GAP and C&O Towpath Tour
10 Day Inn Tour
We will ride the entire length of the Great Allegheny Passage and the Chesapeake & Ohio Towpath from Pittsburgh, PA to Washington, DC. We'll cover 335 miles of vehicle-free trails in the autumn when the nights are cool and the route should be lined with brilliant color. This is a bucket list ride for many cyclists. If it's not on your list, it should be - join us!
The tour still has space. Make your travel arrangements.
Mostly flat terrain on crushed stone. Average 50 miles per day. Moderate cycling level.
9 nights lodging, 8 breakfasts, 2 picnic or sack lunches, 7 dinners, daily snacks, van support, luggage transfer, cue sheets, maps and electronic GPS files, shuttle excursion to Flight 93 National Memorial, trained guides, and transportation at the end of the tour back to Pittsburgh if you've driven.
$195 for a Specialized hybrid bicycle and $350 for a Specialized electric-assist e-bike.
Fly or take the train into Pittsburgh, PA and out of Washington, DC. Or drive and leave your car at our starting hotel and we'll provide transportation back to Pittsburgh arriving about 5:00pm on the last day of the tour.
"I'm not sure how much more joy in life I could experience as I am cycling with the wind in my face...knowing in 20 miles y'all are gonna be there with food! Life can't get any better than that!!!"
DAY 1: We’ll meet in downtown Pittsburgh at our starting hotel on the bike path along the Monongahela River. We’ll begin with a rental bike fitting at 2:00pm followed by an orientation and dinner. 0 miles.
DAY 2: After our first group breakfast, we’ll pedal our bicycles on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail to the Point State Park fountain for a group photo. The park marks the start of the mighty Ohio River formed by the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers. It is also the start of the Great Allegheny Passage and our epic adventure.
We’ll leave the city and start on the 150-mile rail trail through the former coal-mining and steel-making corridor. We’ll quickly cross the Monongahela River on the Hot Metal Bridge once used by freight trains to carry molten iron from the furnaces to the steel mills. Our destination for the night is the small community of Belle Vernon, PA. 39 miles, elevation +1019’/-985’.
DAY 3: We’ll meander through history today as we cycle through the Laurel Highlands, the highest mountain range in the state. We’ll pass former coal mining towns, mines and beehive ovens. The distinctive ovens were used to turn coal into coke for the steel factories.
Toward the end of the day, we’ll reach Ohiopyle State Park, ranked among the top ten best state parks in the country. We’ll cross over the Youghiogheny River Gorge and marvel at the stunning views of the mountains all around us and the rapids below. Then we’ll overnight in Ohipyle, PA. 43 miles, elevation +1352’/-898’.
DAY 4 : After a hearty breakfast, we’ll make sure our bike lights are in good working order. We’ll ride through several tunnels today as we prepare to cross the Eastern Continental Divide – the highest point of our tour at 2392’. Then we’ll cross the Mason-Dixon Line, enter Maryland and finish the day with a beautiful 20-mile gentle descent to the end of the GAP in Cumberland, MD. 72 miles, elevation +2741’/-3346’.
DAY 5: You can choose to visit the historic downtown of Cumberland, MD on our layover day today, or you can join our guides for an excursion to the Flight 93 National Memorial. We’ll visit the final resting place of the 40 passengers and crew, listen to the Tower of Voices and read the Wall of Names memorial that marks the debris field and honors the fallen from 9/11. 0 miles.
Day 6: Today we begin cycling on the Chesapeake & Ohio Towpath, better known as the C&O, and now it’s a National Historical Park. We’ll hug the banks of the Potomac River that is the border between Maryland and West Virginia. Halfway through the ride, we’ll come to the Paw Paw Tunnel. At 3,118’ long, it took 14 years and more than 6 million hand-laid bricks to complete. It was – and still is – an impressive engineering feat of the 185-mile canal! 60 miles, elevation +802’/-957’.
Day 7: By now, you’ve probably noticed the striking old stone structures along the C&O. You didn’t see them on the GAP, as it was a railroad. The families who lived in these lockhouses ran the locks on the canal for more than 60 years. Today seven of them have been lovingly restored and turned into unique places to stay.
We end our day in Shepherdstown, the oldest town in West Virginia. Many of the buildings in its Historic District date from the American Revolution. You’ll have time to explore the charming town, as you’re on your own for dinner tonight. 54 miles, elevation 769’/-813’.
Day 8: We continue to follow the river today on the C&O. Along the way, you can opt to take a short detour across the river to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. It was here that abolitionist John Brown launched a raid in an attempt to free slaves. His hanging in 1859 helped focus the nation’s attention on the moral issue of slavery and begin the Civil War.
Later in the day, we hope to take a ride on White’s Ferry. However, the ferry's operation has been under litigation since late 2020 and is still closed. It's the last of 100 ferries on the Potomac River still in operation, which uses a wire cable to cross cars and bicycles to the other side. Hopefully, it will reopen soon. Then we’ll overnight in Leesburg, VA. 44 miles, elevation +540’/-607.
DAY 9: We complete our epic ride by cycling into Arlington, VA today. But first, we ride over the only wooden aqueduct on the C&O, visit Riley’s Lockhouse, where Girl Scouts dressed in period clothing sometimes lead tours, and stop at the Great Falls Overlook. It offers views of the mile-long rapids and 20-foot waterfalls as the Potomac roars toward the Chesapeake Bay.
We’ll end our tour at “Mile 0” in Georgetown where a lone monument marks the eastern terminus of the C&O Canal Towpath. Our ending hotel is just across the river in Arlington where we’ll celebrate our accomplishment at our last dinner together tonight. 44 miles, +617’/-835’.
DAY 10: You’re free to take a taxi at your leisure this morning to the Reagan National Airport (DCA.) If you have time to stay longer, our ending hotel is a short walk across the Key Bridge to Washington, DC. If you need to return to Pittsburgh for your car, WomanTours will provide you with a shuttle back to your car arriving about 5:00pm. 0 miles.
- Traffic-free cycling on bike paths
- Ohiopyle State Park's Youghiogheny River Gorge
- Crossing the Eastern Continental Divide
- American Revolution and Civil War history
- Flight 93 National Memorial
- Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia & Maryland