Great Allegheny Passage C&O Canal Gravel Tour Lizard Head Cycling Guides
   
107 Aurum St, Box 855, Ophir, CO 81426 970.728.5891 info@LizardHeadCyclingGuides.com

Great Allegheny Passage/C&O Canal Gravel Tour

Please click here to jump to the Overview section with all tour details including pricing.

GAP/C&O Canal Gravel Tour: Highlights

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, DC 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, DC.

The start of the Great Allegheny Passage in Pittsburgh

The start of the Great Allegheny Passage in Pittsburgh

Along the GAP below Connellsville, PA

Along the GAP below Connellsville, PA

One of the many old locks along the C&O Canal

One of the many old locks along the C&O Canal

Washington, DC

Washington, DC is the destination

GAP/C&O Canal Gravel Tour: Testimonials

Read what previous guests on our GAP/C&O Canal Gravel Tour have been saying…

Rick was a phenomenal guide every step of the way, positive attitude all the time, very organized and was always there to answer questions. Route was terrific, accommodation was just fine (all we needed in other words), and we lucked out with the weather. Great memories now banked and filed away! – Jeff

GAP/C&O Canal Gravel Tour: Dates

Potential tour dates are listed below and not all tour dates will run. Lock in your preferred tour date early as unopened tour dates will be closed. Please see the Spring/Autumn 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

To easily register for a particular tour, please click the Book Now! link after the tour date listed below. This will select the tour name and the appropriate date on the registration form.

2023 Tour Dates

Tour Status Notes: NO STATUS = Date Set, no riders have signed up. TOUR OPENED = Tour Opened, rider minimums not met. TOUR A GO! = Tour is Go, rider minimums met. SOLD OUT = Tour Full, rider maximums met.

GAP/C&O Canal Gravel Tour: Overview

Reptile Rewards

Starting Town: Pittsburgh, PA. Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT)

Ending Town: Washington, DC. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)

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: Intermediate (2/3) , Upper Intermediate (3)

Tour Cost: $1,865 per person with shared accommodations. Add $385 per person to this Tour Cost for a private room each night of the tour (4-Nights). Please see our Reptile Rewards & Tour Discounts page for more information on Group Discounts. Please note that for discounts to apply the tour minimum must be met.

Optional Post-Tour Shuttle: +$95 per person. On Day 6 (the day the tour ends) an optional shuttle from the Washington, DC area to Pittsburgh is available for you, your bike, and your gear to get back to the tour start meeting hotel (reservations on-your-own) in Pittsburgh, PA. If you do not choose this option, you are on-your-own to make your own travel arrangements.

Tour Includes: Semi-supported tour with 4-Nights lodging, daily cue sheets, daily luggage transfers, some meals (2 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 1 dinner), and permit fees. Alcoholic beverages not included. NOTE: Semi-supported is when a guide does not ride with the guests and can only offer support at the start of the ride, at the lunch stops, or at the end of the ride.

Bike Recommendations: Road bikes are NOT recommended. This tour is best enjoyed on a cross bike with 32-38 mm 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 and 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.

Mandatory Equipment: Due to several long dark tunnels en route, powerful front lights are required on this tour. Taillights are optional, but highly recommended. On four of the days riders will carry a pack lunch, thus a frame bag, a large rear bag, a handlebar bag, or a Camelbak-like pack is recommended. There are also sections of the route with little to no water, so make sure to carry plenty of extra water be it via extra water bottles, a Camelbak, or even water pouches carried in a frame pack.

Overall Route Map

MUST READ: Training for Your First MTB Tour: 5 Best Tips to Improve Your Pedaling Technique

GAP/C&O Canal Gravel Tour: Itinerary*

*Tour itineraries are subject to change and modification based on the group, available accommodations, road construction, road closures, and other unforeseen circumstances including weather, wildfires, flooding, hurricanes, landslides and/or other acts of nature. Also, the distances and elevation profiles shown below may not reflect the actual distances and elevations while on tour as these are provided here to give an idea as to the anticipated mileage and terrain. Please view this itinerary, the distances, and elevation profiles as a general outline as to what to expect while on this tour.

