People often ask, "How do I get to the start?" or
"How to I get back when I finish?". You could try to convince a friend or relative to give
you a lift, but that will use up a lot of favors! (It's a nearly five hour
round trip drive). Here are some other ideals:
Great News! After literally decades of prodding, Amtrak
now offers walk-on bicycle service on the daily Capitol Limited!
This train services several stops along the Towpath and Great Alleghany Passage, but had previously only accepted pre-boxed bicycles at select stations. The new service allows you to load and secure your own bike on the train from any station along the route between Washington and Chicago, including stops at Harpers Ferry, Cumberland, Connellsville, and Pittsburgh. Special bicycle racks are provisioned inside the baggage car to hold up to eight bicycles. Reservations are required to use this service, and it will cost an extra $20 per bicycle
on top of your regular train ticket. Only normal sized bikes are permitted, so unfortunately no tandems. It is also worth noting that bagged folding bikes (ex Bike Friday) are considered to be normal luggage and can be hand carried on the train without paying the extra $20.
The only downside to this service is that the Capitol Limited runs just once per day and may not have convenient times for all travelers.
Westbound trains leave Washington, DC's Union Station around 4:00 pm each day, stopping in Cumberland around 7:15 pm and Pittsburgh just before Midnight. Eastbound trains leave Pittsburgh around 5:15 am, with stops in Cumberland around 9:30 am and Washington at 1:00 pm
(verify latest schedule with Amtrak).
These groups offer full service bike tour packages in the Potomac Valley. Some may also provide shuttle services.
- C & O Bicycle in Hancock, MD offers shuttle services for up to 6 riders
- River & Trail Outfitters in Brunswick, MD offers several bike rental tour packages including a bike shuttle service. They also offer other services such as river rafting, hiking and ziplining.
- River Riders in Harpers Ferry, WV offers several bike rental tour packages. They also offer
other services such as river rafting, kayak tours, and summer camps.
- Get Out & Go Tours LLC offers fully supported bike tours featuring indoor lodging and return transportation along the C&O Canal Towpath and the Great Allegheny Passage trail. Located in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, they also offer local bike rentals for extended business travelers to Washington.
Private Vehicle Rentals
A car rental is probably your most flexible option. This can work if you have just one or two bikes and can break them down to fit inside the vehicle. There are several rental
options along the route (see sidebar). In DC, I suggest looking at
Reagan National Airport, which easily accessible from the towpath via a very pleasant five mile bike ride on the paved Mount Vernon Trail
If you have several bikes, then you will probably need to consider one-way U-haul
or Budget truck. U-haul rental sites are often (but not always) located within easy biking distance of the trail heads (Cumberland, MD and Arlington, VA). Best rates will probably be for mid-week rentals. Trucks are often in higher demand on weekends, so be sure to reserve well in advance.