October is fall foliage time — enjoy it with us on our adventure of GAP and the C and O! NEW for us- cycle into Washington, DC for a day to enjoy all the Capitol sights! One of Bicycling Mag's “Trips We Love” — our C&O Canal trip was honored in the December 2008 issue of Bicycling Magazine as one of "Fifteen Trips We Love."
A new tour itinerary! We will meet at the Gaithersburg Comfort Inn before noon-ready to ride! Those driving to the start will follow us down to the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center where you'll park your cars for the week. Others flying in will get a shuttle ride. We're on our bikes and hit the towpath- 14 miles into Georgetown. Roger and Suzie have an exciting day planned to sightsee the "hotspots" of our Nation's Capitol- including the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, Consitutional Gardens, National Mall, Washington Monument, White House - all accessible via bike path and bike friendly streets. This evening we'll have a Welcome Dinner and comfortable stay at the Comfort Inn.
We'll rise early this morning for breakast- load our bikes and board the motorcoach headed for McKeesport, PA at the start of the Great Allegheny Passage. While in route you'll have time to look over our ride packets and maps, and enjoy snacks onboard. Upon arrival in McKeesport, we'll unpack bikes and start pedaling on flat-easy terrain. We stop in about 15 miles to enjoy a peek at West Newton — one of the "trail towns" and a historic community persuing exciting renovations. Just a few miles later at the Cedar Creek Park Trailhead, we'll take our exit from a long and fulfilling day and head for our comfy stay at the Comfort Inn-Belle Vernon and a terrific buffet dinner.
After breakfast we hit the trail again — following the banks of the rugged Youghiogheny River — its beauty renowned in the East. We continue our adventure pedaling an easy cadence and taking in beautiful countryside when we reach the historic town of Connelsville for our lunch break. In the early 18th century European traders found great wealth in the fur trade here and later other natural resources — iron ore and coal would lay foundation for the prosperity of the iron and steel industry. We hope to make a visit to the Gibson House — the future home of the Connelsville Historical Society. More stretches of woodland cycling are enjoyed until we arrive at Ohiopyle — located at the confluence of the slopes of the Laurel Ridge and the "white frothy water" — the Indian meaning of Ohiopyle. Here we'll check in to our guest house and be shuttled to our visit to Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece — Falling Water.
We rise early for a hearty buffet breakfast and hit the trail. Following the breathtaking Casselman River Valley landscapes we find the charming trail town of Confluence. The locals boast that "the mountains touch the rivers" here. We'll take a break to explore this quaint community before heading back onto the trail. At Mile Marker 43 we reach the town of Rockwood and it's time for lunch. Once a thriving rail town when locomotives came steaming through town, now Rockwood offers us a hospitable respite along the trail. We'll stop by the Mill Shop Coffee Shop and bakery housed in a lovingly restored turn-of-the-century building that boasts a delightful vintage train circling an 80-foot track suspended from the ceiling. This year we are having a Pizza Party lunch at the Shop! As we approach our day's destination- Meyersdale — we partake of some of the most beautiful scenery of the GAP — one of our favorites being the 1900 ft. Salisbury Viaduct. We'll enjoy lodging at the Levi Deal Mansion and/or Morguen Toole where we'll also feast on a scrumptious buffet in the Inn's restaurant.
We leave Meyersdale and start to climb — very slowly and gradually — to the highest point on the passage. At Milemarker 30 we cross the thrilling Keystone Viaduct and shortly therafter we are at the Eastern Continental Divide. From this point it's an exhillarating 10 mile downhill pedal along the trail and over the Mason Dixon Line towards Frostburg, MD. At Frostburg, we stop at the train depot for a snack or lunch, behold the famous Western Maryland train as it pulls into town, and hop back on our bikes to enjoy another 14 miles downhill along the new Allegany Passage Trail connector into downtown Cumberland — the terminus of the C&O Canal. We'll take time for a visit with a NPS Ranger and town walk with Cumberland resident, Meg Romero, to explore the restored downtown and Canal Place. That evening we enjoy a delicious dinner and lodging at the beautiful Holiday Inn.
Day Six- we wake to breakfast at the hotel and an early start on the first leg of our trip on the historic C and O Canal. At the midway point in Old Town, we'll rest at the canal park and enjoy a catered lunch by the lock.
Following the river, the towpath follows a zigzag route for another 10 miles until the famous Paw Paw Tunnel.
