Author Topic: C&O canal to Pittsburgh via cumberland MD.  (Read 11925 times)

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Offline azswim

C&O canal to Pittsburgh via cumberland MD.
« on: February 21, 2010, 09:39:54 pm »
There are 4 of us planning a 7 day ride ( late May early June) and I am looking for any / all information from any one who has completed this MT bike ride.  We are avid roadies from AZ ( youngest 62 and oldest 71) so the 50+- miles per day will not be a problem, but we know little about the area and we are planing to be self contained and stay in Motels/ B7B each night.

Offline getoutandoit

Re: C&O canal to Pittsburgh via cumberland MD.
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2010, 09:50:37 pm »
Hi Sounds like a good trip.  My son and i biked the the c&o when he was 8 hes now 16. We went from cumberland  to d.c . There is so much history .The first book i would buy if i was you would be the The c.&o Canal Companion .By  Mike High. A great book .Its a mile by mile tour of the canal .Check ebay or amazon .com.  They allways have some listed.Also thers a book on th e Great Allegheny passage companion. by Bill Metzger.We ride the trail alot. Also we are doing the same trip as you guys the end of june. Dennis

Offline dubovsmj

Re: C&O canal to Pittsburgh via cumberland MD.
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2010, 09:56:50 pm »

Offline bms22204

Re: C&O canal to Pittsburgh via cumberland MD.
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2010, 09:28:02 am »
I live in Arlington, Va and have ridden the C&O Canal many times, but I've only gone from DC to Cumberland.  As of yet I haven't made the trip north from Cumberland to Pittsburgh, so I can't help you there.

From DC to Cumberland it's about 180 miles and it's a wonderful ride.  Make sure you stop in Harper's Ferry and plan to explore it for a couple of hours.  If you enjoy history also check out Antietam.  There is a lot of history

Along the way there will be times when you don't see another human for miles other times you'll find a crowd of riders, walkers, bird watchers, and fisherman.  There is plenty remote camping along the way.  Each site has fire pits, picnic bench, a port-o-potty, and a water source.  I don't trust that water to drink so carry in what you need for food.  But it works well for bathing after 70 miles of dirt trail.

Speaking of the trail itself.  It's hard packed dirt, gravel sometimes.  While it's not technical, although there are a few places where you need to carry your bike over rocks, the long day in you saddle with the constant vibration almost requires front suspension.  I'm not sure of it's current status, but sometimes portions of the trail are closed due to trail damage and they will have a detour.  These are always clearly marked and offer little inconvience.

As for refueling.  There are lots of small towns along with way with restaurants and grocery stores.  Sometimes they are a few miles off the trail and not too convient.  Like I said before I suggest carrying a supply of food and water.


Enjoy your ride!

Offline staehpj1

Re: C&O canal to Pittsburgh via cumberland MD.
« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2010, 04:18:24 pm »
There are 4 of us planning a 7 day ride ( late May early June) and I am looking for any / all information from any one who has completed this MT bike ride.  We are avid roadies from AZ ( youngest 62 and oldest 71) so the 50+- miles per day will not be a problem, but we know little about the area and we are planing to be self contained and stay in Motels/ B7B each night.
Not to put too fine of a point on it but the C&O ends in Cumberland, so if going from Cumberland to Pittsburgh it is actually the Great Allegheny Passage you will be using.  So when looking for info look for GAP or great Allegheny Passage.  I have done the C&O but not the GAP so I can't help much.

Offline BrianW

Re: C&O canal to Pittsburgh via cumberland MD.
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2010, 10:53:27 am »
Don't underestimate the difficulty of the C&O part of the trip. Yes, it is all flat, so it's easy in that regard. But the surface can vary from reasonably good to horrible depending on the section and the weather. If it rains, lots of mudholes. It's basically a double-track path for 180 miles. I did Cumberland-DC in three days @ ~60, 60 and 70 miles and it wasn't too bad (Cumberland-Hancock, Hancock-Harper's Ferry with Antietam detour, Harper's Ferry-DC), but I had good weather. Nevertheless, the constant rough track really took a toll toward the end of each day with sore butt and hands. On several occasions I detoured out onto nearby roads just to get a break from the path and the sometimes monotonous scenery: I went in August and it was mostly a green tunnel the whole way. Pretty, but it got old after a while. After I finished I didn't think I'd ever really want to do it again, but now that some time has passed I'm thinking of it again. But not in the summer. Too many bugs, too hot, and not enough scenery. I'd like to do it in the spring or fall.

