indeed any kind of hole. The only obstacles were some small limbs and a black snake. Because I haven't been on it with a road bike, I can't givw an unqualified yes, but I know of no reason that a road bike couldn't handle it. I was on it in a light rain. It's wonderfully scenic. The high bridge over the river at Shepherdstown is really neat. My road bike has 23 mm tires. If you have 25 mm or bigger, there certainly shouldn't be a problem, but 23 mm tires are probably ok.
LOA from Chevy Chase,MD on 08/28/2020 07:00 AM
My 11 y/o son and I just did an overnight DC-Harpers Ferry-DC. The trails were superb (compared to last year's pothole mania). He on an 40 y/o Chromoly road bike running Gatorskins; me on an MTB. If I had a pliable, 11 y/o body I probably would opt for the road bike. But, if I'm touring vs hammering, I'm going for the more comfortable suspension and cargo capacity. Totally doable on a road bike though. Just take ample flat repair material.
Separate, but related, I ran into a guy who was running tubeless on a gravel bike. It was his first time out with that config, but it was a "so far, so good experience" when I chatted. Anyone else running tubeless?
Rivnuts from Homestead, PA on 08/31/2020 11:24 PM
I just rode that section Saturday afternoon after an all night and morning rain. It was smooth and firm.
Frankly, it is smoother than the paved WMRT parallel section of the Towpath. The roots are beginning to be a true pain in the ass along the WMRT. I'm not so sure that staying on the Towpath itself isn't be better option in that section. (I'm only partly serious but the WMRT is becoming rather rough.)
John W. from Pittsburgh,PA on 09/02/2020 12:38 PM
Rivnuts, I wonder if the WMRT or Maryland State Parks are even aware of how bad the surface of the trails is? I wonder if we can constructively alert them to the need for a resurface or if there are any plans to do so.
Rivnuts from Homestead, PA on 09/02/2020 02:45 PM
Given that it is already paved, I suspect they consider that trail to be in "good" conditions. As I only ride the WMRT once or twice a year, I'll leave it to the local cyclists to forward their comments on the condition of the pavement. It would likely be a rather expensive repair given its length.
Reservations for Camping Mid September -
KTG from Philly on 08/26/2020 04:50 PM
My husband and I are planning a ride from DC to Pittsburgh Mid-September. We have a rough idea of where we'll end each day, but have not yet made any reservations. We would like to make reservations in the AM for that evening. What has been everyone's experience with this? We'll be using the hiker/biker camps, and the fee camps, obviously can't reserve the hiker/biker campgrounds... do they fill up fast this time of year?
John W. from Pittsburgh, PA on 08/26/2020 05:57 PM
Hiker/Bikers will be wide open. Even if you arrived at a packed camp, there’s always another one 5-7 miles away down the trail. Summer is peak season and fall much less so. But you’ll have no issues. Not sure about fee sites, I would just call to assure yourself you’ve got a spot but I don’t see them filling up either.
LOA from Chevy Chase,MD on 08/27/2020 07:26 AM
Concur. The fall will just require you to use more lights (and blankets), so either have a good charger or charge them up while you're at a restaurant. It will be a lovely trip that time of year. Have fun (and DC-to-Pitt is personally my favorite direction)!
John W. from Pittsburgh,PA on 08/27/2020 04:57 PM
Just to add something about the fee sites....I would call in advance just to make sure there are no big events or festivals. I stayed in Meyersdale at the Maple Festival campground in June. Wide open then but if you came during the festival, I’m not sure if there would be room. Just speculating, I don’t know when it is. Of course with Covid, I bet this, and other, festivals get curtailed or cancelled. I would call anyways. With Covid, many things have closed or shorted hours. No idea what Ohiopyle is like either during September but you never know.
John W. from Pittsburgh,PA on 08/27/2020 05:03 PM
LOA - My solar charger was a total failure on my last DC to Pitt trip!
I stuck in on top of my rear rack and tried charging my power stick but with all the shade from the trees, it didn’t do much charging. By the time I got to camp, the sun was pretty much going down so that was it. The only thing that saved me was the restaurants and them allowing me to plug in.
I think I need to upgrade my charger and bring extra power sticks just incase. I typically “unplug” during my GAP/C&O trips but do use my phone to communicate, make calls, or for navigation.
LOA from Chevy Chase,MD on 08/28/2020 06:53 AM
John - same here. I had the brightest of hopes for my folding solar charger, but it was as heavy as it was ineffective for the same reasons you articulated (I've resigned to only use it only for camping). Thankfully, my cycling buddy had several, small battery packs, which saved the day (as well as the wonderfully tolerant restaurants). And, as much as I'd like to use my phone for navigation, I went and bought a purpose-built GPS device...much less battery drain. It really comes in handy for those not-so-straightforward routes. For what it's worth, I also purchased a Light phone (reminiscent of the old candy bar phones, but with better design).
