C&O Canal/GAP

Trip Dates:
Sep 27, 2014 -- Oct 04, 2014
Arlington, VA
Booking Status:

This fall, you won’t need to worry about traffic as you ride your hybrid or mountain bike 330 miles on hard-packed, gently graded gravel and dirt trails from the heart of the nation’s capital north into Pennsylvania.

Historically, the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal served as a lifeline for early settlers. Today, it serves as a pathway to an unforgettable cycling experience. We’ll begin with a visit to the National Mall. After bidding adieu to DC, we’ll head through stylish Georgetown and then deep into rural Maryland. We’ll visit Antietam National Battlefield, site of the Civil War’s bloodiest battle, and Fort Fredrick, a restored 1756 British outpost. In lively Cumberland, Maryland, we’ll move over to the Great Allegheny Passage, a stellar rail-trail completed in 2006. Upon finishing in Pittsburgh, we’ll catch a shuttle back to Washington.

Start Date: Sep 27, 2014 End Date: Oct 04, 2014
Start Location: Arlington, VA End Location: Arlington, VA
Total Days: 8 Riding Days: 7
Rest Days: 1 Miles: 325
Average Daily Mileage: 46.4 Surface: Unpaved Bike Path
Riders: 65 Airport: Ronald Reagan Intl. (Washington, DC)
Tour Leader: Bob Westgate Caterer: Culinary Insider (Anne)
Meals: Catered meals Accommodations: Camping/Indoor, Camping, Motel Options
Type: Supported Technical Difficulty: Easy
Physical Difficulty: Beginner+ Level of Support: Fully Supported
Cost: $1,199.00

Day 1

Arlington, Virginia. We’ll gather just across the Potomac River from Washington, DC, at the Virginian Suites, where we’ll meet our seasoned team of leaders and have our first map meeting, dinner, and overnight. The motel is within easy walking distance of two of the most stirring sites in the capital region: The Iwo Jima Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery. And, if you arrive early enough in the morning, you’ll also have the opportunity to join us on a guided cycling tour of the National Mall.

Day 2

Washington, DC, to Brunswick, Maryland, 59 miles. Our ride through history begins by pedaling across the Potomac River together, stopping to snap a group photo on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. After a few miles on the Capital Crescent Trail, with its dozens of joggers and cyclists, we'll ride into deep hardwood forests and onto George Washington's route west: The towpath paralleling the C&O Canal, a 184-mile-long National Historical Park. Soon, you and your new friends will ride past Great Falls Park, where the Potomac River gathers speed and force as it tumbles over a series of jagged boulders in the narrow Mather Gorge. The farther we get from the nation's capital, the wilder our surroundings become. We'll set up camp at the Brunswick Family Campground.

Day 3

Brunswick to Williamsport, 48 miles. Today our group will ride a section of the C&O that runs along the Appalachian Trail. Maybe we'll even catch sight of a few through-hikers heading north. Later, we'll take leave of our bicycles and walk up the steps and over the bridge spanning the Potomac to Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, the place where the Civil War began. We may temporarily leave the C&O and pedal through a rolling farm-scape to Sharpsburg and the Antietam National Battlefield. The peaceful atmosphere at Antietam today belies the fact that the bloodiest one-day battle in American history took place here on September 17, 1862. We'll wrap up today with a program by the National Park Service on the history of the C&O Canal, and camp tonight at the Snug Harbor KOA outside Williamsport.

Day 4

Williamsport to Little Orleans, 46 miles. After a tour of Fort Frederick State Park, which preserves a pre-Revolutionary-War British outpost, we'll jump off the dirt-surfaced C&O and onto the Western Maryland Trail, a 22-mile-long, hard-surface rail trail. Next up is the quaint little town of Hancock, where Weaver's Restaurant & Bakery serves what are reputed to be some of the very best homemade pies east of the Mississippi. We'll set up our tents at the Little Orleans Campground, later a local historian will give us even more insight to this fascinating area.

Day 5

Little Orleans to Cumberland, 48 miles. Today we will pass through the single most impressive structure on the entire C&O Canal: The Paw Paw Tunnel. Excavated between 1836 and 1850 this cool, damp, and mysterious passage burrows through the hills for some 3,100 feet. Our final stretch of the C&O Canal will take us into the beautiful town of Cumberland, with its friendly citizens and classic downtown pedestrian mall. We'll also sample the frozen treats scooped up at the Queen City Creamery.

Day 6

Cumberland to Rockwood, Pennsylvania, 45 miles. First thing this morning we'll pedal onto the crushed limestone surface of the Great Allegheny Passage rail-trail to begin a long, but very gentle uphill that takes us into the Allegheny Mountains. Our group will surmount the Eastern Continental Divide, which marks the division point between the Chesapeake Bay and Gulf of Mexico watersheds; we'll also cross the famous Mason-Dixon Line, going from Maryland to the Keystone State of Pennsylvania. Today's ride proffers the best long-distance views of the entire tour, and also presents the opportunity to pedal through another impressive tunnel, the 3,300-foot-long Big Savage. The ride ends at the pleasant Husky Haven Campground in Rockwood.

Day 7

Rockwood to Belle Vernon, 71 miles. Early on we'll spin through Ohiopyle State Park, with its beautiful bridges and waterfalls, perhaps pausing to visit Frank Lloyd Wright's nearby architectural masterpiece, Fallingwater. There's also a wealth of terrific hiking trails in the state park, in case you'd like to get off the bike for awhile and stretch a new set of muscles. For much of the day, our group will follow the Youghiogheny (YOCK-uh-gay-nee), known as the white water mecca of the east. If autumn is in the air, we'll inhale the hearty essence of duff decaying on the forest floors, and the delicious scent of hardwood smoke wafting from farmhouse chimneys. The day ends at the Cedar Creek Campground outside the town of Belle Vernon. If a 71-mile day seems too long for you, never fear, we offer 2 shuttles that will bring your day's ride to around 50 miles total.

Day 8

Belle Vernon to Pittsburgh, 38 miles. On this, our final day, we'll pedal through the old mining towns of Dawson and Whitsett, and then ride out of the Allegheny Mountains toward McKeesport, where the Youghiogheny and Monongahela Rivers converge. We'll likely finish the ride at the Point in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After we convene, it's time to enjoy a shuttle back to our starting point in Arlington. True, the trip may be over, but memories of the traffic-free pathways you pedaled, through one of the most historically important regions of America, will stay with you for years to come.

"This is the first time I have toured without the the company of my son or daughter or my cycling buddy. I was worried that I might not enjoy myself and find someone to ride with and make friends. This was not the case; I met some wonderful people and we shared some great times on the trail and in camp. Thanks for a memorable cycling vacation. I will go on another Adventure Cycling Tour!"

2008 Tour Participant

"We LOVED the camaraderie that was fostered by the warm, playful accommodating and organized crew. Love them!"

2013 Tour Participant

"Loved the support we got from the staff!  The mechanic was very gifted and helped me out immensely on this trip.  He was the most pro-active mechanic I've ever had on a supported ride.  My hat is off to him, and the other staff who also provided very good rest stops and camaraderie while riding."

2009 Tour Participant

"The GAP is a great rail-trail. I particularly enjoyed riding into Pittsburgh; the contrast between rural and urban."

2014 Tour Participant

Photo by Todd Williams