The 184.5-mile-long C&O Canal Bike Path (C&O is brief for Chesapeake & Ohio) runs from Washington, DC to Cumberland, Maryland. This leisure path makes for an amazing multi-day biking or mountain climbing journey It combines properly with the Nice Allegheny Passage (GAP) so you may seamlessly bike from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC over about seven to eight days. In contrast to the Nice Allegheny Passage, there are fewer lodges and B&B’s, so that you must fastidiously plan your route. It’s properly fitted to individuals prepared to camp as you’ll discover quite a few campsites alongside its full size. There are additionally Canal Quarter Lockhouses which you can lease for the night time – should you’re ready to carry your individual meals and do your individual cooking.
The C&O Canal Bike Path is a towpath, which was constructed in order that donkeys may stroll alongside facet the canal and actually tow the canal boats by means of the waterway. It follows the northeast shore of the Potomac River. The majority of the path is in Maryland simply throughout the state line from West Virginia and Virginia. When the towpath was operational within the interval 1850 – 1924, there have been 1000’s of donkeys at work.
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Location map of the C&O Canal Bike Path
- Click on on the dots within the prime right-hand nook to e mail a replica of the map.
What’s the perfect time to bike the C&O Canal Bike Path?
Plan to cycle the C&O Canal Bike Path from late April by means of until October. We biked in early Could which was incredible because the path was quiet – so it’s good for having fun with a peaceable tenting expertise, the leaves are budding out on the bushes, and the chook life is phenomenal. Eating places and providers are additionally open.
Be ready for climate that may be far and wide from chilly and wet to sizzling and sunny. Thankfully we solely had about 6 hours of rain over 4 days and none whereas biking for 3 days on the Nice Allegheny Passage.
For those who’re planning to camp, there could be fewer bugs early and late within the season. The summers are sizzling and humid on this a part of the world, so take that into consideration as you make your plans.
Guided or self guided biking journey?
There are numerous corporations providing bike leases, shuttles, and totally guided bike excursions, however most begin in Pittsburgh and embody the Nice Allegheny Passage. John and I spent fairly a little bit of time making an attempt to determine logistics and finally determined to go self-guided and self-supported. We booked our personal lodging alongside the route and we carried all our gear in waterproof bike panniers.
We had one main drawback – a damaged chain, 55 miles from Washington, DC. We didn’t have the one bike device you completely want to repair the chain. Thankfully, at a espresso store the subsequent morning in Brunswick, we met a few fellow cyclists – who carried all the fitting instruments and have been incredible about serving to. Apart from that, the journey went properly although we hadn’t appreciated we must hike up and over the Paw Paw Tunnel in rain and dirt – and that set us again various time.
Bike tour corporations
Most if not all of the bike tour corporations embody the Nice Allegheny Passage or GAP. For those who solely need to bike the C&O Canal Towpath, you might find yourself having to do it by yourself.
Take a look at Wilderness Voyageurs for 3 and 4 day itineraries on the GAP in addition to longer ones that embody the C&C Canal Towpath.
Golden Triangle Bike out of Pittsburgh runs self-guided excursions between Pittsburgh and Washington, DC. Additionally they lease bikes and provide a shuttle service.
Noble Invention Bike Touring out of Pittsburgh provides 4, 5 and 6-day self-guided excursions together with bike leases and shuttles.
Wheelzup Adventures provides bike leases and a shuttle service.
Bike the Burgh in Pittsburgh provides bike leases and a shuttle service. We used them and have been in a position to drop our bike off on the far finish of the path in Washington, DC.
What sort of motorcycle is greatest for the C&O?
The C&O Canal Towpath is way rougher than the Nice Allegheny Passage. The primary day we cycled from Cumberland to Little Orleans was notably tough – with mud, gravel, grass, and roots. Overlook the highway bike on the C&O and take a gravel or hybrid bike with good tread and tires which are 32 mm or wider for the perfect biking expertise.
What course do you have to bike the C&O Canal Towpath?
