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What's between Washington DC and Harper's Ferry

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What's between Washington DC and Harper's Ferry

Old 07-19-19, 12:28 PM
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TheRef
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What's between Washington DC and Harper's Ferry

Leaving Illinois tomorrow morning for Washington DC. Spending a week and staying accros the river in Crystal City by the airport. In a spur of the moment I decided I'll bring my new trek checkpoint and I intend to ride to Harper's Ferry on the C&O path and have the family meet me there to spend a day.
Google maps puts it at 67 miles from my hotel. I won't be carrying anything and I'm wondering what's between the two places in terms os services, food, water etc.
It's very unusual for me not to do research ahead of time so I'm hoping someone here can chime in since I won't have any time to do some proper route planning/research.
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Old 07-19-19, 12:41 PM
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Check out https://www.nps.gov/choh/planyourvisit/conditions.htm

Bottom line, there's some closures you'll have to find a way around.

The path is often muddy after rain, and there's not much in the way of services on the path. You can probably find water (if the NPS haven't turned off spigots) to resupply once or twice on the way up to Harper's Ferry, but take everything else you might need.
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Old 07-19-19, 12:43 PM
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It's supposed to cool down next week.
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Old 07-19-19, 01:52 PM
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Water is plentiful along the way. You can get food in Point of Rocks and Brunswick. Whites Ferry restaurant/store is usually open in the summer. Not sure what kind of services you are looking for. Brunswick has a bike shop. Other than that, the small towns off the C&O such as Potomac and Poolesville have about the same to offer.
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Old 07-19-19, 02:04 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
It's supposed to cool down next week.
Heat index of 115F this weekend. Actual temperature will be only 100.
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Old 07-19-19, 08:11 PM
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Originally Posted by TheRef View Post
... I won't be carrying anything and I'm wondering what's between the two places in terms os services, food, water etc...
You aren't going to be in the boonies by any stretch of the imagination - you will be in the highly populated northern VA region. There are lots of stores, services, food places, etc, right off the trail. Most of the many camping spots along the trail have potable water in trailside pump faucets.

Where the trail goes past Leesburg take White's ferry across the Potomac and visit Leesburg for great food, its lovely historic areas. Bicycle Outfitters is there in case you have a cycle emergency or just to enjoy some time looking at their Trek bikes or talking to the friendly shop personnel. There is an eatery at Point of Rocks right off the trail as well. Be aware the temps will be near 100, so be prepared.

Enjoy the ride. The canal is beautiful, tree shaded, and quiet.

Last edited by momsonherbike; 07-21-19 at 03:19 AM.
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Old 07-20-19, 08:13 AM
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momsonherbike, the OP didn't write anything about riding on the W&OD, though the OP might want to consider that. However, you don't get to see Great Falls if you take the W&OD to Leesburg and then get on the C&O Canal after crossing on White's Ferry. OTOH, the W&OD is paved.
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Old 07-20-19, 08:38 AM
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Originally Posted by momsonherbike View Post
You aren't going to be in the boonies by any stretch of the imagination - you will be in the highly populated northern VA region. There are lots of stores, services, food places, etc, right off the trail. Most of the many camping spots along the trail have potable water in trailside pump faucets. You aren't going to be in the boonies by any stretch of the imagination - you will be in the highly populated northern VA region.
You already said that.
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Old 07-20-19, 08:38 AM
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I do DC to Whites Ferry all the time. Great Falls has a visitor center with regular water and there may be a conventional fountain before that somewhere but I forget where. From Great Falls to Whites Ferry there is nothing but iodine pump water (and more of that along the rest of the way). Better than nothing, even if you are good with fluids you can still put your head under it Whites Ferry is the first place to stop and buy something since Georgetown in DC and they also have a small deli. It gets better from there. Point of Rocks, Brunswick and Harpers all have places to stop and replenish. At POR, if you cross over the tracks there is a non NPS park with a water fountain.

I kind of disagree with the statement of highly populated northern VA comment. There is not much an indication along the C&O of what may be 1000 feet away off the trail, you are in a bubble. It could be a small town or absolutely nothing but miles of land and a single hilly country road, more often than not outside of DC, it is nothing. The trail does not "pass through" much and there are stretches of 20 miles easily like that. The MD side of the Potomac where the C&O is at is not the same as the Northern VA side of the Potomac. I guess what I am saying is.. If you want something to eat or drink, I wouldn't take a random exit off the C&O and just start riding around looking for it. A map sattelite view can give perspective.

I haven't been through Brunswick since May and it required a carry over knee high water crossing. A dude I ride with occasionally went through a few weeks ago and said there was a temp bridge now. Not sure what that means.

One more tidbit.. take some form of bugspray. If you plan on stopping in a shaded area for a breather, you'll be sorry without it.

