Author Topic: best multi-day bike tour great allegheny trail vs C&O canal trail  (Read 2424 times)

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Offline dancrna

I want to take my family on a multi-day bike and am looking at a section either on the great allegheny trail or the C&O trail.  I was looking at doing around 100 miles total over 3 days with lodging/food on the route.  I was wondering if there is a certain section that riders prefer for the overall biking experience ie scenery, towns visited, landmarks.  I would also need shuttle of some type. 

I sense that the great allegheny trail mckeesport to myersdale is a good section (via website info) but was interested in C&O trail towards hagarstown, MD because I would like to do a side visit (by car) to Gettysburg.

If you were doing a 3 day trip 'credit card touring' what section would you choose?

Offline briwasson

Re: best multi-day bike tour great allegheny trail vs C&O canal trail
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2011, 09:54:56 am »
I rode the C&O in 2008 and the GAP last October. Both are nice, but my favorite by far was the GAP. Much nicer trail surface (crushed stone vs. double-track dirt), services more readily available in trail towns, and overall nicer scenery IMO. The trail planners have done a great job with the GAP.

I have journals of both rides on CrazyGuy at http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/directory/?o=RrzKj&user=briwasson&v=7 My GAP journal isn't fully completed; all the photos are up, but I need to add some more text. I hope to finish by this weekend.

I think the nicest section of the GAP is between Cumberland and Connellsville, a total of about 88 miles. Ride it west to east and enjoy a 24 mile downhill into Cumberland at the end, which are almost like "free" miles! I'm also hoping to do a 3-day credit card tour with my family (wife and son on our triple bike) on the GAP this spring, and that's probably the section we'd go for.

I'd skip the section from Mckeesport to Connellsville. It was nice and all, but nothing along that section sticks in my memory when compared with the cool stuff on the other sections (Ohiopyle falls and gorge, viaducts, tunnels, etc.).

Cumberland Trail Connection in Cumberland may offer shuttle services. Although they previously only shuttled bikes, I was talking to the owner in October 2010 and he said they were hoping to have full shuttle services this year.

Please PM me if you have more questions.


Offline dancrna

Re: best multi-day bike tour great allegheny trail vs C&O canal trail
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2011, 03:46:11 pm »
Thanks so much for the reply - exactly what I was looking for.  I'm going to use those recommendations to continue planning.

Offline briwasson

Re: best multi-day bike tour great allegheny trail vs C&O canal trail
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2011, 03:27:27 pm »
Starting in Cumberland is also an option. To avoid most of the uphill, as well as adding some novelty to the trip, you can ride the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad to Frostburg (with your bikes), and then continue on westward from there. You'll still have something like 8 miles uphill, but it's gradual. Then, west of the Divide, it's gently downhill (not enough to really notice, but still...) to PGH.

Offline cdavey

Re: best multi-day bike tour great allegheny trail vs C&O canal trail
« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2011, 10:42:32 pm »
Having ridden both the GAP anf the C&O in their entirety, I agree that for a family bike trip with kids/teenagers, Connelsville to Cumberland would be the trip to take. The high and low bridges at Ohiopyle, the Salisbury and Keystone viaducts at Meyersdale, the wind farms, crossing the Eastern Continental Divide, the Savage Mt. Tunnel, the signature picture of the view to Cumberland that you'll want to take when you come out of the tunnel, the Helmstetter curve -- highlights just keep coming and will provide lots for everyone in the family to look at and look forward to, including the kids. And then as the finish there's the 20 miles of downhill on about a 2.5% grade that you'll fiind yourself cruising along at about 15-18 mph with almost no pedaling! And you might meet the scenic RR train coming the hill past you! Cumberland is a neat town too, if you have time to poke around.

There are 2-3 shuttle services available. Check out the GAP website and you can find a list of them.


As for Gettysburg, look into hiring a licensed guide instead of the standard two hour bus tour or self guided
tour. You can hire them for as much time as you would like and can also have them custom design a tour for you around a specific subject if you want as well as getting a general tour. I've done it this way when I've been there, and my opinion is spend the money and do it if you want to understand what happened there. Days 1 and 3 are easy. It's Day 2 that is the confusing one.

You guys are going to have some fun with this one!!

Offline Ike

Re: best multi-day bike tour great allegheny trail vs C&O canal trail
« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2011, 01:23:23 am »
Last fall, I completed a trip from Pittsburgh, PA to Charleston, SC. I rode the GAP and C & O to Washington, DC--and I really can't stop raving about the GAP and C & O. If anyone thinks there's a better auto free bicycle route in the country, I'd love to know where it might be.

You have a lot of choices, but I concur with briwasson and cdavey. If you only could choose one section of either the GAP or C & O, I'd ride the GAP from Connellsville to Cumberland. The landscape is beautiful, the towns are friendly, the trail is well maintained, and it felt remote in places. Between Connellsville and Ohiopyle, you ride for ~17 miles without crossing a road, which is a lot for the eastern US. It was a spectacular ride, to say the least.

Offline rootchopper

Re: best multi-day bike tour great allegheny trail vs C&O canal trail
« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2011, 01:59:36 pm »
I've done both trails too.  The C&O has its rugged charms but the GAP has a much better surface and more services near the trail.  The kids would love the train. Lots of smoke and noise would be a great contrast to the quiet during the ride.