Take a look at the map beneath. For those who’d favor to cycle downhill, albeit on a minimal grade, then select to start out in Cumberland and end in Washington, DC. In any other case, the logistics for this bike experience are what works greatest for you, particularly with reference to getting dropped off originally or getting picked up on the finish.
Methods to get to the beginning of the C&O Canal Bike Path
You’ll be able to take your bike onboard with Amtrak wherever there’s a checked baggage possibility. Each Cumberland and Washington, DC have roll on roll off bike choices, so for a lot of of you that may work properly.
In Cumberland, Maryland there’s a car parking zone the place you may depart your automobile for a lot of days in order that too is an possibility. Park your automobile, bike the C&O bike path to Washington, DC and get a prepare again to your automobile along with your bike onboard.
Don’t overlook to take a look at the shuttle providers with the bike tour corporations. I additionally discovered Shepherdstown Pedal and Paddle. They provide shuttle providers between Cumberland and Washington, DC – with a reservation.
The place to get your bike repaired alongside the C&O
There aren’t almost the providers alongside the C&O as there are alongside the Nice Allegheny Passage – the place you’d discover bike outlets proper beside the path.
In Hancock – take a look at C&O Bicycle Provides & Repairs.
In Brunswick, Three Factors Cycle is your best choice.
Lodging choices on the C&O
There’s little or no alternative, until you camp, on the place to remain alongside the C&O Canal Towpath. For those who enroll with an organization – whether or not or not it’s for a guided tour or the self-guided possibility, you received’t have to fret a couple of factor as the corporate will ebook all lodging. However should you’re like us going self-supported, you have got two choices – tenting and there’s a number of it alongside the C&O or a resort, motel, or Airbnb.
Take pleasure in free, first come-first served hiker-biker campgrounds alongside the size of the C&O Canal bike path. You’ll be able to solely keep for an evening and among the campgrounds are small, however there’s by no means one which could be very distant.
Hiker-biker campgrounds are often easy. You’ll discover a Porta Potty, picnic tables, a hearth pit and a hand pump for water – although I’d suggest treating the water. All of the campsites we noticed have been in grassy areas, some near a water supply and different’s not – therefore the hand pumps.
I’d extremely suggest packing insect repellent as among the grassy, low-lying campsites could be very buggy in summer season. You received’t desire a tent with any holes in it – so carry one thing like Gear-Support patches which have peel off backs and might shut a gap on the spot.
Hiker – Biker campground places on the C&O
You’ll discover free campgrounds on the following places:
Swains Lock – Mile 16.6, Horsepen Department – Mile 26.1, Chisel Department – Mile 30.5, Turtle Run – Mile 34.4, Marble Quarry – Mile 38.2, Indian Flats – Mile 42.5, Calico Rocks – Mile 47.6, Bald Eagle Island – Mile 50.3, Huckleberry Hill – Mile 62.9, Killiansburg Cave – Mile 75.2, Horseshoe Bend – Mile 79.2, Massive Woods – Mile 82.7, Opequon Junction – Mile 90.9, Cumberland Valley – Mile 95.2, Jordan Junction – Mile 101.2, North Mountain – Mile 110, Licking Creek – Mile 116, Little Pool – Mile 120.6, White Rock – Mile 126, Leopards Mill – Mile 129.9, Cacapon Junction – Mile 133.6, Indigo Neck – Mile 139.2, Satan’s Alley – Mile 144.5, Stickpile Hill – Mile 149.4, Sorrel Ridge – Mile 154.1, Purslane Run – Mile 156.8, City Creek – Mile 162.1, Potomac Forks – Mile 164.8, Pigman’s Ferry – Mile 169.1, Spring Hole – Mile 173.3, Irons Mountain – Mile 175.3, and Evitts Creek – Mile 180.1.
