Great Allegheny Passage/C&O Canal Gravel Tour
Lizard Head Cycling Guides Great Allegheny Passage/C&O Canal Gravel Tour rides along two of the best back-to-back gravel trails in the United States. Both of these magnificent trails are steeped in history with the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (C&O Canal) trail offering a more “back in time” experience. Operated from 1831 until 1924 along the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland, the 185 mile long C&O Canal’s principle cargo was to bring coal from the Allegheny Mountains down to the growing metropolises of Washington, Baltimore and other cities along the eastern coast. Today the old tow path has been converted to a multi-use trail perfect for an off road gravel tour.
The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) is a more recent addition to the growing number of US rails-to-trails and it offers a world-class 150 mile gravel trail second to none in terms of quality and experience. The first sections of the GAP were opened in 1986 and the final section of the GAP was completed in 2013 making possible a 335 mile off-road car-free route between Pittsburgh, PA and Washington, D.C.
GAP/C&O Canal Gravel Tour: Highlights
GAP/C&O Canal Gravel Tour: Dates
Potential tour dates are listed below. Please see the Spring/Fall Tour Calendar and the Summer Tour Calendar for confirmed departures. Any unopened date can be a Custom Week (9 riders required). Please contact us via email or call 970.728.5891.
2017 Autumn Tour Dates:
- September 17 to 21, 2017 Sun-Thu (Book Now!)
- September 23 to 27, 2017 Sat-Wed (Book Now!)
- October 15 to 19, 2017 Fall Foliage Tour Sun-Thu (Book Now!)
- October 21 to 25, 2017 Fall Foliage Tour Sat-Wed (Book Now!)
GAP/C&O Canal Gravel Tour: Overview
Meeting Town/Airport: Pittsburgh, PA/Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT)
Ending Town/Airport (No Return Shuttle): Washington, D.C./Dulles International Airport (IAD)
Ending Town/Airport (With Return Shuttle): Pittsburgh, PA/Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT)
Tour Length: 5-Days Cycling/4-Nights Lodging
Total Miles: 335 miles (GAP = 150 miles, C&O Canal = 185 miles)
Mileage Range: 60 to 78 miles
Ability Level: 2/3 (Intermediate to Advanced)
Tour Cost: $1,450 per person
Optional Shuttle Return: +$200 per person. At the end of the tour late Friday afternoon, we will shuttle you, your bike and your gear back to Pittsburgh for a mid to late evening arrival. We will stop along the route for dinner. If you do not choose this option, you are on-your-own to make your return travel arrangements.
Tour Includes: 4-nights of lodging, luggage transfers, hotel breakfasts, 5 packed lunches, 2 dinners and permit fees.
Bike Suggestions: Road bikes are NOT recommended. This tour is best enjoyed on a cross bike with 32-38mm gravel ready tires or on a 26″/27.5″/29″ mountain/gravel bike with 1.75-2.00″ moderate knobby tires as large/wide knobby tires will actually make the journey more challenging. A gravel/adventure/bikepacking bike or a 27.5″ or 29″ plus bike would also be ideal. Also be prepared for potential wet/muddy conditions along the C&O Canal. Please call 970.728.5891 or email us if you have any questions on the recommended bike and equipment to bring on this tour.
Overall Route Map
GAP/C&O Canal Gravel Tour: Itinerary*
*Tour itineraries are subject to change and modification based on the group, available accommodations and other unforeseen circumstances including weather, wildfires, flooding, hurricanes, landslides and/or other acts of nature. Please view this itinerary as an outline as to what to expect on this tour.
Day 0: Arrival in Pittsburgh, PA
Guests either fly into Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) and shuttle to the meeting hotel, or drive to the meeting hotel. The meeting hotel will be the Hilton Garden Inn Pittsburgh Airport South-Robinson Mall (near the airport) and there will be a late afternoon “Meet & Greet” session where you get to meet your fellow riders for the week, get your bikes ready and where guides will discuss the highlights of the week ahead.
NOTE: Guests are on-their-own for accommodations this evening either at the Hilton Garden Inn, or at other nearby hotels. The Hilton Garden Inn offers a complimentary airport shuttle to/from the airport. Guests are on-their-own for dinner this evening and there are several restaurants within walking distance from the hotel.
IMPORTANT: Due to the long distance that needs to be covered tomorrow, we will meet at 6:00 AM and depart no later than 6:30 AM to shuttle to the ride start in downtown Pittsburgh, so please get plenty of rest and be prepared to leave early.
Day 1: Pittsburgh, PA to Ohiopyle, PA
78 miles +2155 ft / -1650 ft
We will meet very early to depart from the meeting hotel as today will be a long day in the saddle. Shuttling from the hotel to downtown Pittsburgh and the beginning of the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP), we officially start the tour from Point State Park where two great rivers – the Allegheny and the Monongahela – meet to form the mighty Ohio River. From here we embark on our 5-day journey by riding on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail which soon meets up with the Great Allegheny Passage.