A particularly nice deviation was from Williamsport to Antietam and then through Sharpsburg. Some really pretty, small, rolling roads past farms and a small village or two. You'd have to do a detour anyway in that section due to the closed section of the path, so might as well see some of the countryside. Definitely visit the Antietam visitor center and some of the battlefield if you have time. Nearby Sharpsburg and Shepherdstown are nice, too (more in Shepherdstown than Sharpsburg).

I camped/stayed at the hostel in Harper's Ferry, but for motels/B&Bs I'd definitely make reservations, as there aren't very many lodging choices along the route. The Harper's Ferry hostel is actually pretty nice, but it's at the top of a big hill and there is not much around it (no restaurants, food stores, etc.).

For the C&O I ran 1.25 road tires on a MTB that I built up as a touring bike. Handled the path fine, even with a full camping load. I understand the GAP is a much better surface. I hope to do the GAP this year to finish out the full route. Logistics can be kind of a pain, though, getting there and home.

Offline jeff51

Re: C&O canal to Pittsburgh via cumberland MD.
« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2010, 08:00:13 pm »
you might take a look at http://bicycletouringoncarfreepaths.org/

it's non-commercial, and we have information on that trip -- the path and its setting, lodging and camping, food and restaurants, what to look for along the way.  that portion is actually the great allegheny.  the great allegheny connects at cumberland md to the c&o canal, and you can ride car-free almost 400 miles to washington dc.  jeff
« Last Edit: March 05, 2010, 08:05:07 pm by jeff51 »

Offline BB

Re: C&O canal to Pittsburgh via cumberland MD.
« Reply #7 on: March 07, 2010, 11:05:54 pm »
For the C&O I ran 1.25 road tires on a MTB that I built up as a touring bike. Handled the path fine, even with a full camping load. I understand the GAP is a much better surface. I hope to do the GAP this year to finish out the full route. Logistics can be kind of a pain, though, getting there and home.

Can I piggy back on this topic?  We're planning an early May ride on the GAP to C&O (in that direction) and are starting to work on logistics.  This is what I know so far, correct me on any of these points:

You can only take bikes on the train from DC to PIT starting at either end (iow, you can't get on any stations mid-way or even a station away from either end with a bike because there's no baggage handlers)

Bikes must be lightly broken down into Amtrak boxes.  What does one do with the box on the other end?  Turn it back into Amtrak?

The trip from DC to PIT by train gets in @ 11:45 PM.  Uh....no thanks, what would one do @ midnight in the city on bike?? 

Parking in DC = non existent, therefore need to find alternative place to park car on that end, maybe Dulles while the other person waits with bikes @ Union Station?  Kind friend's house who then shuttles you to Union Station?  Great Falls is supposed to have free parking, but we can't get on the train there with the bikes. 

So basically how do people do this driving there from another part of the country (we live in Maine) with one vehicle? 

Thanks so much!  As a note, we both have dedicated touring bikes, but are thinking of changing tires to a modified knobby like the Continental Travel Contacts, good plan? 
« Last Edit: March 07, 2010, 11:16:37 pm by BB »

Offline BrianW

Re: C&O canal to Pittsburgh via cumberland MD.
« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2010, 09:58:48 am »
You can park at Great Falls as you mentioned, but then you have to ride back to DC (figure 1.5 hours or so) to catch the train. If you do that, make sure you tell a park ranger that you are long-term parking and they will make a note of it for their patrols. Or, you can park at Reagan National Airport long-term parking and ride into DC for the train. There is also a parking garage at Union Station, I believe, but I don't know about long-term parking there.

A friend of mine is looking to do the trip in August and has checked on logistics, too. He's considering using one of the shuttle services (can't recall which one offhand). I think the price for his group (~6-8 people) was around $450 one way. A steep price, but worth it to him to avoid the hassles (plus they are splitting in among many people, so it's not too bad).

How about parking at Reagan, renting a car one-way to Pittsburg (~$100) and then riding back? For that matter, rent a car one-way in Maine, drive to Pittsburgh and drop it off, ride to D.C., then take Amtrak back to Maine (or Boston or wherever). That would be my choice.

indyfabz

  • Guest
Re: C&O canal to Pittsburgh via cumberland MD.
« Reply #9 on: March 08, 2010, 10:00:32 am »
You are correct about checked baggage on Amtrak.  You can only check it to stations that have checked baggage service.  I simply give the box back to Amtrak when I am done.  It's not expensive, so it's no great loss.  Usually all you have to do is remove the pedals, lower the seat post if the bike is large, and twist the bars and stem.  Check with Amtrak, but the station may hold your boxes in a secure area until the next morning.  There are hotels within walking/short cab ride from the stattion.