Last edited by u235; 07-20-19 at 09:22 AM.
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Old 07-20-19, 05:36 PM
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Saw a few small groups heading out from DC yesterday on the C&O. Looked like they were camping out. Not the weekend for that, but I guess they had the trip planned in advance. The high where I live reached 103 and it will be hot and humid at night.
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Old 07-21-19, 05:02 PM
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"One more tidbit.. take some form of bugspray. If you plan on stopping in a shaded area for a breather, you'll be sorry without it."
This!


Harpers Ferry is across a tight bridge, not a problem to carry your bike, but if you bring a lock you can lock it up on the trail side of the river and just walk around Harpers Ferry.
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Old 07-21-19, 05:42 PM
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Originally Posted by archfotos View Post

Harpers Ferry is across a tight bridge, not a problem to carry your bike, but if you bring a lock you can lock it up on the trail side of the river and just walk around Harpers Ferry.

My understanding that this it is a bad idea. I hear there are a lot of thefts from that location. I would take it with me. A PITA but not exactly painful either. One of these days we will see a ramp. I am shocked ADA laws don't demand it.

Last edited by spinnaker; 07-22-19 at 06:55 AM.
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Old 07-21-19, 07:29 PM
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Opps I didn’t realize how expensive the Checkpoint is yea I wouldn’t leave that bike my bad

The beauty of buying used bikes off CL I can leave it anywhere
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Old 07-21-19, 08:08 PM
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I've only crossed over that bridge once and back, both times was easy with my bike, even with a rack and maybe 12# of stuff. Carrying up the steps to get to that bridge after riding all day was the harder part
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Old 07-22-19, 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
Check out https://www.nps.gov/choh/planyourvisit/conditions.htm

Bottom line, there's some closures you'll have to find a way around.
I didn't see any listed. A couple of minor, signed detours. The biggest issue I'm aware of is the bridge washout around 50 miles out of DC. It was closed for a while without great detour options, but when I went through in June, there was a temporary bridge in place. The link seems to indicate that it's still there.

To the OP's question: White's Ferry has a little convenience store with cold drinks and snacks, and maybe sandwiches. Brunswick is a decent-sized town with convenience stores, gas stations, etc. I stopped at a burger/ice cream place, and I'm sure there are other options.

There are likely other options as well, but those were my two refreshment stops on that stretch.

There was quite a pile of bikes locked up on the bank opposite Harper's Ferry, but I also saw a couple of people carrying their bikes over. Mine was loaded with camping gear, so I took my pouch of electronics and locked the bike up. It may be a theft-heavy area, but I saw no cause for concern during my brief time there, and my camping gear was unmolested when I got back to my bike. But if you're going on a day trip, you likely won't be loaded down, so there's no reason not to take your bike over the river as long as you don't mind carrying it up the stairs.
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Old 07-24-19, 11:17 PM
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Saw this late, but I think the section around Point of Rocks might be completely closed without an alternative including road ride.

The W&OD is a good alternative BUT you miss on seeing the rapids of the Potomac and you also have to cross over a narrow bridge to get back on the C&O.
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Old 07-25-19, 09:24 AM
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Originally Posted by gpsblake View Post
Saw this late, but I think the section around Point of Rocks might be completely closed without an alternative including road ride.
How current is your information? This has been discussed extensively, assuming you are talking about the washed out bridge between Point of Rocks and Brunswick. It was closed without detours for a while, but a detour was put in place in late June. The detour seems less robust than the bridge it replaces, so the detour could have also washed out at any point, but I haven't heard that to be true, so if we're talking about the same stretch of trail, it'd be helpful to include the time period of your information.

Also, what about the road ride? I know the C&O Park does not recommend one, but there is a road, 464, that connects Point of Rocks to Brunswick. Is it particularly treacherous? I never had to try it, since the detour was in place when I went through, but in my experience there is often a world of difference between "no official on-road route" and "you can't get there on the road." I don't know those roads, so I don't know which is the case here.
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Old 07-25-19, 12:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Rob_E View Post
Also, what about the road ride? I know the C&O Park does not recommend one, but there is a road, 464, that connects Point of Rocks to Brunswick. Is it particularly treacherous? I never had to try it, since the detour was in place when I went through, but in my experience there is often a world of difference between "no official on-road route" and "you can't get there on the road." I don't know those roads, so I don't know which is the case here.
I haven't been up that way for a few years, but my memory is that road might be acceptable for a seasoned road warrior but probably not for the "I won't ride where cars are on my road" kind of cyclist. The Point of Rocks is a vintage 1930s-40s kind of bridge, about a quarter of a mile long with two lanes and nothing else. The road south of there is a two lanes with no shoulders and is winding for 2-3 miles, IIRC.
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