Harpers Ferry -
John from Pittsburgh on 01/16/2020 01:27 PM
I'm planning on staying at the Town's Inn in Harper's Ferry. Has anyone stayed there before? Was there a place to lock your bike up on the premises?
I'm also dreading the road section that will need to be ridden to now get into the town. Has anyone who has previously ridden it, have any insight? I am comfortable on the road with traffic. I just want to make sure it's relatively safe.
jerseydinerguy from cape may,NJ on 01/16/2020 01:44 PM
my wife and i stayed at townes inn in harper ferry a couple of years ago.we had an awful expierience that started with a room that had a doorknob with a lock that didnt work! we stayed anyway but i could go on and on..i will also add that this is my first post on this forum..i am posting this to suggest other lodging options.
Doug from Freeport, Maine on 01/16/2020 02:50 PM
If I were riding theGAP/C&O, which I've done twice, including last summer, I'd adjust my route to stop in Sheperdstown. Nice town, lots of infrastructure for food and lodging, easy access, and you'd begin the next day on a great stretch of improved trail.
Richard from DC on 01/16/2020 04:42 PM
I've not stayed at the Town's inn, but I have had brunch there when bikers were leaving. This was several years ago. They were quite pleased with it. At that time, it had some of the better food in town. I don't know about safekeeping for your bike, but I assume they can do that. You might call.
This article from the Shepherdstown paper a day ago says they are still bickering over repair of the bridge. http://www.shepherdstownchronicle.com/page/content.detail/id/518616/Harpers-Ferry-council-receives-update-on-pedestrian-bridge-status.html?nav=5127 It says Harpers Ferry is thinking of running shuttles. You might want to see if you can get a cab or Lyft to pick you up at Sandy Hook and take you and your bike to Harpers Ferry. It's only three miles. But for the facts that there are no shoulders on the Potomac Bridge and the road is narrow and very busy, it would be an easy bike ride from Sandy Hook. I would not advise that. There are back roads in Virginia from Shepherdstown. I don't know what they are like, but there is a good bike shop in Shepherdstown. You might want to get their advice. They do proivde shuttle service to their rental customers but not as far as Harpers Ferry.
Richard from DC on 01/16/2020 04:46 PM
I just checked Google Street View. There is a walkway along the Potomac Bridge at Sandy Hook, but it doesn't do you much good because there isn't much of a shoulder along parts of 340. You should do a Street View from Sandy Hook to Harpers Ferry and see how comfortable you'd be riding that. I wouldn't be.
Rivnuts from Homestead, PA on 01/16/2020 08:01 PM
I rode Rt 340 from Harpers Ferry Road (Rt 671) on into Harpers Ferry coming from the WOD Trail in Purcellville, VA. The traffic on Rt 340 was heavy and fast including semi trailer trucks. There was a rather wide, paved shoulder for most of the length although there was gravel and debris on the shoulder in some areas.
While I ride a lot of roads, Rt 340 was one of my least favorites. Would I do it again...perhaps if the adventure requiring it was greater than the risk in doing so and that is a personal evaluation each of us must make.
John from Pittsburgh on 01/17/2020 12:47 PM
Thanks for all of the feedback. I've adjusted my itinerary and will stay in Shepherdstown instead. It'll be a bit of a long day into DC the following day, but it seems like the better option.
dave gorman from hollidaysburg on 01/17/2020 01:06 PM
Shepherdstown is an excellent choice, I have stayed there on multiple occasions and after you climb the LONG hill from the trail to the road that quickly leads into town you take a right to one of the hotels which is right next to a self serve car wash ( which can be helpful if the trail is muddy) and a shopping center where a grocery store is located for a cheap meal. There is also, as you get onto the bridge that crosses the trial, the Bavarian Inn before you get into Shepherdstown which overlooks the Potomac River. Just suggestions.
