This spring, you won’t need to worry about traffic as you ride your hybrid or mountain bike some 330 miles on hard-packed, gently graded gravel and dirt trails from the heart of the nation’s capital north to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Historically, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal served as a lifeline for early settlers; today, it serves as a pathway to an unforgettable cycling experience. Starting in Washington, DC, we’ll enjoy a quick tour of the many historic monuments before striking out on our journey. The city quickly gives way to rolling farmland and sun-dappled woods. The farther we get from the nation’s capital the wilder our surroundings become. There will be plenty of off-bike opportunities throughout the tour, from Appalachian day hikes to visiting Revolutionary and Civil War battle sites.
With stellar car-free riding and gentle grades, this is an ideal tour for the first-time self-contained tourist or for the rider who wants to ease into the season.
|Start Date:||May 23, 2015||End Date:||May 31, 2015|
|Start Location:||Washington, DC||End Location:||Washington, DC|
|Total Days:||9||Riding Days:||7|
|Average Daily Mileage:||49.9||Surface:||Unpaved Bike Path|
|Riders:||13||Airport:||Ronald Reagan Intl. (Washington, DC)|
|Tour Leader:||Don Annonio||Meals:||Shared cooking|
|Physical Difficulty:||Intermediate||Level of Support:||Self Contained|
Washington, DC. We’ll gather in the heart of Washington, DC, at Hostelling International, where we’ll meet our seasoned leader and have our first map meeting, dinner, and overnight. If you arrive early enough in the morning, you’ll have the opportunity to join us on a guided cycling tour of the National Mall.
Washington, DC, to Indian Flats Hiker/Biker, 46 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. 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.
Indian Flats to Williamsport, 61 miles. Today our group will ride a section of the C&O that runs along the Appalachian Trail. 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. You may choose to take a side trip 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.
Williamsport to Little Orleans, 43 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.
Little Orleans to Cumberland, 45 miles. Today we will pass through arguably 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.
Cumberland to Rockwood, Pennsylvania, 46 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. Today you’ll surmount the Eastern Continental Divide, which marks the division point between the Chesapeake Bay and Gulf of Mexico watersheds, as well as 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.
Rockwood to Adelaide, 48 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.
Adelaide to Pittsburgh, 60 miles. 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 finish the ride at the Point in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We will spend the night in Pittsburgh and celebrate our achievements with a hearty dinner.
Shuttle to Washington, DC. 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.
"The GAP is a great rail-trail. I particularly enjoyed riding into Pittsburgh; the contrast between rural and urban."
2014 Tour Participant
"Overall, a fabulous experience. I will remember it forever!"
2009 Tour Participant
"Food on our tour was outstanding!!!!! One of the highlights of the day and an inspiration to reach the campground. Great tour -probably will do it again in the future."
2009 Tour Participant
"The trip tied together my memories [of childhood] like a river flowing. And everyone knows that I liked the food."