GAP/C&O Canal trail as a tuneup?

Has anyone ridden the GAP/C&O Canal Trail as a tuneup for Ragbrai? Solo or as part of an organized tour? Which tour company did you use?

Any and all light my brethren and sistern Ragbrai’ers can shed is gratefully appreciated.

See you along the I-O-Way in July.

21 Replies

pbot2004, March 4, 2019 at 7:29 pm

I’ve not ridden on it..yet. But I did hike a few miles near Ohiopyle, PA last year. Barely noticeable grade. Surface was fairly hard packed with a bit of a gritty texture – the morning after some fairly decent rains the day before.

#1300420

Barry Schnoor, March 4, 2019 at 7:57 pm

Mr. Woo. I’ve done both, but not consecutively. A double metric century from Harper’s Ferry to DC and back. (Here’s the history lesson for the day. What hotel sits at milepost zero on the C&O? Answer to follow.) Along that stretch there are available food stops in Harper’s Ferry, Brunswick, White’s Ferry, Great Falls and Georgetown. It’s flat and (mostly) hardpacked dirt. Some of it closer to DC is asphalt. Easy riding. There’s a stretch between Point of Rocks and Great Falls that can be challenging in wet weather. I have only ridden limited miles upstream of Harper’s, near Williamsport, so I can’t really say much about it. Also flat and hardpacked dirt. I rode this in October. Started in the dark. Finished in the dark. It’s really too much for me in one day.

Now, the GAP, T. Gap, is also wonderful. I rode from Cumberland to Pittsburgh, and took the train back…but you could do it either way. 75 miles / day. 2 days. Overnight in Ohiopyle. Do a little homework on the ride, and you’ll find there are plenty of places to stop along the way for food and water. Even a couple of bike shops.

I did both of these unsupported, but not solo. Usually traveling with a small group of friends.

I’ll be on the C&O later this month for 30. Home-basing in Harper’s.

Now, back to the history lesson. The C&O canal has a series of locks that allowed barges (propelled by horses along the tow path) to move upstream. The locks each have a gate that opens and closes to allow water to fill up the lock, or to allow the boats to pass. The very first of these gates is near milepost zero. The name of the hotel? The Watergate, of course.

This reply was modified 8 months, 2 weeks ago by  Barry Schnoor.

#1300421

ESchiers, March 4, 2019 at 9:28 pm

I like to ride from Cumberland to Ohiopyle on a Saturday then back on Sunday. Beautiful weekend trip.

#1300425

brewmeister.us, March 5, 2019 at 6:20 am

Rode GAP & C&O in 2017 week immediately preceding RAGBRAI. I probably wouldn’t do that again as was pretty beat up coming into Iowa, but I would have been much better with more recovery time in between.

About the adventure as a whole, I had an absolute great time. Rode self supported with my wife, but spent overnights in B&B’s and whatnot. Surly Cross Check with front and rear racks and panniers and 700×41 Surly Knards. My wife rode a Novara Safari with 700×48 tires, 2 rear racks.

GAP is very well kept. Crushed limestone, 1% grade from Pittsburgh to Eastern Continental Divide. C&O is just the opposite. Lots of mud and ruts, very slow going, especially from Cumberland thru Paw Paw. It’s pretty brutal, especially if there’s been rain. The closer you get to DC the better the C&O gets, though.

Towns off of both were really cool and was nice to take time and wander.

I wrote a blog after I got back from Iowa that covers GAP & C&O as well as my first RAGBRAI and other musings. If you’re interested, check it out – you’ll need to scroll down to find GAP & C&O entries, but will give you ideas on how far we went, where we stopped and stuff along the way. If you have any questions, feel free to send me a msg thru here with your email and I’ll try to help as best as I can.

blog: https://myragbrai2016.wordpress.com/

#1300426

John Richardson, March 5, 2019 at 9:19 am

I have not rode this trail, but it sounds quite inviting. I will be racing the Trans Am again for my tuneup and hopefully I’ll have a few weeks after the race before I start my ride to Council Bluffs. Unfortunately registration for the Trans Am race has already closed.

#1300432

Dizzy, March 5, 2019 at 9:35 am

T.,
I was part of a 14-rider group in 2010 who tackled the DC > Pittsburgh over 5 days. We stayed in hostels each night including the international hostel in DC. We had a SAG wagon meeting us each evening. Unfortunately, the days running up to the start were rainy across the C&O so it was a “tuff-mudder” as they say; riders and bikes were caked each evening. We had flats, broken spokes, broken fenders, etc. Our group leaders put the climb from Cumberland to Frostberg at the end of a 75 mile day. I strongly suggest you do not do that.
From Frostberg to Pittsburgh, it was smooth sailing. We now enjoy telling our “muddy” story to anyone who’ll listen and we proudly all wear our GAP Jerseys on our rides when we’re together.
As others have said, there are frequent food, repair, and overnight accommodations for cyclist just off the trail.
Enjoy, D

#1300435

RustyC, March 5, 2019 at 4:43 pm

While I haven’t really thought of it that way, I think it would be a great tune up for RAGBRAI. So much so, that for the first time I WILL be riding DC to PGH with a group of 18 during the first half of July. Then three days to do laundry and pack, do basic maintenance on the bike, and start driving to Iowa.

