GAP / C&O Canal Tour
Updated: Feb 14, 2021
If there was ever a Bucket List Bike Ride, this is one of them! It’s the Great Allegheny Passage and the Chesapeake & Ohio Trail (GAP / C&O). Five of us, Joe, Margaret, Dave, Kevin and Ximena, met in Pittsburgh, where the GAP begins. We hired an outfitter to handle the details of the 335 mile trip, including rental bikes, panniers, B & B reservations, maps and directions. The GAP starts in Pittsburgh at the zero mile mark in Point State Park where the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers meet the Ohio River. The trail is mostly crushed limestone. The GAP is 150 miles long ending in Cumberland, MD. The 185 mile C&O Canal Trail starts in Cumberland and ends in Washington D.C. That means 335 miles of fire-road trails and no cars! The trail parallels rivers and canals the entire way. Imagine riding the majority of the route under a canopy of trees that is also very flat. We only climbed 3,600 feet in the 335 miles. We went over the Eastern Continental Divide at a 1% grade and rode through several tunnels; two of them were over 3,000 feet long and required a head light for visibility. The C&O Canal has 75 locks where horses pulled barges loaded with supplies up river back in the colonial days. We took a day off in Shepherdstown where we toured the Antietam Battlefield. It was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War with over 23,000 casualties. We often encountered wildlife too. There were turtles, frogs, snakes, deer, ground hogs, cardinals, robins and owls. After reaching mile marker zero in Washington D.C., we returned the bikes to a shop across from one of the Smithsonian museums. Then we spent several extra days in D.C. touring our nation’s capital.