Biking from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C.
Want to bike 334 miles on the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal paths from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.? Krista Connor checked out this famous cycling route.
If you’re a longtime cycling enthusiast or even a hesitant beginner, consider biking the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal trails for your next summer adventure—that’s approximately 334 miles of scenery, adventure and nature. Conveniently, the trailheads begin and end near two of WOW air’s USA destinations—Pittsburgh, PA., and Washington, D.C., so readers can easily fly into one city and out the other. Bike rentals are available in Pittsburgh with outfitter Golden Triangle Bike.
On the Way
Cyclists of all ages and reasonable fitness can easily ride the trail on their own without a guide. You will experience 334 miles of adventure between The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) Trail which connects with Cumberland, MD., before hitting D.C. The recently-constructed trail between Pittsburgh and Cumberland is approximately 150 miles and boasts some of the most beautiful sights on the trail in the Laurel Highlands. Historic sites, tunnels and the Continental Divide will guide your way on this portion of the trail. The C&O Canal Towpath between Cumberland and D.C. is 184 miles of dirt road and, pre-dating the Civil War, that passes historic tunnels, battlefields, historic structures and more.
The Ups and Downs
Overall, the journey could take six to nine days or more, depending on riders’ preferences. The trails span three states—Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and of course, D.C., and you’ll pass through four national parks: C&O Canal, Antietam Battlefield, Harpers Ferry and Rock Creek Park. Riders start at 761 feet in elevation, cross the Continental Divide at 2,932 feet and end at sea level.
Getting Your Sleep
Adventurers can either rough it and camp each evening or easily find accommodations. Every 10 or so miles cyclists will pedal into a town with bed and breakfasts and hotels, so there is very little pressure to rush along the trail and absolutely no danger of being lost or stranded. Booking all accommodations in advance is recommended by trail experts.
Dozens of overnight options dot the trail, whether you want to camp, stay in a hostel, hotel or B&B. One town, Shepherdstown, WV, is even home to a medieval-style European-themed hotel called Bavarian Inn. Dozens of dining options, from casual to upscale, are also available.
You’ll pass through more than ten historic towns during the bike adventure, which will give a good feel for the region’s industrial and entrepreneurial past. Take Connellsville, PA. for example, a one-time booming factory town which retains its quaint roots—historic buildings, churches, and residences indicating its prosperous past. Restaurants, shops, and other attractions encourage trail users to take a break and visit downtown Connellsville. Adirondack shelters at the northern end of the city make this a popular overnight stop for riders.
Going for the Whole Package
In addition to bike rentals, Golden Triangle Bike offers custom and package tours, too, which means you can let the experts do the arranging and research while you focus on yourself, your two tires and the path. Tours start at six days and are $585 per person which includes all food and lodging. Six-day tours keep a fairly challenging pace at 43-65 miles a day (that’s five to eight hours of cycling each day). Seven or eight-day tours are available though, for slower rides, and of course, adventurers can ride the trail on their own with no schedule. Golden Triangle Bike offers to arrange luggage transfers from one hotel or campground to the next, along with one-way car rides back to Pittsburgh if necessary.
Prior to day one, fly into Pittsburg, PA. and give yourself plenty of time to prepare and explore the city, then set out fresh either with your friends, solo or with a guide. Over the next week or so, take in the sunshine, freedom and nature, and of course, end the trip with your WOW air flight at BWI Airport.
The training wheels are off and we’re leaving for our first flight to Pittsburgh this June. You coming?
Find cheap flights to Pittsburgh from Europe here. Don’t forget to make a WOW Stopover in Iceland on your way there at no additional airfare.
Words: Krista Connor
Photos: Courtesy of Golden Triangle Bike and from iStockphoto.com / tupungato