Canal Quarters Lockhouses
For a dry roof over your head and a slice of historical past you may lease among the outdated Canal Quarters alongside the C&O Canal bike path. There are seven obtainable for lease at Lockhouse 6, 10, 21, 22, 25, 28, and Lockhouse 49. They settle for reservations as much as a 12 months upfront. Every lockhouse is furnished with furnishings and equipment from totally different time durations, so every gives a singular expertise. For extra data name 240-202-2625 or ship an e mail to [email protected]. I do not know about pricing.
Our expertise on the C&O Canal Bike Path
It was a shock after the GAP once we began to cycle the C&O Canal bike path. It’s a lot rougher with fewer providers and larger distances between cities of any notice. Go ready, taking further meals and full water bottles, a sequence breaker device, patch equipment, bike pump and chain oil, particularly if there’s rain within the forecast. Regardless that the biking was more durable due to the path floor, there’s loads of nice surroundings, a number of chook life and no scarcity of historical past should you like that. For those who’re ready to camp, you’ll have a great deal of flexibility on the C&O Canal bike path.
Day 1: C&O Canal Bike Path – Cumberland to Little Orleans
Distance: 43 miles to Invoice’s Place on the C&O Canal Towpath after which a shuttle to City Hill B&B.
Time: Roughly 4 hours with 1.5 miles of mountain climbing up and down a muddy hill due to the Paw Paw Tunnel detour.
Lodging: City Hill B&B – 7 miles from Little Orleans (shuttle obtainable). If that you must in a single day in Cumberland at first or end the Fairfield by Marriott Inn & Suites is at first of the C&O Canal Towpath.
We had already cycled 32 miles from Meyersdale to Cumberland on the Nice Allegheny Passage (GAP), so we knew we have been in for an extended day since we had 43 miles to go. Nonetheless, we didn’t respect how large the distinction within the path surfaces could be between the GAP and the C&O Canal bike path. The GAP provides principally clean driving and the C&O provides grass, roots, and quite a lot of ruts, at the least to Little Orleans. Throw in rain for 3 hours and we ended up biking by means of a path of mud.
I felt like we had entered a unique world lower than a mile outdoors of Cumberland. There aren’t any providers to talk of between Cumberland and Invoice’s Place in Little Orleans and John and I noticed solely a few individuals over the 4 plus hours to get to Little Orleans. I cherished biking previous the locks and all of the waterways, full of turtles lazing on logs. There have been rare benches, however we discovered just a few and easily loved the sensation of solitude…till it began to rain.
And rain it did for hours, so we had actually hours of muddy biking. I feared for my bike chain as there was a lot grit in it. I hadn’t appreciated earlier than we began the C&O Canal bike path that we must climb steeply up a path over the Paw Paw tunnel after which cycle down the opposite facet. It was a couple of 1.5-mile detour nevertheless it took some time due to the slippery situations.
After we ended up at Invoice’s Place at 6 PM begging for a meal (he was prepared to shut), we have been drained and soiled but additionally feeling more than happy with ourselves. It had been an extended however memorable day and one we received’t quickly overlook.
Our B&B host picked us up and drove us up about 7 miles to the City Hill B&B. She was particularly properly arrange for cyclists with hoses and towels so we may get totally cleaned up outdoors. She even has an out of doors bathe and probably the most wonderful breakfast unfold.
Day 2: C&O Canal Bike Path – Little Orleans to Williamsport
Distance: 42 miles
Time: 4 hours
Lodging: Bay Farms B&B– a brief bike experience off the C&O and an amazing place to remain for the night time.
From Little Orleans at Mile 141 you have got a alternative – choose up the paved Western Maryland Rail Path (WMRT) or cycle the C&O – which is parallel and visual among the time all the best way to at the least Hancock at Mile 124. After being so muddy and placing up with quite a lot of roots and bumpy bits the day earlier than, John and I opted to cycle the WMRT to Hancock. I believed it might be dishonest – however who cares. It was a deal with to roll alongside simply for 20 plus miles.
A lot of the path was within the woods, typically on the fringe of steep embankments the place there have been warning indicators about falling particles. I barely glanced at them till I noticed a large boulder that had let unfastened about six months earlier.