I’ve ridden the Great Allegheny Passage end to end nine times. Some of these as a tour guide, some with friends who have it on the bucket list. I practically live on top of the trail, and use it often as part of my daily routine. Also, I like to ride weekend camping trips on various sections too.

Many above have described it accurately. If anyone is planning on doing some, or all of the trail, drop me a line with any questions.

#1300455

T. Gap Woo, March 6, 2019 at 4:47 pm

Thanks to all for your insightful comments thus far. Any additional information is welcome!

As a history major, I enjoyed the watergate history lesson! Brewmeister’s blog post really whet my appetite to do this ride. I’m waiting for the GAP/C&O people to mail me the touristy info packets. It looks like Mrs Woo and I will be riding in mid-June.

I knew I could count on my brethren and sistern Ragbrai’ers to help out! You folks are the best.

See you along the I-O-Way in July.

#1300512

brewmeister.us, March 8, 2019 at 7:48 pm

T. Gap Woo, glad you liked the blog. Truly was a fun ride. Just make yourself stop and check stuff out and go slightly off route (like some of us rogues do at RAGBRAI).

Was really cool to go and ride thru Antietam Battlefield in Sharpsburg, MD. Great lunch there (Sharpsburg), also. Lots of rollers, came down quick hills at 37 coasting, fully loaded.

Also, if we weren’t going to the promised land at the end of July, we were planning on the Erie Canal. Buffalo to Albany, ~350 miles. I might get a partial in, like Buffalo to Rochester if I can steal a weekend in late May / early June. The overall ride is very attractive from what I’ve read.

Cheers and happy riding!

#1300621

RustyC, March 9, 2019 at 7:10 am

Mr Woo,
If you make plans for the GAP in June, please drop me a note. I’d like to come out and ride a day with you. You’ve been among the 15 thousand friends that I ride with in Iowa, and I could finally put a face to the name.

#1300631

RustyC, March 9, 2019 at 8:19 am

Hey Brewmeister,
I enjoyed reading your blog posts on the Great Allegheny Passage/C&O. Like you, I am a Recidivist RAGBRAI’er. Started in 2015 with the intent of a “One and Done”…oh well.

Try the Cayuhoga State Park trail in Ohio. My wife and I stay near Cleveland at the north end of the trail, ride as far as we want for the day, then take the train back to station near starting point…or train ride down and ride back to starting point. Nice trail, nice park, train, camping options, and some back roads near the trail. Craft beer at the Winking Lizard!

I hope to see Team Good Beer in good spirits this year

#1300634

Sandaltan ., March 10, 2019 at 7:03 pm

In June of 2014 the Little Stoker and I rode McKeesport to DC in bagger mode staying in hotels and B&Bs. We rode 325 miles in nine days, never more than 45 miles or less than 15 miles each day, our goal was to explore the history, read all the info signs and eat well. We did. The weather was perfect, we had no mechanical problems and experienced only one rain while asleep at the Holiday Inn in Cumberland. (Don’t miss the Queen City Dairy in Cumberland) Yes, a little muddy the next day but tolerable with our 35mm tires and fenders. The Little Stoker’s brother drove us in our vehicle to Cumberland where we had arranged for an outfitter to pick us up at Noon and haul us on to McKeesport to begin our journey. The GAP is biker, triker, hiker friendly with signs galore, while the C&O is ruled by the National Park Service and maintained to the standard of three hundred years ago. The C&O does have a small campground every five miles, mowed regularly with a picnic table, fire ring, water pump and outhouse…bring your own TP. If I think of more I will post. If you have questions PM me.

RIDE RIGHT

#1300688

Sandaltan ., March 10, 2019 at 7:11 pm

See above, should be Queen City Creamery & Cafe.
https://www.queencitycreamery.com/
Their frozen custard is TDF.

RIDE RIGHT

#1300689

RustyC, March 11, 2019 at 7:23 am

A big Thumbs Up for the Queen City Creamery!

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brewmeister.us, March 15, 2019 at 10:03 am

Rusty, thanks for the info on Ohio. Usually when I’m up there, there’s so much to do. Might have to make time to do that ride. The beer doesn’t hurt, either 😉

Also, for any following this thread, this is a documentary that just premiered on WQED out of Pittsburgh last night on the GAP and C&O. I plan on watching it tonight.

https://www.wqed.org/ride

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