Day 0: Arrival in Pittsburgh, PA

On Day 0 (the day before the tour starts), guests either fly into Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) and shuttle to the designated meeting hotel (Uber or Lyft), or drive to the designated meeting hotel. Guests are on-their-own for accommodations this evening either at the designated meeting hotel, or at other nearby hotels. Guests are on-their-own for dinner this evening and there are many restaurants within walking distance from the hotel.

Day 1: Pittsburgh, PA to Ohiopyle, PA
78 miles +2155 ft / -1650 ft

After an early morning breakfast at the meeting hotel, we meet at 7:30 A.M. to discuss the route and logistics for our first day of riding. After gear is loaded into the support van, we then ride a short distance to Point State Park to officially start the tour at the beginning of the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP). Point State Park is 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. On this first day our support team will meet up with the riders at a designated point for lunch (Note: on subsequent days lunches are packed prior to morning departures). 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.

Start of the GAP in Pittsburgh

Start of the GAP at Point State Park in Pittsburgh

Entering Ohiopyle State Park along the GAP

Entering Ohiopyle State Park along the GAP

Day 1 Elevation Profile

Day 1 Elevation Profile

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.

Salisbury Trestle along the GAP

Salisbury Trestle along the GAP

Entering the Big Savage Tunnel

Entering the Big Savage Tunnel

Day 2 Elevation Profile

Day 2 Elevation Profile

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 Towpath Trail (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 Towpath 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 – a headlight is mandatory for safe passage through the tunnel. 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!

The end of the GAP and the start of the C&O in Cumberland, MD

The end of the GAP and the start of the C&O in Cumberland, MD

Exiting the Paw Paw Tunnel (see that itty bitty light at the far end?)

Exiting the Paw Paw Tunnel (see that itty bitty light at the far end?)

Day 3 Elevation Profile

Day 3 Elevation Profile

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 recommend a stop at Williamsport, Maryland to admire the large turn basin and if there is time, perhaps take a short ride on the recently restored canal boat.

From Williamsport, the route continues south and riders soon 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.

Big Slackwater along the C&O Canal

Big Slackwater along the C&O Canal

The beauty of the C&O Canal

The beauty of the C&O Canal

Day 4 Elevation Profile

Day 4 Elevation Profile

Day 5: Harpers Ferry, WV to Washington, DC
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, DC. 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, DC.

You have just completed 335 gravel miles in 5 days… job well done!

Overlook at Great Falls

Overlook at Great Falls

The elusive "Mile 0" for the C&O Canal in Washington, D.C

The elusive “Mile 0” for the C&O Canal at Watergate in Washington, D.C

Day 5 Elevation Profile

Day 5 Elevation Profile

GAP/C&O Canal Gravel Tour: Logistics & FAQs

Bike Shipping

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.

Travel Insurance

If you have not already, now would be a great time to consider adding travel insurance to your tour. You are welcome to use any travel insurance company you would like. We recommend Generali/Trip Mate.

Generally, if contracting COVID causes clients to cancel or interrupt their tour, trip insurance companies would treat it as any other illness as long as it is contracted after the insurance was purchased. Please check your individual plan documentation for details. Please note that quarantine is usually only covered if clients are actually sick with COVID. If a state requires quarantine upon arrival because of standardized state law, coverage is generally not covered. Again, check your individual plan documentation for details.

American Guests - use this link: http://www.generalitravelinsurance.com/get-a-quote.html?partner=LIZA0855

  • The Premium Plan is the only plan which offers Pre-Existing coverage so long as the plan is purchased prior to Final Payment.
  • The Premium Plan is the only plan that offers an optional Cancel For Any Reason - the policy must be purchased within 24 hours of initial trip deposit, the full trip cost must be insured, and if they cancel for Any Reason, it must be 48 hours prior to departure, and the reimbursement for an Any Reason claim is 60% of pre-paid, insured, non-refundable trip cost.
  • Customer Service can be reached at 1-800-874-2442 for coverage questions and policy modifications or to purchase by phone. Agency Code: LIZA0855

Canadian Guests - use this link: https://tripmate.catravelins.ca/?utm_source=lizardhead

 
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