There’s something alluring about riding a bike along a canal or railroad tracks. Both provide a means of transportation and both seem to just pull you along on your bike as you push the pedals forward one revolution at a time.
The Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal Towpath begins in Washington, DC and runs just about parallel to the Potomac River. It ends in Cumberland, MD at mile post 184, and as a matter of fact, rather abruptly and uneventfully.
The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) Trail, by contrast is a 149 mile rail trail. In other words, it was a railroad corridor that’s been converted into bike path. It’s less rustic than the C&O, the surface easier to ride, towns spaced closer together and the hiker/biker campsites are a bit more developed than the C&O.
Both are punctuated with historical plaques, cyclists of all ages and abilities, unexpected trail angels just when you need them and some of the best mom and pop eateries we’ve come across.
A cyclist can begin in either Pittsburgh or Washington, DC (or anyplace in between) and the trails are connected.
Where the C&O ends, the GAP begins in Cumberland, Maryland. With its four tunnels and 12 bridges, there’s always something to look forward to when riding the GAP. It’s like turning pages of your AAA Trip Tik in the good old days.
Amtrak trains run up and down the routes and for a few extra bucks, you can board with your bike (reservations required). Not a fan of trains? There’s also shuttle services that will take you back to your start point. Renting a car works too!
As for us, we’ll ride the train any chance we get.