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

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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: 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

Autumn 2020 Tour Dates

GAP/C&O Canal Gravel Tour: Overview

Reptile Rewards

Meeting Town/Airport: Pittsburgh, PA/Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT)

Ending Town/Airport: 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: $1,550 per person dual occupancy / $1,875 per person single occupancy

Optional Post-Tour Shuttle: +$75 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 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: This is a semi-supported tour with 4-nights of lodging, daily cue sheets, daily luggage transfers, 4 breakfasts (days 2 to 5), 5 lunches (days 1 to 5), 2 dinners (days 2 and 4), 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 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 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

On Day 0 (the day before the tour starts), guests either fly into Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) and shuttle to the meeting hotel (Uber or Lyft), or drive to the meeting hotel. Lizard Head will also offer a shuttle this day from the Washington, DC area to arrive in Pittsburgh, PA between 5-7:00 P.M (see details above). The meeting hotel will be the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown in downtown Pittsburgh. Guests are on-their-own for accommodations this evening either at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown, 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

Lizard Head Cycling Guides highly recommends clients purchase Travel Insurance through MH Ross Travel Insurance. A policy can be purchased individually through the sales link below or Lizard Head Cycling Guides can also set-up a policy for its clients.

The estimated cost for a 50-year old buying insurance for a $2,500 tour ranges from $100 (standard plan) to about $200 (cancel for any reason plan).

Lizard Head Cycling Guides Custom Sales Portal Link is:

https://www.mhross.com/index.php/consumer/portal/LIZA0855CO

  • The best options for our clients are either the Asset or Bridge plans.
  • The Asset-Plus & Complete plans both include a Cancel-For-Any-Reason option.
    • As a result these plans cost more.
    • The Cancel-for-Any-Reason option is only available when insurance is purchased within two weeks of initial deposit.
 

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