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Reply to RE: Help with planning - Front Royal-Harpers Ferry-Shepherdstown?

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Reply to RE: Help with planning - Front Royal-Harpers Ferry-Shepherdstown?
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Daisy from Pittsburgh on 8/4/2020 7:52:36 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 8/4/2020 8:14:01 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. John

Richard from Washington DC on 8/5/2020 10:45:00 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 8/6/2020 7:32:46 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 8/6/2020 8:22:29 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 8/8/2020 12:16:08 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. John

Bobthebiker from CT on 8/19/2020 2:45:15 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 8/19/2020 8:24:54 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 8/28/2020 7:00:54 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 8/31/2020 11:24:56 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 9/2/2020 12:38:30 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. John

Rivnuts from Homestead, PA on 9/2/2020 2:45:29 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.