Rivnuts from Homestead, PA on 01/17/2020 05:35 PM
My son-in-law is staying in Harpers Ferry this weekend, albeit not at the Town's Inn, so I asked him to look at the place while there. He sent me a picture taken today of the front of the Inn. There is a wrought iron fence or railing in front of the Inn to which bikes could be locked. There appears to be a few rental bikes located inside that railing although I can't tell from the picture if or how those bikes are locked up.
telo from Robinson on 01/20/2020 10:52 PM
Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown is a great place to stay. They are a little pricey and you will need to make your reservations early because they fill up quick. You can chain your bike up outside or they will lock it away for you. Bikes not permitted in rooms. They have a pretty good restaurant on site, and a bike cleaning station for mud cleanup. Its just across the river from the trail, and the best thing is its all downhill to the trail the next morning. (Of course that means its all uphill as you drag in from DC)
Peter on 01/22/2020 03:39 PM
I'd affirm the decision to stop in Shepherdstown. 4 of us rode the trail last summer and stopped for breakfast in Harpers Ferry. Not wanting to carry everything up the stairs on the Maryland side, we ditched our panniers in the woods, and carried our bikes up. After breakfast, and upon returning to the W Va side of the bridge, we were informed that it was closed for repairs. There was no sign on the Maryland side informing us of this. NPS was adamant that we could not cross on the bridge, and a somewhat animated discussion ensued - at one point we said that we were just going to take the road back. NPS said that we really shouldn't be doing that and to their credit they did eventually rustle up a van and a pickup and they shuttled us and our bikes back to the Maryland side of the bridge. As we were riding in the shuttle we were all looking at each other and agreeing that the ride on that road would have been absolutely awful. I remember a pretty nasty hill on the W Va side, and absolutely no shoulder on the long bridge.
Resurfacing the C&O around Brunswick -
Bike traveller from Austin,Texas on 07/18/2019 08:48 PM
I noticed they’re resurfacing the C&O around Brunswick. The new surface was a lot easier to ride on than what I’d seen closer to Cumberland.
Perrin Clark from Lovettsville VA. on 12/27/2019 05:00 PM
I am disappointed in how the trail looks. What is the stuff being put down. ??? It takes away from the historical feel of the trail. It looks awful. To bad that it is being done. Very sad. Ugh.
Anonymous on 12/27/2019 09:34 PM
I am saddened by this project and it’s effect on the historic character of the Tow Path. I love the grassy medians and the feel of being out in a country setting. The new surface is unappealing and gives one the feel of an urban walking/biking path. You are destroying History and the character of this Historic landmark. More people, more traffic, more speed will only ruin the beauty of this National Historic Park.
Please stop this expensive, nonsensical project. It is unnecessary, environmentally unfriendly, and unsightly. Who did the research for this project and why weren’t the local population and users of this Tow Path consulted? It is disgraceful!
Willy from Alexandria VA on 12/27/2019 09:49 PM
I'm sorry you are saddened. That being said, I wish the resurfacing was done at approximately mile 170- 175 instead of Brunswick. That section needs resurfacing more than Brunswick, but I am not the one singing the checks.
tom from pittsburgh on 12/28/2019 05:26 PM
I think that most people who have walked or biked this trail have a deep respect for the historical features of this area and specifically the trail itself. The many times that I have biked the C&O it crossed my mind many times that I was riding the same surface that was walked by the canal boat mules a hundred years ago. That sentiment aside, I have also pushed a fully loaded bike through miles and miles of unrideable mud. It seems as though the past few years have been especially wet and in my opinion the C&O surface should be upgraded to eliminate the heavy mud conditions that have ended many a trip early. I am certainly not in favor of asphalt paving which very much adds to excessive speeds and infinitely higher usage, but I would like to see the same crushed limestone surface like the GAP trail in PA. The GAP trail is still very primitive and rustic, just without the mud. I cannot argue anyones desire to preserve history, just hoping for a little compromise here.
Dave from Grand Rapids, Michigan on 12/30/2019 01:24 PM
For what it is worth, we are starting to use crushed asphalt rather than crushed limestone on rural rail trail sections in Michigan. It provides a firmer riding surface, drains better, and therefore doesn't get muddy. It has the feel of nicely compacted gravel road. I prefer to paved asphalt for the reasons mentioned above; it maintains a rural feel with out the hassle of washouts.
Considering riding the C&O / GAP trail this summer for the first time!
Rivnuts from Homestead. PA on 12/30/2019 09:53 PM
As noted in an earlier post following my ride from Pgh to DC last October, I concur with Dave's observations of the characteristics of the crushed asphalt resurface. I rode the section between Shepherdstown and Brunswick during a steady rain and was very pleased with the improved ride quality of that surface compared to the natural, unimproved trail in route to that section.