KTG from Philly on 08/28/2020 03:57 PM
Thank you for your comments. We have a solar lantern, but also has USB charger. As well as flashlights, headlamps etc.
Glad to hear the restaurants are OK with charging devices. That was our plan!
John W. from Pittsburgh,PA on 08/28/2020 06:18 PM
The three I remember specially plugging into are Beans in the Belfry in Brunswick, MD, Tony’s Pizza in Williamsport, MD , and Cafe Mark in Cumberland , MD.
Rivnuts from Homestead, PA on 08/31/2020 11:18 PM
If you get really desparate for a charge, you'll often find outdoor receptacles on the exterior of buildings/facilities to charge your devices especially if you are forced to eat outside anyways due to the pandemic.
Heck I found an outdoor panelboard with standard receptacles at the empty Brunswick train station to charge my phone a couple of days ago.
State of C&O campgrounds -
Lisa from DC on 08/30/2020 10:59 AM
We are planning a 3 night trip on the C&O over Labor Day weekend and wondering what the state of the campgrounds are like? It’s been 10+ years since we have done the trip, but on recent short rides, we’ve noticed that some of the campsites were overgrown and not maintained. Guessing this was due to CovID. Can anyone chime in on the general state of the sites from Cumberland to DC? Did we just happen upon a couple of less desirable sites, or is that generally the case?
John W. from Pittsburgh,PA on 08/30/2020 03:56 PM
Campsites are fine. Any overgrowth was due to Covid shut downs or possibly downsized park staff and they may have not yet gotten to the site to mow.
All the campsites on my last trip were as expected. Maybe others have seen something else but other than the pump handle issue back in June, they all looked normal to me. Port-a-johns as expected and campsites were maintained (mowed).
Rivnuts from Homestead, PA on 08/31/2020 11:10 PM
I just finished riding and camping from Pgh to DC. The hiker/biker (H/B) camp sites along the C&O Towpath appeared "normal" and functional. Toilets were in place and reasonably clean. The water pump handles were virtually all in place. As you observed some of the sites had not been mowed in a while but were certainly ok to camp at...and I did so. Not all were in pristine condition but in the last 5 or 6 years I didn't see a noticeable difference in their overall condition. It simply varies by individual site.
Anyone want to share a shuttle service Sept 13, Pit -> DC? -
Steph from Charlotte, NC on 08/31/2020 07:56 AM
Mom and I are biking Williamsport (C&O) to Pittsburgh. Looking for anyone interested in splitting a shuttle service with us? Got a quote from Wilderness Voyageurs of $500 and that would cover 4 people and their bikes.
Frostburg Trailhead in Frostburg -
Anonymous on 08/29/2020 10:45 PM
What is the street address of the Frostburg trailhead??
John W. from Pittsburgh,PA on 08/29/2020 11:56 PM
Don’t know the exact address but the intersection of New Hope Rd. NW & Rankin Dr. NW is where the Entrance to the parking lot of the trailhead is located. If you go there in google maps, you will see the parking lot and GAP trail.
Little Sandy's Truck Stop & Restaurant in Hancock -
Joe from ESSEX on 08/25/2020 09:45 AM
We always stop there on the way to or from our camping trip to Rocky Gap state park. They have a great hot Turkey and mashed potatoes Platters. So my wife and I discussed if we are going to eat it there or do take out with the virus going on and being a truck stop with drivers from all over the country stopping there. God bless our truckers. Anyway I told her if the waitress has a mask on then we will eat there because I don't want her breathing on my food. If not we will get it to go in a closable container by the cook. Anyway we walk in and I sit at a table because I see the waitress with a mask hanging around her neck and being slow I figure she will pull it up when she takes our orders. My wife goes to the bathroom and the waitress brings menus and ask what we want to drink and left the mask hand around her neck.I told her to wait for my wife to come back. So I get up to go back to the bathroom and tell her to get it to go because the waitress is not putting her mask on. So while I was going to the bathroom the waitress gets a little attitude with my wife because I sat at a table and now we want it to go. Sad because the food is good. At least that Platter is good. Not sure about the rest. But I can't get the virus because of my COPD will kill me. Sorry for a bad review but warning other customers.
Dave s. from Hatfield on 08/25/2020 11:16 AM
I feel your pain. I was also just in hancock and had to do laundry, and get supplies. The pharmacy, of all places was not enforcing masking, nor was the dollar store or the laundry. It is like that everywhere, especially in these small towns all along the GAP and C&O. Ohiopyle, Connelsville also had serious making and social distancing problems. It is such a sad shame that these businesses continue to suffer at their own unwillingness to do a simple and even patriotic thing to protect us all.
