How do I get from Herndon, VA to Johnstown. PA
Hi, I'm thinking about getting a bike soon (within a month or two depending on the weather). One of the things I would like to do eventually would be to bike home to see my family. By car it takes ~3.5 hrs., but I have no clue where to get trail info. Any ideas on how to go from northern VA to Johnstown, PA?? How long do you think it will take?? Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks in advance,
I Ride, Therefore I Am
Try the C&O canal towpath to the Great Allegheny Passage. Here's a link
I would think you could ride roads to get there in NoVa and then get off somewhere in PA and hit the roads to Johnstown. I would think you could do the bulk of the trip on the trail.
What is the C&O Canal towpath actually like? Is it generally hard-packed gravel the entire way such that I could ride a road bike to Cumberland, MD? So far, I've only seen the trail near Great Falls.
Originally Posted by BigUgly
Or would I be better off with a hybrid or a mountain bike with larger tires and possibly suspension?
If I needed suspension, then would I need a softtail, or would a hard tail suffice?
I Ride, Therefore I Am
I haven't ridden the C&O nor the Great Allegheny. I only know they exist from reading and hearing about them from others who have. The Great Allegheny is in good shape from what I hear as it is hardpacked gravel. The C&O I have heard is not in as good of shape as the Great Allegheny. I would think a hybrid may suffice. I think you would be alright on a road bike with some trail tested tires on the Great Allegheny. I wouldn't think you would need suspension bikes on these trails.
A lot depends on how comfortable you are on the roads and in traffic. But I would probably not take the C&O towpath. It is definitely hybrid territory. And you are talking a pretty long haul to begin with, almost a double century.
If I were to do it I would:
Take back roads from Herndon and pick up Rt 15N. I have ridden Rt 15 from near catoctin to the MD/WV state line before. I had driven it down to Dulles and would feel comfortable riding that section as well, at least on a weekend (not during commuting hours).
From there I would probably take Rt 40, as it mostly parallels 70W but is 2 lane with a shoulder. From there I am sure there are plenty of secondary road choices that are bikeable. Once you get past Hagerstown traffic should not be nearly as much of a problem.
Calamari to go
If I remember right, route 15 above Frederick is a state bike route. From the looks of it when I've driven that way, it's not a pleasant ride - heavy traffic and no trees. Gmaps shows roads running parallel to 15 that are probably a good option (I think the Cannonball Century uses them). Maybe Old Frederick Rd. The farm country round there is fairly flat.
For Herndon to Frederick, you could cross at Whites' Ferry, Point of Rocks or Brunswick. My preference would be Point of Rocks (I don't know the way up from White's Ferry as well.)
W&OD to Leesburg to Clarkes Gap. Clarkes Gap Road to Waterford, then Loyalty, Taylorstown and Lovettsville Roads to the bridge at Point of Rocks. Also White's Ferry and C&O to Point of Rocks would work.
On the Maryland side, switch immediately to Ballenger Creek Pike at P.O.R. Takes you all the way to Frederick. Maybe someone else can suggest a way to get through Frederick, but Crestwood, New Design, Stadium, Market and Opposumtown Pike might work.
Because I thought I could
I'm going to disagree a tiny bit with cc rider on using Point of Rocks. For starters, unless you get to the Point of Rocks bridge via Waterford or Lovettesville as he suggests, DO NOT USE US 15 to get to Point of Rocks. No shoulder, high speed heavy traffic. I hate driving it. The route cc suggests should work, hope you like rollers and some hills. I've ridden parts of the route, but not the section to Point of Rocks. At least you are avoiding the 1 mile climb going east on Taylorstown from the north end of Loyalty (a staple of the Reston Century). I'd still be nervous using the Rt 15 bridge at that.
I would cross at White's Ferry - take W&OD into Leesburg, go north on King St/ Business 15. Merge onto 15 north (CAREFUL here), then stay on shoulder to turn off to White's Ferry. Take ferry across. You can refuel at the convenience store on the MD side. Herndon via the W&OD and Rt 15 to White's Ferry is about 20 miles. You can also cross at Brusnwick, although I've been advised to not use VA 287 from the W&OD near Purcelville area to get to the bridge. At that, 287 is a lot calmer than 15.
Depending on how much time you want to do this, I would reconsider not using the C&O. You could take it to Hancock, staying at hiker/biker campsites. There is a hostel at the bike shop in Hancock and they may have info on routes north to Johnstown. The towpath might be navigable on 28mm tires and a light touring load, depending on weather and how muddy the towpath is. Should be fine on 32's assuming your bike can fit them. A touring bike or "performance hybrid" could, I know my road bike can't. My son's Jamis Coda is almost as fast as my road bike with the right tires (solid center strip with inverted tread if it gets soft) and carries a load on the towpath much better, so I would not rule out that approach. I used it last summer to join up with a friend's Scout troop to ride into Georgetown. Took me about 2.5 hours to get from Herndon to C&O MP 49 between Point of Rocks and Brunswick via W&OD and Whites Ferry where I met them heading south.
