newbie's Skyline Drive to DC tour, ideas?
I'm planning a cycling tour from Charlottesville to Washington DC, via Skyline Drive, for a week this summer. From Front Royal, would you recommend going to a) Harpers Ferry and taking the C&O canal trail or b) Purcellville and taking the W&OD trail? Why? Any particular area attractions?
Background: my daughter and I, we're not hammerheads, we're not in a hurry, planning about 50 miles per day, 2 or maybe 3 days for Skyline drive, on road bikes, light touring gear, picnics and restaurants -- not full cooking, hammock camping, some hotels.
I don't *think* there are any places you can camp along the W&OD, so if that's a significant part of your plan, you'll want to take the C&O. Also, the W&OD can get clogged with all sorts of users during the Summer, the C&O less so. The W&OD is pretty boring, not much to see and it gets less scenic the closer you get to DC. The path is rolling hills, no long steep ones, but lots of short steep hills. The C&O is for all intents and purposes, flat as a pancake.
However, the C&O can be rough at points for road bikes. You're closer to "civilization" the entire time on the W&OD, where there are stretches of the C&O between Harpers Ferry and DC that aren't quite as civilized.
W&OD is a bit more practical, but the C&O is more interesting.
Harper's Ferry to DC is much prettier but it can get quite rough as the trail isn't being maintained very well. You'll need to let air out of your tires and hopefully you have fairly wide tires. The terrain is flat and you are mostly in the shade.
Purcellville to DC is smooth but a bit up and down (nothing close to Skyline drive though). The path is paved and there are lots of services after Leesburg. There is not much to see though. After Leesburg it mostly just runs through development after development. From Ashburn on down it follows a powerline so it's in the sun.
The Canal is definitely the better choice if you can go slower and have bouncy tires. The W&OD is the choice if you are in a hurry.
Damn, we both posted almost exactly the same thing at the same time. Heh.