Continuing southeast along the GAP we slowly shed the urban setting and paved sections of the trail to hit the gravel and enjoy the ever increasing remoteness. Our support team will meet up with the riders at designated points to keep the group hydrated and fed. After making our way past Connellsville, Pennsylvania, we encounter the stunning beauty of ancient growth trees and immense ravines as we enter Ohiopyle State Park. The ride ends in the small town of Ohiopyle with a check into our accommodations. Guests are on their own this evening for dinner at one of the many establishments in Ohiopyle.
Day 2: Ohiopyle, PA to Cumberland, MD
72 miles +2710 ft / -3320 ft
Back on the trail we again experience the magnificent old growth forests while also enjoying the smooth limestone surface of the GAP. Today’s ride on the GAP is through some of the most remote areas along the trail and it offers notable landmarks such as the Salisbury Viaduct (nearly 2,000′ feet long and 100′ above the Casselman River Valley), the Pinkerton Tunnel, the Eastern Continental Divide and finally passage through the 3,300′ long Big Savage Tunnel which rewards with a fantastic view of the Allegheny Mountains immediately after exiting the eastern terminus.
From top of Savage Mountain it’s then a 23 mile fast and cruisy descent to the small town of Cumberland, Maryland where the GAP trail ends and tomorrow the C&O Canal trail begins. After rolling into town we’ll check into to our accommodations for the night and head out for a well deserved dinner in downtown Cumberland.
Day 3: Cumberland, MD to Hancock, MD
60 miles +675 ft / -875 ft
Departing from Cumberland, today will be a transition day as we join the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal (aka: C&O Canal) for the remainder of our journey. The two trails are quite different and the smooth gravel surface of the GAP is replaced by the more rugged dual-track of the C&O Canal tow path trail which can become challenging in wet conditions. After leaving Cumberland behind we soon find ourselves in very remote country with zero cell reception – perfect for that digital detox!
Midway through the day we encounter the Paw Paw Tunnel, 3,200′ of utter darkness with a narrow trail along with the canal – bring a headlight as you will certainly need it! After the Paw Paw Tunnel we continue our meandering ride along the C&O Canal eventually reaching our goal of Hancock, Maryland. Guests are on their own for dinner this evening in Hancock, but we highly recommend Buddylou’s Eats Drinks & Antiques!
Day 4: Hancock, MD to Harpers Ferry, WV
64 miles +640 ft / -785 ft
Departing Hancock, today’s route to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia offers a continued ride through history passing many old locks and lock tender houses. Soon after Hancock there is an opportunity to visit Fort Frederick, a star fort that was active in the French and Indian War and the American Revolutionary War. We will stop at Williamsport, Maryland to enjoy lunch adjacent to the large turn basin and if there is time, perhaps take a short ride on the recently restored canal boat.
From Williamsport, we continue south and encounter the “Big Slackwater” area of the C&O Canal where the trail is carved into the high cliff sides and augmented by concrete ramps and wooden bridges extending into the Potomac River. At the end of the day we reach our destination of Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia for lodging and enjoy a relaxed post-ride dinner in one of the many historic downtown restaurants.
Day 5: Harpers Ferry, WV to Washington, D.C.
61 miles +490 ft / -765 ft
It’s the final day of our gravel adventure and our final push back to civilization. Departing Harper’s Ferry we rejoin the C&O Canal enjoying the slow, gradual descent to our destination of Washington, D.C. We again pass more historic lock tender houses where some of them have been restored and are available to rent year round. Nearing Washington we encounter Great Falls which presents some of the most rugged waters along the Potomac River and which has become a destination for white water kayakers and other adventure seekers.
We finally make it to the outskirts of our nation’s capital by first passing through Georgetown and eventually finding the elusive “Mile 0” marker for the C&O Canal near the infamous Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C.
You have just completed 335 gravel miles in 5 days… job well done!
GAP/C&O Canal Gravel Tour: Logistics & FAQs
Lizard Head Cycling recommends shipping with BikeFlights.com. Bikes can be shipped either to our partner bike shop in each meeting town for professional assembly or directly to the meeting hotel for self-assembly. Bike boxes can generally be left at the meeting hotel during the tour. Bikes shipped across the continental US should be shipped 8 days prior to your tour.
General Tour & Cancellation Policies
Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with all of our tour and cancellation policies, which can be found by clicking here.
Lizard Head Cycling Guides teams up with Seven Corners for travel insurance. Seven Corners offers:
- Travel Medical
- Medical Evacuation
- 24/7 Assistance
- Trip Cancellation
Be sure to go to our custom Seven Corners portal by clicking this link or by clicking the the banner on the right after confirming your tour with us to get a quote on travel insurance.