We finish our day at Fifteen Mile Creek in Little Orleans. Some of the more enthusiastic riders may opt to pedal the moderate 8 miles uphill, while others will be shuttled at the exit of the canal to a wonderful buffet dinner created by our hosts at the lovely Town Hill Bed and Breakfast. We'll continue the evening watching the sunset atop the Green Ridge State Forest and enjoy our wonderful accommodations.
Day seven starts off with a bountiful breakfast and beautiful pedal down the hill (or shuttle) to the canal where we'll resume south towards the once bustling canal town of Hancock, MD.
Suzie and Roger … bend over backwards to make sure that everyone is having a good time.
~ Lynn Reed
In 6 miles we'll be joining up with the new Western Maryland Rail Trail-an asphalt paved path reclaimed from the former Western Maryland Railroad providing a scenic and fast 14 miles into lovely Hancock. Here we'll stop by our friend Dennis Hudson's Bike Shop and then on to a tasty lunch at a nearby restaurant.
We depart Hancock enjoying the final 10 miles on the rail trail and exit — for a quick one mile pedal on road -to the entrance of Fort Frederick State Park. Here we'll break for refreshments and tour the fort guided by our host dressed in period attire from the French and Indian War.
Pedaling through North Mountain and sites as Four Locks and Dam No. 5, we arrive at Cushwa Basin and Williamsport, MD. Our group will meet with the Park Ranger and learn fascinating history about the Williamsport area (designated to be our Nation's first capital) and life on the canal.
We end our day at the newly remodeled Red Roof Inn, delicioius catered meal and entertainment by "Henry and June" at Desert Rose Cafe.
We rise Saturday morning to a hearty breakfast and a full day of bicycle touring towards Harpers Ferry, W.Va. Our favored route is the 32 mile road cycle along quiet rolling backroads to visit historic Antietam Battlefield and if you like, an extra 5 miles for lunch in lovely Shepherdstown, W. Va. Other cyclists can opt to take the towpath all the way to Harper's Ferry for a 44 mile meandering route along the river. Whatever option is chosen, we'll pass many wonderful sights and enjoy a mid-way visit to historic Shepherdstown for lunch with Suzie and Roger.
One of the highlights of our trip is a visit by Rick Garland of "Oh be Joyful", who entertains us with his historical story telling and piano serenade at our lodging at the Cliffside/Quality Inn during dinner.
Beyond the obvious, good food, good company and fantastic organization, there was something more to the trip that made it special. It was the accomplishment.
~ Mal and Janice Dougherty, Massachusetts
Our final day-- we start bright and early with a buffet breakfast in the Cliffside restaurant and pedal back to the towpath. Our final day's route travels 45 miles — passing the towns of Brunswick and Point of Rocks.
Midway, we'll break for a bountiful picnic lunch by Suzie at the White's Ferry.
Just 15 miles through Besher Management area, Seneca and then Pennyfield and Swains Lock to a great finish at Great Falls Tavern.
The Great Allegheny Passage surface is made of packed crushed limestone surface and provides a smooth easy ride. As it was built on abandoned railroad beds it is nearly level. We will be traveling west to east and experience an average 1% slow/gradual upgrade.
The C&O towpath is flat and "very rustic" — most of the trail is hard-packed dirt with some areas mixed with small stones for traction. We'll be dropping 625' in elevation from near the Continental Divide all the way to our destination in Great Falls.
On several days we offer an option to leave the towpath to visit historic destinations, such as Antietam Battlefield, which requires cycling on public roadways. We are careful to select the safest and most scenic routes possible.
This trip is best suited for a cyclist with some experience or other active people who are willing to train to accomplish this 30-40 mile/day ride. Please note that even though the C and O Canal towpath is flat, the surface is hard packed and rustic in nature thus takes more effort and cycling ability than a paved surface.
Cyclists will be most comfortable and safe cycling a touring/hybrid bicycle with at least a 28-35mm tire with good tread. We can arrange for rental bikes upon request.
Traveling by auto, your best driving directions are accessible through MapQuest.
If you plan to fly to the trip start, you will be choosing Reagan National Airport — the closest choice with excellent shuttle and metro services to the Great Falls area. Our trip starts early on Saturday morning, and we advise those that fly into Washington, D.C. or who plan to sightsee the Nation's Capitol with us to arrive either very early on Saturday morning or book a room for overnight on Friday(not included).
Please contact us for general trip information and registration information.
Upon registration we will send you a Welcome Letter full of pre-trip details including how to get you and bike to the trip start, bike rentals, suggestions on packing, trip area and contact information, cycling and travel websites to enhance your trip experience, etc.
E-mail Suzie to inquire about openings and with any questions about the tour. We love to hear from you!