C&O Canal Towpath Day 9

It was nice to sleep in a bed again. I slept for over ten hours! We didn’t have much to do to get ready and Jon wanted to be in DC early to catch his train home so we were on the way early again.

They must have both been eager to finish the trail because they were riding fast. Normally, I’d just let them get ahead of me, but there were lots of people out again and it’s easier to pass in a group so I rode hard enough to keep up.

Once we rode into Washington DC, we did lose the trail at one point because we missed the bridge where it crossed to the other side of the canal. It wasn’t long before we realized that though, so it was easy to backtrack.

Milepost 0 is behind a boathouse, and it was hopping when we got there. Lots of crew teams were out walking around, carrying giants oars and such. Thankfully, I had read a description of how to find the last marker or we may not have happened upon it.

It was 5.9 miles to finish the trail, then another few miles to get to our hotel. We split off from Jon early so he could head to Union Station without worrying about all of us staying together through the crowds out on a beautiful Saturday morning. Luckily, we were able to check in early to our hotel so we didn’t have to walk the bikes around while sightseeing.

Jeremiah had never been to DC before so we walked around the National Mall to see all the monuments. It was tiring, and my camp shoes are not made for walking that far. After seven miles walking, we went back to the hotel and grabbed our bikes to ride another seven miles to see the other end of the mall.

We couldn’t escape the canal even on the Mall; the lockhouse that was originally at the eastern terminus of the canal had been moved there.

Tomorrow morning, we will pick up the one-way minivan rental to drive home.

I have to say, this trip was way better than the Erie Canalway Trail. Barely any road, plentiful camping, and very bike-friendly towns. I only wish there were more trails of this length and quality. Let me know if you know of any!


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  1. Thanks for taking us along!

  2. Thanks for sharing. Your journal has been excellent.

    • Yes thank you. I learned1st hand what biking this area is like. Thank you for sharing. I live 20 mins frm Williamsport MD CUSHWA BASIN of C & O CANAL Towpath. My father visited Paw Paw West VA many times with his bike. Near Berkeley Springs, WV.

  3. Enjoyed your post. I would suggest checking out the Katy Trail in Missouri. Similar in many ways to the C&O. Can’t comment on camping spots…did a solo supported ride…my wife is a saint.

  4. This was great…fun to see someone else’s experience of my home area & the C&O sections I’ve ridden. I live very near Brunswick and planning my solo GAP/C&O ride for this summer. I’m interested in the logistics of getting to, and starting in, Pittsburgh as well as the ending in G-Town.

    • We used one-way Budget rental vehicles to get to and from the trail. They have locations very close to both ends. We had a minivan on the way to Pittsburgh and were supposed to have a minivan on the way home from DC, but they didn’t have one for us and after much waiting and trying of other vehicles, we took all the wheels off our bikes and fit into a small SUV.

      • Oh …glad you came up with that plan, minus any grey hairs you Thgt you earned while coming up with this alternative.

  5. Great blog! I just finished my GAP solo ride and did part of the C&O, just an out and back from Cumberland to Old Town and back to Cumberland. I really want to come back and do the whole shebang next year. I even think i have the same bike—Surly Cross Check in the Gray-Green color. Your photos are great, makes me want to get a better camera!

  6. My partner lives in Harrisburg and I Colorado. We are planning some segments of this very trail in August. It will be warm but I’m doing college coursework now and it is my only break. Thank you so much for your very detailed comments and the great pictures! Keep riding! Keep posting!

  7. Where did you stay in D.C.?

  8. We’ve done the Erie Canal Trail twice (and live 10 miles from a trailhead in Amsterdam, NY), and just completed the GAP and C&O Trails last week. Perhaps my opinion is based on an intimate familiarity with the Zect, but I am surprised to hear you believe the C&O better than the ECT.

    We experienced four downed trees or significant limbs, multiple washouts, and then who can ever forget the Paw Paw Detour and that other detour round the countryside ending in an impossible descent on mulch (Mulch? Really?) Almost the entire trail is just wagon rut – nowhere near as nice as the ECT.

    While I would agree camping along the GAP and C&O is plentiful, most people are unaware that camping is allowed on most lock grounds along the ECT with essentially the same services available as one would find at the C&O’s rustic campgrounds..

    Another aspect that was very different is that, in most cases, the towns along the C&O seemed disconnected from the trail (I can’t count the number of times we marveled at the green tunnel we were riding through). In Hancock and Williamsport, we had to venture more than a mile off trail to find restaurants (and they were some of the few communities, along with Rockwood, that we could even see from the trail),. By contrast, along the
    ECT communities have generally embraced the trail providing restaurants and seamless interconnection points between the trail and civilization (Fairport and Amsterdam, for example)

    Both experiences were wonderful, and we are off to do the Katy Trail in Missouri next week. I might differ in my opinion, but not in my enjoyment of cycling these wonderful trails. They all have a unique flavor, and I am ever thankful for the citizens who helped create these wonderful cycling and hiking venues.

    Happy riding!

    • Thanks for sharing your story!

      We were told that we weren’t allowed to camp at a few of the locks that we had planned on camping at on the Erie Canalway, either by someone at the lock or by signs saying no camping.

      I hope to do the Katy Trail next!

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