I'll leave the debate concerning whether such a surface is appropriate to maintain the history of the Towpath to a separate discussion.
Mapman from Naples Fl on 01/10/2020 10:51 AM
I have ridden the Canal 16 times. From totally dry condition to ankle deep water. To see riders complaining about a better surface being put down blows my mind. Be happy that in this political climate any work is being done on the Canal at all. The NPS tends to spend its very limited budget on the big name parks (Yellowstone, Grand Canyon) neglecting others like the Canal.
Any surface improvement should be appreciated.
Enjoy the ride.
John from Pittsburgh on 01/10/2020 09:31 PM
If it could be funded, I would welcome a crushed limestone resurface for the entirety of the C&O (similar to the GAP) where mule paths or dirt trails currently exist.
Too many people avoid or cancel trips on the C&O after rains because of it's poor condition. If resurfaced there would be no more questions about what kind of bike to use, what kind of tires do I need, will I fall because of the mud or strike a hidden-under-the-puddle tree root, etc.
I realize that crushed limestone after rains can be soupy in spots but it drains so much better and maintains a good, consistent riding surface so much better.
I understand the historic aspect of the C&O and respect that opinion. But all of the surrounding parts outside of the part you walk or ride on would remain intact. The Birders, photographers, hikers, etc. will all still be seeing the same things just with better footing. I feel most bike tourists would welcome this improvement to the surface by a wide margin if asked. Just my opinion...
telo from Robinson Twp on 01/12/2020 02:40 PM
I too would like to see some type of improvement to the tow path surface. Crushed limestone really works well on the GAP, but it may not be as effective on the C & O. The GAP was built on top of 100 years of railroad ballast build-up. This extremely porous rock material provides an excellent subbase that greatly facilitates positive drainage and surface stability. The C & O does not have the benefit of this porous rock subbase, only compacted soil. In my opinion, crushed limestone would be a big improvement here, but may require a little more upkeep and maintenance than the GAP due to the makeup of the subsurface materials. In any case, I'm an old retired civil engineer that had to cancel last year due to all the rain and the Brunswick washout. I'm running out of time, so here's hoping some improvements are done soon.
John W. from Pittsburgh on 01/16/2020 10:18 PM
Interesting information about the railroad ballast Telo! I had not considered that. No wonder the GAP drains so nicely.
That said, any resurfacing of the C&O would be welcome by me!
John from Pittsburgh on 01/15/2020 01:48 PM
Where do you recommend staying in Hancock? My top two choices are booked for my travel dates. I'm now looking at the Super 8 and the Hancock Motel now. Any thoughts? Thank you!
dave gorman from hollidaysburg on 01/15/2020 01:59 PM
the Bike shop in Hancock has dormitory style bare bone accomodations that will work and are much cheaper than a hotel, if that would work for you.
Warren from North Carolina on 01/15/2020 03:16 PM
C&O Bike Shop is not a bad choice. For $15 you get a towel, hot shower a bunk and a place to charge all your electronic gear. It is also walking distance to a laundromat, fast food restaurants and a grocery store. Stayed there last fall after riding all day in the rain.
Rivnuts from Homestead, PA on 01/15/2020 06:10 PM
I've stayed at the Super 8. It is a little further off the trail (with a little uphill grade) than the bike shop. It is an old-style motel. The room was small but clean and quiet the night I stayed there. The continental breakfast was quite austere but edible. They did have a hose to use as a bike wash which might be very useful if you're coming from Cumberland. That section of trail up to the WMRT pave trail can be very muddy if it rains or has rained recently.
It is a step up from the bike shop bunk house but not that big of a step up. Both are in close proximity to Weaver's Restaurant which is my favorite place to eat in Hancock, especially if you like pie!
John from Pittsburgh on 01/15/2020 09:40 PM
Thanks for the feedback!
Solo Woman Ride -
Sarah from Pittsburgh on 01/12/2020 12:37 PM
Are there any women on here who have tackled the trail from PGH to DC solo? I'm planning on a possible trip this spring and was looking for feedback about how safe you felt along the trail itself and in towns. I will be staying in hotels and plan on doing the whole thing in five days.
John from Pittsburgh on 01/12/2020 06:14 PM
You'll be fine! :-) I've never heard/seen of any incidents on the GAP/C&O.
