C&O Canal Tour, Eastbound, 5 days, Deal, PA to Washington, DC, $900
WHAT: EXTENDED WEEKEND MOUNTAIN/HYBRID BIKE TOUR 210 miles.
WHERE: DEAL, PA to GEORGETOWN (Washington, DC)
WHEN: Inquire for your group of 8 or more.
Pickup at 8:00 a.m. near Georgetown for chartered transport to Deal, PA, MD, with lunch at the trailhead and day 1 afternoon riding on the GAP Trail. Days 2-5 include varying distances of 35-60 miles, with option to shorten daily distances with shuttles.
WHO: OPEN TRIP.
TERRAIN: Level and gradually downhill (see profile elevation map). Packed dirt and crushed stone surface. 6-8 feet wide. Mountain, hybrid or cyclocross bicycles required.
RATING: Easy. The terrain is easy, but the distance on rough surface requires moderate fitness. You will be traveling slightly downhill, as you quickly descend 1,200' in the first 16 miles, then another 8' at each lock, for about 600' elevation drop over the last 184 miles, shown in the profile map above. Riding west on the optional riding day will ascend through the Big Savage Tunnel, to the Eastern Continental Divide.
LIMIT: 25 cyclists.
This tour combines highlights of the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) Rail Trail, with the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath, to provide a scenic, exhiliarating, adventure-packed five days on the trail. The first day includes chartered transportation from Washington, DC, where the tour will end in a few days, to Deal, PA, where you can experience highlights of the GAP, including a 23 mile downhill ride to Cumberland, and a gradually descending trip to Washington over the next four days.
The Great Allegheny Passage combines several Pennsylvania and Maryland rail trails into a spectacularly scenic route free of traffic through the Western Maryland and Pennsylvania mountains between Pittsburgh and Cumberland. With the connection between Frostburg and Cumberland, MD completed in 2006, the GAP extends from the C&O Canal to create a 334 mile trail between Washington, DC and Pittsburgh, PA, and provides eastbound C&O Canal Tour participants with access to some of the most beautiful scenery of the GAP. The trail features three tunnels, including the 3,294' Big Savage (the second longest in western Maryland), a crossing of the Mason-Dixon Line (MD-PA border), the Eastern Continental Divide, stunning views of the Cumberland Valley from the trail, and the endpoint of the Western Maryland Scenic Railway, within the first 23 miles. Experience these features on the first day, as you enjoy an afternoon of riding and sightseeing the quaint town of Frostburg, then ride the route of the Western Maryland Scenic Railway 1,207' downhill in 16 miles to Cumberland, before settling in for the evening.
Construction began on the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal in 1828, the same year as the B&O Railroad was begun. The railroad won the race to the west, beating the canal to the Ohio Valley by 8 years, and today, the towpath gives us a glimpse of life in the slow lane-- the water powered canal. The 184-mile canal cost $22 million, and includes 74 lift locks, and 11 stone aqueducts over Potomac tributaries. The first canal boat to travel end-to-end along the canal did so in 1850, more than 150 years before us. The canal was used commercially until 1924 when floods destroyed it for the second time. The towpath, although no longer used to transport tobacco, furs, iron ore, and other goods, is currently maintained as a National Park with trip highlights including historic Harpers Ferry, Kilian’s Cave (and others), and the Paw Paw tunnel. The ride into Cumberland is spectacular, as the trees open to a wide mountain valley.
Spring rides offer nice views through budding hardwood forests to the Potomac River. Summer offers a shade canopy from typically hot temperatures, and fall trips offer cooler temperatures with stunning views of hardwood forests normally reaching peak color in the second week of October. All year long, there are breathtaking vistas of the Cumberland Valley from the GAP trail, and the raging Great Falls of the Potomac River along the C&O Canal, as well as serene, peaceful moments along quiet stretches of the river.
DAY 1 Chartered Transport from Washington, DC to Deal, PA, for GAP Trail Highlights Ride, 23 miles
The first day of the tour transports you from Washington, DC to Deal, PA, where you will arrive mid-day. On arrival, you will have lunch, while your bikes are prepared for your GAP highlights ride, a 23 mile downhill ride from the Eastern Continental Divide, to Cumberland, MD. Enroute, you will ride through the Big Savage Tunnel, and cross the Mason-Dixon Line. You can take the walking tour past historic period homes in Frostburg, visit the Thrasher Carriage Museum, watch the Western Maryland Scenic Railway engine turn around on its turntable (depending on arrival time), and relish the views to the Cumberland Narrows. At the end of the day, you may be joined with a group that started the GAP trail in Pittsburgh three days earlier, as the two groups join into one for the C&O Canal. Don't miss the museum displays in the basement of the Hotel Gunter, as you will never forget the eccentric displays and the former jail!