For those who begin in Cumberland, Hancock is likely one of the frequent locations to move for the night time. You’ll discover the 1828 Path Inn B&B, a Tremendous 8, a few campgrounds and the Hancock Motel. There isn’t quite a lot of alternative on this a part of the world.
After a chunk to eat in Hancock, we continued, passing Fort Frederick State Park, and a number of other aqueducts to reach in Williamsport, a fairly city with loads of restaurant alternative if it’s not a Monday night time.
Day 3: C&O Canal Bike Path – Williamsport to Brunswick
Distance: 44 miles
Time: 5 hours with stops
Lodging: Travelodge by Wyndham – a couple of 10-minute bike experience from the C&O. We met a few guys who rented an Airbnb very near the C&O and mentioned it was wonderful.
Beneficial restaurant: Potomac Road Grill in Brunswick for scrumptious Lebanese meals.
Our third day on the C&O began out moist. Very quickly we have been filthy once more – however we have been a little bit smarter than the primary day. We discovered a few rubbish baggage and wrapped our packs in them so at the least they stayed clear. As soon as the solar got here out once more – and properly earlier than we obtained to Brunswick, we discovered a campsite with a handpump and did an intensive job of washing each our rain gear, panniers, and bikes.
The biking was pretty on this part of the C&O Bike path. For lengthy stretches we rode beside the Potomac River, passing one dam alongside the best way. We peddled by means of lengthy stretches of greener than inexperienced forest. For those who have been up for the detour to Harpers Ferry, you may spend the night time in one of many regionally run B&B’s and luxuriate in a while exploring the slender streets that make up the historic city.
The world throughout from Harpers Ferry could be very fairly. There’s a railroad bridge that has been transformed to a pedestrian bridge, however lugging your totally loaded bike up the stairwell could put you off visiting.
Apparently Harpers Ferry is the epicentre of the Appalachian Path, so it’s additionally house to the Appalachian Path Conservancy and the Appalachian Path Park Workplace for the Nationwide Park Service.
Day 4: C&O Canal Bike Path – Brunswick to Nice Falls Tavern Guests Centre
Distance: 31 miles, 14 miles shy of the “0” marker in Washington, DC.
Time: 3 hours with just a few stops.
Lodging: None wanted.
Beneficial eating places: Beans within the Belfry for breakfast in Brunswick.
Our final day of biking the C&O Canal Bike Path was bittersweet. We had deliberate to bike all the best way to the “0” mile marker in Washington, DC, however with a damaged chain to start out the day, we have been delayed. In hindsight, I’m thrilled that we have been in a position to make it so far as the Nice Falls Tavern Customer Centre, since we relied on the kindness of strangers to furnish us with a sequence breaker – and assist with the restore.
As soon as we hit the bike path, we discovered the biking to be very straightforward with the miles whipping by. We did have a fast tootle round historic White’s Ferry. On the path map we have been offered, it reveals Leesburg throughout the river as being a part of the place you may eat and keep on the C&O. It isn’t – because the ferry hasn’t run for a number of years. We figured that out just a few days too late – and ended up having to pay for the night time we had booked in Leesburg. I’d suggest you keep in Brunswick and cycle 55 miles to Georgetown on the ultimate day.
We have been in a position to set up a motorcycle drop-off with Bike the Burgh – the corporate we rented bikes from. They have been very versatile and have been ready to select us up wherever we needed on the final day. As we have been being met by a pal on the Nice Falls Tavern Customer Centre, it labored out very properly. It’s solely an hour’s bike experience to get to Georgetown although I hear from different cyclists that the path is a little bit tough.
I extremely suggest getting off your bike, locking it up and strolling to the perspective to see the Nice Falls of the Potomac River. The water is pressured over jagged rocks by means of the slender Mather Gorge. It’s an unimaginable sight – and one deserving of your time. It was an effective way to complete off per week’s biking journey beginning on the Nice Allegheny Passage in Pittsburgh.
Additional studying on multi-day bike rides
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