C&O Home  GAP Home
The C&O Canal Towpath Trail and Great Allegheny Passage

Reply to Thru Ride Direction

Scroll down to see the discussion
All submissions are reviewed for appropriateness. We reserve the right to remove or edit any comment that we consider incorrect, misleading, or inappropriate, at our sole discretion. Please remember that this is a family-friendly website.
Reply to Thru Ride Direction
Your Name:

This does not have to be your real name. It could be a "screen name", your initials, or just leave blank.
Your Hometown:

Optional - it's just interesting to know where people are from
Email Address
So we know you are a human, please answer this easy math quiz:
4 + 2 =
Beaux58 from Sterling Heights MI on 2/26/2020 2:38:08 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 2/26/2020 3:40:49 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 2/27/2020 10:02:54 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 2/28/2020 12:46:44 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 2/28/2020 6:47:24 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 2/28/2020 9:07:57 PM:
John/Tom: 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 2/29/2020 8:57:27 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 2/29/2020 9:31:56 AM:
Willy: 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 2/29/2020 1:48:00 PM:
Yep. 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 3/1/2020 10:09:23 AM:
Tandem Connection....best ice cream on the Montour Trail.

Arminius from Richmond, VA on 3/11/2020 1:37:25 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 3/12/2020 1:33:54 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 3/13/2020 1:42:26 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 3/13/2020 10:09:40 PM:
John: 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. Ted

John from Pittsburgh on 3/14/2020 8:53:46 AM:
Great! I wish I was retired! ;-) Thanks Ted, looking forward to the trail/meet-up thread. John