DAY 2 Cumberland, MD to Hancock, MD, 60 miles
Day two will begin with continental breakfast, after which you will set out for a scenic, downhill ride into Cumberland where you'll find your first snack "go," at the junction of the GAP and the C&O Canal. Take a quick tour of the C&O Canal visitor's center, then set out along the water-filled canal, as you watch for otters, great blue heron, beavers, deer, and other wildlife during the morning hours. You will also want to stop and check out some of the culverts that carry crossing streams underneath the Canal. At Old Town, where Michael Cresap's house lies just off the trail, you'll have another snack "go." By now, you will be settling into the water-powered mode of travel that pre-dated your bicycle, and you'll sense the difference between the railroad over the mountains and the waterway along the river. Soon, you will be at the Paw Paw tunnel, arguably the highlight of the C&O Canal Tour, and day two's lunch. After lunch, continue through the tunnel with your flashlight, and take notice of the rope burns in the original wood railings, from canal boat tow ropes. After the tunnel, the tight mountain will open up to colorful trees in the most remote section of the C&O Canal trail through the Green Ridge State Forest, to another snack "go" at Little Orleans (Fifteen Mile Creek Aqueduct). Soon after this stop, you will have a choice of continuing the canal towpath surface, and seeing the Round Top Cement Mill ruins from eye level, or switching to the paved Western Maryland Rail Trail for the final 12 miles into Hancock (in that case, only the chimney of the cement mill is easily seen). In Hancock, hot showers, buffet-style dinner, and comfortable hotel beds will be waiting.
DAY 3 Hancock, MD to Shepherdstown, WV, 52-60 miles
On Day three, you will again have an opportunity to ride the paved Western Maryland Rail Trail, completing the ten miles to the east end, or staying on the canal surface and seeing the remains of a stone lockhouse and crossing another aqueduct. You can take a left turn off the trail to visit Fort Frederick State Park and tour the historic fort for a few dollars. Big Pool, an area where canal boats wintered, turned around, or waited while other traffic cleared, follows. At Four Locks, you will see the remains of a small town and four closely spaced locks, as you stop for your first rest "go" of the day. Leaving there, you will curve back and forth along the Potomac River, and will pass the remains of Charles Mill, the flatwater area above Dam #5 and more aqueducts, into Williamsport, MD, where Cushwa Basin and one of the C&O Canal visitor centers are found, as well as a rest "go." Here, you'll also find unique bridges, including a rare Bollman bridge, and a railroad lift bridge, as well as restored canal features. In the midst of the Big Slackwater section, you'll ride along spectacular cliffs to Charles McMahon's Mill, and a short road detour to Dam #4.
Several more historic locks, buildings, aqueducts, and culverts are seen after lunch. Other attractions include the newly opened (2012) Big Slackwater trail section that eliminates the road detour used for 40 years, a series of caves in the bluffs along the canal. The most interesting cave is Killiansburg Cave, reached on the second afternoon, which was used as shelter during the Civil War. It and another small cave just after it can be explored. If planning to explore the smaller cave, bring clothes you don’t mind getting mud stained, a good, bright working flashlight with new batteries, and be prepared to slither on your stomach for sections. This small cave has some narrow crawlways that open into rooms large enough for a couple people to stand together. The longest cave appears after lunch, at mile 83.5. You can walk/crawl into this cave for a few hundred feet, if it isn’t too wet.
Antietam National Battlefield is a short ride from the towpath, and is an historically significant Civil War site, highlights of which you can see in an hour and a half or so side trip. Shepherdstown, WV serves as the night's oasis, with comfortable beds and a fine restaurant dinner, after a full set of experiences on the trail.
DAY 4 Shepherdstown, WV to Leesburg, VA, 36-42 miles
On Day four, you continue the ride through civil war history, as you make your way to Harpers Ferry, WV, site of the Harpers Ferry National Park, where people dress in period clothing on weekends, and where numerous historical events took place, including John Brown's raid on the Union Armory, which touched off the U.S. Civil War. You'll have time to look around the historic downtown area and the Armory, before returning to the trail for more highlights, including Monocacy Aqueduct, the longest aqueduct on the canal. Lunch, or a "snack go" will be located at Lander Lockhouse, which on many weekends is staffed by volunteers, so that you can take a tour. On this abbreviated day of riding, your ride across White's Ferry to Virginia could come mid-day, where you'll ride the roads or take our shuttle, into Leesburg, VA, another historic town. You will have time to visit the town's antique shops, shop the outlet malls, take a swim, or go for a ride on the paved Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Trail and view Virginia's farming scenery away from the river.
DAY 5 Leesburg, VA to Georgetown, Washington, DC, 36-42 miles
On your fifth and final day, you return to White's Ferry and cross back into MD. Today's ride passes by more than 20 locks and lock houses, the Seneca Creek aqueduct (the last on the trail), and a 20 mile re-watered section of the trail. The highlight of the day is likely ot be Great Falls National Park. Enjoy the reflections at Widewater, explore the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center and C&O Canal Museum, and enjoy views of the Falls from the National Park, Washington’s most impressive natural area. After a scenery filled, downhill day, the crowds and fitness enthusiast's presence will increase, as you complete your ride into the nation's capital, and start your exploration of the National Capital city.
COST: $900 per person includes: Map; extensive cue cards; custom luggage tags; 4 breakfasts, 5 large picnic style lunches, 3 full (or buffet) dinners; snacks; various drinks; four nights lodging (double occupancy) in hotels in Cumberland, MD, Hancock, MD, Shepherdstown, WV, and Leesburg, VA; baggage shuttle between hotels; periodic vehicular support along trail; and chartered transportation from Georgetown area to Deal, PA, where the bike ride begins.
NOT INCLUDED: Bike rental - $100 extra, if needed; Dinner on day one is on your own.
See Frequently Asked Questions at the "FAQs" link, for answers to common questions.
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