Obviously you'll be starting/ending in two large cities so use the normal precautions you would use. But the trail is safe.
Sarah from Pittsburgh on 01/12/2020 07:35 PM
Thanks! I live in Pgh now and used to live in DC. As backwards as it seems I'm more nervous about the more remote sections of the trail. Haha!
Rivnuts from Homestead, PA on 01/12/2020 08:19 PM
Being you are from Pittsburgh, you likely heard of the woman that was accosted on the trail just beyond the Homestead Waterfront shopping area. That is the only incident that I am aware of in the trail in the last few years. Aside from that, I agree with John's comments that the trail is has been quite safe for all travelers, both men and women. You should feel quite comfortable on the GAP portion as the distance between small towns and communities is rather short and the trail is rather open and generally well travelled. The C&O has more remote sections between towns and seems more isolated than the GAP, e.g. the section between Cumberland and Little Orleans. That said, I've met some unusual characters on the trail albeit harmless and interesting.
Like John, I don't view safety as an issue but I would point out that bicycle service along the C&O can be a challenge, especially if a mechanical issue arises in a remote section of the trail. You should take the normal precautions in terms of taking and knowing how to use simple bike tools and parts such as spare tire tubes. Further, you should have a backup plan for a more serious mechanical problem should it arise. Obviously a cell phone and some contact numbers could become quite useful in such an event. Note however, there are some sections of the trail where cell phone service does not exist. In that instance, other bike riders along the trail can be very helpful in getting assistance. In short, the Boy Scout motto of "Be Prepared" is well advised
Harper's Ferry Bridge Issue -
EdW from LA, CA on 12/22/2019 11:06 AM
Freight train derails and falls into Potomac River near Harpers Ferry, W.Va. - The Washington Post
Blue Fork from Atlanta on 01/06/2020 08:47 PM
where can one find updates regarding repairs, and when the pedestrian access will return?
Rivnuts from Homestead, PA on 01/06/2020 09:27 PM
There does not appear to be a scheduled or estimated return to service of the pedestrian bridge across the Potomac River at Harpers Ferry at this time. The Appalachian Trail website below may be the best source of updates regarding repairs.
Matt from Charlotte on 01/09/2020 11:13 AM
DISCLAIMER: I have no real experience and am simply in the planning stages of my trip
it looks like there is a 1.5mile detour that could bring you into Harper's Ferry slightly down the trail using US-340. Granted it looks like a busy 2 lane road, but with a considerable shoulder. This is only an issue if you plan on stopping in Harpers Ferry as the pedestrian bridge only connects the AT and does not obstruct the C&O. Obviously, ride at your own risk.
I had planned on overnighting in Harpers Ferry, but now it looks like Shepherdstown is going to be the better bet.
Rivnuts from Homestead, PA on 01/09/2020 03:25 PM
Rt 340 is fast and fairly heavy traffic (at least west of HF which I rode in route to Harpers Ferry (HF)) with some sections where the shoulder narrows. Depending on your tolerance for car traffic, it could be a little daunting.
Shepherdstown would be a fine alternative overnight albeit without the same historical significance but very quaint in and of itself.
Given the historical significance of HF and the traffic from both the C&O Canal Towpath and Appalachian Trails, I would expect that local officials will stress the importance and timeliness of repairs to the pedestrian portion of the bridge by CSX Railroad. I'd keep a close watch for plans and progress which may enable you to maintain your plan to visit HF without traversing Rt 340.
Planning stage- security -
Matt from Charlotte on 01/02/2020 05:57 PM
Planning a late spring/ early summer trip of the AP/C&O (Pit to DC). I'm curious what steps need to be taken to secure a bike during stops? I'm well aware that any bike lock is more about keeping honest people honest than eliminating the chance of theft. Is something minimal like the Otto cinch lock going to get the job done?
Rivnuts from Homestead,PA on 01/02/2020 09:58 PM
The GAP/C&O trail is generally safe and crime free. Not unsurprisingly, the greatest risks to your bike and gear are in the largest cities, Pgh and DC. I carry a light-duty combo lock to use when my bike and gear are not within sight. When camping I lock it even it the most remote hiker/biker camp sites. Although it’s probably not necessary, it seems like a rational and simple precaution to avoid having to walk home.