In Connellsville, the little grocery in town had multiple employees and customers not masking and the same with the Sheets there. AT Whites Ferry, I walked in to get cold drinks and hot grilled sandwiches for me and my kids and walked right back out because the employees were not masking. I truly want these businesses to survive. But I value my own survival more than I value the services they offer. What a shame.
WKR from Brunswick, MD on 08/25/2020 09:32 PM
I'm surprised you had the issue in whites ferry. That's full on DC area and not an out of the way location. Of course, the virus doesn't care if it's out of the way or not but I would expect more of the city and suburban folks to not want to do business where they're not wearing masks.
Lodging in Hancock -
Cate from NJ on 08/19/2020 06:17 PM
river run and 1828 are sold out in Hancock. Are there any other places to stay? We are not camping.
Rivnuts from Homestead, ramp on 08/19/2020 06:36 PM
There is a Super 8 Motel there that I stayed a few years back. It is an older style motel but it was clean and quiet. The continental breakfast was rather spartan but there are plenty of breakfast options elsewhere in Hancock There is an uphill grade to get to it but it is not very long so even walking up the hill isn't a big issue.
John W. from Pittsburgh,PA on 08/19/2020 07:06 PM
And the Super 8 has a hose outside to wash your bike if it’s a little muddy! 8 - )
bobthebuilder from Cleveland Ohio on 08/19/2020 08:45 PM
we just got back Pittsburgh to DC. Had a pleasant stay in Hancock at Comfort Suites. They have a nice shuttle. Also discovered a gem in Shepherds Town. Sundog B&B. Pricy and worth it.
Our Amtrak was cancelled -
Jennifer R from Houston on 08/19/2020 05:31 PM
We booked our Amtrak back in May for October 17th from Pittsburgh to Cumberland Got an email today stating that the daily train is now only traveling Sun, Tues, and Friday. Oh well...we will rent a one way car instead. Wanted to post to let others know just in case this news will affect your travel plans, too.
John W. from Pittsburgh, PA on 08/19/2020 05:43 PM
Jennifer R. - yeah it seems Amtrak has clawed back service to the bare minimum. I spoke to an agent when the same thing happened to me when my bike ticket got cancelled back in June. It’s all Covid related and they are expecting to go back to normal once it’s deemed safe to do so (whenever that is remains to be seen).
Thanks for the heads up to this forum.
Jennifer R from Houston on 08/19/2020 06:03 PM
John...yeah I remember your post about the bike ticket being cancelled. I called to confirm our reservations with 2 bike tickets back in June and all was good. They said our bikes had a spot...so whew! But...then today...the whole reservation was cancellation. They said we could switch to the 16th or the 18th, but of course, there were no bike spots available AND...we have airline tickets flying into Pittsburgh that can't be changed without penalty. Changing the train date created a huge domino effect on EVERYTHING...we have B&Bs reserved all along the trail for specific nights. Oh well...the one way car is only about $30 more anyway.
John W. from Pittsburgh,PA on 08/19/2020 07:03 PM
Bummer..... Yeah, I did the rental from Pittsburgh airport to Reagan airport, no issues at all. I did miss being able to take a nap on the train and not have to concentrate on the drive. But it wasn’t that bad looking back now. Just glad I had that option allowing me to do my bike tour!
New surface on C&O -
Nan in VA from Richmond vA on 07/27/2020 09:25 PM
Wondering if the new surface has been extended any since last September (2019). I believe it was maybe 17 mi near Brunswick (can’t remember). Anyone know?
WKR from Brunswick, MD on 07/27/2020 10:03 PM
New surface runs from edwards ferry up to shepherdstown.
Bobthebiker from CT on 08/19/2020 02:53 PM
I’m traveling through the area and have a road bike. Will this new surface be ok for a road bike? Thanks for any insights!
WKR from Brunswick, MD on 08/19/2020 04:11 PM
New surface is just fine on a road bike. Much smoother and without the mud/puddles of the old surface.
GAP/C&O ride -
David from Blountstown Fl on 08/18/2020 03:56 PM
I am interested in riding this trail in May '21 and looking for info from anyone who has rode during this time frame.
Rivnuts from Homestead, ramp on 08/18/2020 08:35 PM
I rode from DC to Pittsburgh between 5/14 and 5/21 in 2019. What information about that trip would you like?
DC metro area trails -
Todd from Texas on 08/17/2020 10:47 AM
I am going to be riding the GAP/C&O towpath in a few days and am trying to find information about the bike path options once I come to the end of the C&O in DC. My ultimate goal is to get as close to Manassas, VA as possible. Suggestions?