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I'm headed to Pittsburgh on Sunday to bike down to Washington.  Sadly the second half of the trip is through the C&O Canal National Park, and it's closed.

The owners of various B&Bs where I'm staying are very upset, but all are saying people are ignoring the closure and riding through anyway.  I've mapped out a road-based route over two lane roads to get to get to my reservations, but it would be a real loss not to follow the Potomac away from traffic.  I really hope everything is resolved and the park is open by  Wednesday.

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Safe and happy riding! I'd love to do the Pittsburgh-to-DC trip someday. Do you know how hilly it is?

You're going to have a great time regardless!I'd ride through the C&O if I could, it's a fun path.

My wife and I did the ride a few years ago on our tandem. My favorite parts were passing through the Big Savage tunnel and wading in the shallow waters near Harper's Ferry. I wish we would have planned time to detour to see Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water. Have fun and post some pictures once you return!

I bet there are no park rangers there to stop you!  But let's hope this nonsense is over by the time you get there.

Ride report upon return is required!

Yes ride report with pictures please!

It's railroad grade, so not hilly at all with a few exceptions. There is a change in elevation (gradual climb from PGH to the PA/MD border) then the sharpest elevation change from the border down into Cumberland, MD. On the C&O itself, there are some small hills along the way at each of the levees. Best to take the (paved) W.Maryland Rail trail for the last 20 miles into Hancock (down grade). The only non-railroad grade section on the GAP is near one of the tunnels which is closed off due to construction (raising the ceiling of the tunnel to allow double stacked trains through). Check around online, there's a nice elevation map of the entire route.

To anyone going during the shutdown, pack lots of water. It's 60 miles from Cumberland to Hancock and the only water along the way comes from iodine treated wells (half of which don't work anyways) and supposedly they are being locked during the shutdown. During that stretch, you can get supplies at Paw Paw, WV along the way (take the road before the tunnel). There is also Bill's Place (12719 High Germany Rd, Little Orleans, Maryland 21766) for a beer along that stretch. Be sure to check out the bikeshop in Hancock where you can crash in a purpose-built shelter for $10 a night.

Alex Z said:

Safe and happy riding! I'd love to do the Pittsburgh-to-DC trip someday. Do you know how hilly it is?

Hancock is my first stop after Cumberland, with another stop at Harpers Ferry before heading to Washington itself.  I was going to do the whole trip in six days but I changed it to five, spending the extra day at Harpers Ferry since DC hotels are expensive.

My biggest worry is not being able to creep through the Paw Paw Tunnel.  I hiked up to (and partly into) Big Savage Tunnel with my parents years before the trail opened along with the Salisbury Viaduct, but those two are on the other trail and are definitely open.

I don't recall any sort of gate at the tunnel, so I imagine you'll be OK. Worst case scenario, there looks to be a simple enough road bypass. Just make sure you have a decent light and watch the rocks on the other end, they are sharp and gave someone in my party a flat. 

Word is that the path itself is open for travel, just no water/portajohns. 

Works for me.  Where'd you hear it?  I've been looking around all week for a first-hand report.

I finally found a few on another forum, and I'll probably hear more as I make my way down.

See link in my above post, from the BikePgh forum... someone who was on the trail while they were "closing it down" and who talked to rangers is the source. I'm a Pgh native and actually participate more on their forum than I do over here.

Tricolor said:

Works for me.  Where'd you hear it?   

You should bike the C+O as planned. Just make a backup plan, in the unlikely event that a ranger asks you to leave the trail. Remember, the rangers have for the most part, been sent home, and the few that are still working are more likely to sympathize with you than to kick you off the trail. The whole C+O path has pretty sparse facilities, anyway, so just make sure you are able to self-support your ride. Source: I live near Washington DC and frequently use the path. 

All this is good enough for me.  Plus this:


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