Offline BB

Re: C&O canal to Pittsburgh via cumberland MD.
« Reply #10 on: March 08, 2010, 12:00:53 pm »
Ok thanks.  This trip south is being combined with other traveling so we need our own car - the problem with car or cab travel of any sort as  you folks are aware is that we have bikes.  So we arrive in PIT late at night and need to get to a hotel: we're unpacking the bikes, setting up the panniers and riding to the hotel late, in the dark, unfamiliar.  iow, how would we take a cab with two bikes?  Same problem with a rental car.  Shuttle is out, for two people, it's just cost prohibitive, but it is the one method mentioned over and over in several websites about this trek.  I think we're going to have to try to prevail upon these friends in northern VA to see if they can shuttle us from Great Falls to Union Station.  What exactly is @ Great Falls? I thought it was a train station, but you all are mentioning park rangers??  sigh....as with backpacking, I just want to hike or cycle in this case, the logistics are the difficult part. 

Ohhh... reading this more carefully, you mean perhaps Amtrak will hold the bikes until the next morning, thus not necessitating us riding or trekking them through the city at this late hour?  It just seems very late and I am picturing the station being mostly shut down at that hour, I have found trying to find info like that ahead of time near to impossible as it's so hard to actually talk to a person in that station anymore, instead you just receive a main dispatch #. 
« Last Edit: March 08, 2010, 12:03:28 pm by BB »

indyfabz

  • Guest
Re: C&O canal to Pittsburgh via cumberland MD.
« Reply #11 on: March 08, 2010, 02:33:06 pm »
According to Amtrak's web site, the station (including checked baggage service) is open 24/7.  Many moons ago Amtrak eliminated New York to Chicago service via Philly and Pittsburgh.  Now there is a train that leaves from NYC and terminates in Pittsburgh at around 8 p.m.  Passengers continuing on to Chicago on the Capitol Limited that originates in D.C. have to wait for that train to arrive in Pittsburgh at 11:48.  Chicago passengers origating in Pittsburgh and heading to Chicago also have to catch the Capitol.  In short, it won't be shut down.  In fact, that's the P.M. "rush hour" as the only other two trains are in the A.M.  Try this phone number:  (412) 471-6172.  If that doesn't work, call Amtrak toll free and they should be able to give you a direct number.  Also...The hotel may have a van shuttle that can accomodate your bikes.  Note, however, that Amtrak boxes are longer than your average bike box because you don't have to take the wheels off.

A final option if you don't need you bikes before starting the trip:  Ship them FedEx or UPS (I hear the former is cheaper) from a to a LBS in town and then pick them up.

Offline BB

Re: C&O canal to Pittsburgh via cumberland MD.
« Reply #12 on: March 08, 2010, 04:22:45 pm »
Thanks so much for the Amtrak insights.  I guess we need to narrow this down to where to stay in downtown PIT and how to get from Great Falls to Union Station.  Things will work out, they always do. 

Offline BrianW

Re: C&O canal to Pittsburgh via cumberland MD.
« Reply #13 on: March 09, 2010, 12:38:34 pm »
Great Falls is part of the C&O canal national park. It's the main visitor area for the park near D.C. There is a visitor center, a snack bar in season, bathrooms, etc. You can park there long term if you let them know when you get there. I think there is a small entrance fee to get in (if I recall).

The Great Falls area sits right on the C&O canal path. It's an easy bike ride into downtown D.C./Union Station, about 1-1.5 hours as I mentioned. No reason not to ride it, unless you get there pretty late or something.

Not sure if anyone mentioned it yet, but the Web site www.bikewashington.org has probably the best guide to biking the C&O Canal that I've seen.

Offline BB

Re: C&O canal to Pittsburgh via cumberland MD.
« Reply #14 on: March 10, 2010, 01:43:37 pm »
Ahhhhh.. gotcha.  Ride into DC on the C&O, so that at the end of the ride end up @ Great Falls with the car there, we're done and we've even ridden the entire path.  That sounds like the best plan yet.  Of course we'll have to allow some time @ Union Station getting the bikes into boxes and figuring out where the panniers will be, etc.  Do you know if these Amtrak bike boxes are always available? 

Thanks for all your help with this everyone, I have been on the various websites and have friends who have biked this in its entirety but either they have two vehicles to spot on either end, or in one case my friend was living in Harper's Ferry so it was very easy for him.