If you decide to try the C&O segment, I suggest a practice run out to White's Ferry and an out and back on the towpath on whatever you plan to ride carrying a representative load. If you have problems on the towpath around Monocacy (one of the better areas on the canal), you're going to have problems further north. The Western Maryland Rail Trail starts in Big Pool, so the last 10 miles or so to Hancock could use that route (paved) vs. the towpath. You could easily get to the Antietam H&B or motels in Shepardstown on the 1st day, probably as far as Williamsport depending on how fast you ride and length of rest stops. Hancock is at MP 124, so making it in 1 day would require about 90 miles on the towpath alone.
Looking a bit more at the info on the GAP trail site, it looks like your best bet would be to exit the GAP at Rockwood and head up through Somerset. US 219 is almost a straight shot, no idea if it is rideable. The parallel state roads might be better. There are bike shops in Rockwood and Somerset according to the detail info on that section of the GAP trail.
I'd ask on the PPTC email group on Google and check out the Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Antietam bike clubs for info on routes up to Johnstown. There is a lot of info on the towpath and on some rides up into MD on the bikewashington.org site. The coTowpath and GAP groups on Yahoo are the best sources for info on towpath conditions and some of the group may have ideas on routes up to Johnstown. I would also contact the bike shops in Hancock and Cumberland and Rockwood and Somerset for their ideas. Good luck!
Calamari to go
I wouldn't use route 15 either. I don't even like the stretch from Leesburg to White's Ferry, but there is no other way.
Originally Posted by ks1g
The Loyalty/Taylorstown route gets you around the backside of the mountain. Not particularly hilly. The last part is a short, mostly downhill that T's at the Virginia end of the bridge. You're only on 15 for the length of the bridge, then turn off at Point of Rocks. I don't like the bridge either, but it's less than a half mile.
White's Ferry is not a bad choice (I just don't know the MD side above Poolesville). Big climb back out of the river valley. If you can get to New Design Road it's a 10 mile straight shot to Frederick (and I do mean straight)
Originally Posted by ks1g
Brunswick is not a bad crossing either - Taylorstown Rd to Lovettsville Rd and LEFT to Lovettsville. The terrain behind Brunswick is hillier than around Point of Rocks and roads to Frederick are busy.
In PA I have no idea on where to go. I was thinking route 30 to route 160, but I'm sure there is a better way. Maybe thru Pittsburgh is the answer.
Calamari to go
Googled "Johnstown Pittsburgh bicycle route" and came up with this
Ride went from Pittsburgh thru Johnstown to near Gettysburg. If you can contact the group that sponsored the tour, maybe you can get an old cue sheet.
Last edited by cc_rider; 03-05-08 at 08:29 AM.
Because I thought I could
Building off cc's success, I checked for Leesburg to Gettysburg and came up with an upcoming multiday ride up to Gettysburg.
Looks like he's taking the long way to get there.
Portions of the Baltimore Bicycle Club's Civil War Century will get you from Gettysburg into the Frederick MD area. One of their other rides or one of the PPTC routes should get you down to Brunswick, Point of Rocks, or White's Ferry. You may want to ask on either groups' email list or web forums for specific suggestions. Since you're in NoVA, I'll suggest joining PPTC (and maybe Reston Bike Club) as well.
(I'd still suggest C&O and GAP to Rockwood and head to Johnstown from there, but I like the C&O and would like an excuse and a free week to ride the GAP. It's a much longer route, however, thanks to the C&O following a meandering river.)
You might ask on the touring and long distance cycling forums as well - someone may have better local knowledge than cc or I have.
Being somewhat familiar with the area, I would recommend using the C&O/GAP to Garrett. At Garrett, cross 653 and take Garrett Shortcut road up to 219. Garret Shortcut will be a steep hill followed by rolling hills, moderate traffic, fair shoulder. Follow berlin plank rd into somerset and take 601 to Johnstown. I'm not sure of the shoulder, but I've driven it, and remember it being fairly empty between US 30 and Johnstown. It will be busy near somerset though, but 219 between somerset and johnstown is an expressway, not ridable.
I would take advantage of of the C&O/GAP, and your ride may be more miles, but may be faster due to fewer steep hills and intersections. Less glass, nails, unmarked roads, and all of that other stuff to make a ride unplesant too. The GAP between cumberland and garrett is very impressive, and is the only way to cross the mountains. There are a few shortcut roads off the C&O also, to cut out some the river bends.
I would expect this ride to take 3-4 days at about 80-100 mi/day.