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The C&O Canal Towpath Trail and Great Allegheny Passage

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Yankee Lady from Waterbury, Vermont on 7/28/2019 6:48:27 PM:
I’m contemplating doing the Pittsburgh to Dc route. Am not in tip top shape, but feel I can manage. Trying to figure how many miles a day. What would be reasonable mileage for the steepest part? Will be looking for budget lodging. I want to rent a bike and send it back to Pittsburgh via shuttle, and take Amtrak back to Vt. I’m familiar with DC. I’m 64. Any thoughts?

bike traveler from Austin, Texas on 7/29/2019 7:12:54 AM:
I rode Pittsburgh to DC two weeks ago. If you are unsure about your conditioning, consider riding only the GAP trail, i.e. from Pittsburgh to Cumberland. The GAP is better-maintained than the C&O so it's a little easier to ride. I also found there were more cyclists on the GAP than on the C&O. On the GAP, I never went more than 10 minutes without seeing another cyclist. I rode 60 miles on the C&O from Cumberland to Hancock without seeing more than ten people on the trail the entire day. There were long stretches of the trail where cell coverage is lousy, so you should depend on other people -- and not your cell phone -- to get help in an emergency. If you are unsure of your conditioning, I would also be careful about riding the C&O during the summer. Two weeks ago it got progessively hotter and more humid as I headed east toward DC, where the heat index was 105F. I live in a town when the temperature exceeds 100F every summer, and I bike a lot, but even more me it was hard to stay hydrated. A shopkeeper in Brunswick told me an inexperienced cyclist had to be hospitalized in Leesburg for dehydration. How much do you bike right now? What's the longest ride you've done in the last six months?

Yankee Lady from Waterbury,Vermont on 7/29/2019 8:33:57 AM:
The few times I’ve been out was on a local rail trail doing about 30 miles. My plan is to get out 3 or 4 times a week and increase the distance. Even the 1st ride of the season my recovery was quick. Thanks for the info on the trail & conditions. I’m looking for another person here who will join me, but no. One yet. Will be traveling in September.

Rivnuts from Homestead, PA on 7/29/2019 3:33:39 PM:
You've presented several questions in your post, some of which are intertwined. The question of how many miles per day you can ride is intertwined with your desire for "budget" lodging and, frankly, how much time you have to make the trip. With the training regimen you outlined between now and September, I would expect you could easily ride 30 to 45 miles per day in good weather. You may want to include in your itinerary a rest/layover day with no riding because of weather, trail conditions or need for additional rest. The GAP rail trail and C&O Towpath consist of only modest and easily rideable grades along the route. Going from Pittsburgh to DC, you'll notice the modest uphill grade from Connellsville to Rockwood the most in my opinion but that section is still easily rideable albeit perhaps in one lower gear than you would use inroute to Connellsville. The "steepest" portion of the trip is on the GAP from the Eastern Continental Divide to Cumberland. However, going in the direction from Pittsburgh to DC, that section will be all downhill and a very easy ride. I suggest you study the route map and its various guide books, including this bikecando.com website, and select/reserve lodging along the way that meets your definition of "budget". There are a couple of hostels along the way but your indoor lodging choices will primarily be motels, hotels and B&B's at varying costs and qualities. While I can't do the entire trip in September, I'd be happy meet you in Pittsburgh and guide you out of town and ride down the trail on your first day ...assuming I am home that week. I live very near the trail just beyond downtown Pittsburgh and am very familiar with the city and trail.

Yankee Lady from Waterbury,Vermont on 7/29/2019 4:18:19 PM:
Thanks for the input. I’d like the trip to be 7 days, which would mean higher mileage. I will be getting the official trail guide and I have been reading online. If it all comes together, I’ll get in touch.

Rivnuts from Homestead, PA on 7/29/2019 9:13:05 PM:
Indeed for a 7-day trip, you'll need to average between 45 and 50 miles per day. That is typically what I have done during my trips to DC. Most commonly that results in 3 days on the GAP and 4 days on the C&O Canal Towpath. If it's any solace, I made my first trip solo at age 65 just 9 weeks after having a knee replacement. Make sure you have an emergency plan or contacts should you have any mechanical issues along the way especially if you are riding solo. As others have noted, you can generally summon and receive assistance along the GAP rather readily. Along the C&O, similar resources and proximity to them is not as available and cell phone coverage is spotty or nonexistent in several stretches. That's not meant to scare you but simply to be prepared should some unforeseen issue arise. Good luck and contact me if I can be of any assistance. It is a nice ride especially that time of year. Just watch out for the walnuts. :-)

Kathleen from Oolitic, IN on 8/1/2019 8:52:36 AM:
My Dad and I rode the GAP and C&O starting May 23rd and finished May 31st. The GAP is beautifully maintained. I'm glad we completed both trails BUT the C&O is a butt pounding ride. A 40 mile day on the GAP was quite doable whereas 40 miles on the C&O took a lot more effort. I will admit that weather played a big role in the poor conditions on the C&O. Lots of rain turned the C&O into a mud bog. For accommodations I used this forum and AirBNB. We rented our bikes from Golden Triangle in Pittsburgh and they have a drop off point in L'Enfant Plaza. I'm happy to share any information I have from my trip. Lots of things to consider and I wish you luck!