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C&O/GAP Logistics Question

Old 08-15-20, 03:28 PM
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C&O/GAP Logistics Question

Single rider here and no assistance available for drop off or pick up, so I'm wondering how one completes this ride one way and gets back to the start. In addition, where would I safely leave my vehicle while on the trip?

I see that the Capitol Limited allows bikes onboard (right?), so I could possibly take that back to my starting spot (or close, depending on where my auto is stationed). Leaves Pittsburg (to DC) at 5:20 AM, or DC (to Pittsburg) at 1:05, but arriving Pittsburg at almost midnight (ouch!).

Also, other than slightly downhill vs. slightly uphill, is there a preferred direction, especially at is relates to vehicle parking and the train trip?

Maybe rent a car for the day??
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Old 08-15-20, 06:27 PM
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There is a parking garage in downtown Pittsburgh right next to the Amtrak station. Drive there, park, get on your bike and ride to the start of the GAP if you wish, only a few blocks away. At the end of the GAP (Cumberland, MD) or at the end of the C&O in DC, hop on the Amtrak and head back north to Pittsburgh. You'll get in late, but you can head right over to the parking garage and be on your way. Definitely make reservations for you bike as early as possible as those tickets are limited and they go fast.
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Old 08-15-20, 06:29 PM
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Yes. The train allows bikes with a reservation. IIRC, only 5/train. There are two hotels within a stone’s throw of the PGH station.

IME, Avis has a lot of one-way rental options. Don’t assume that you have to drop off at the airport. The first time I did the GAP one way I rented a car in Philadelphia, drove to PGH, stayed in a hotel and dropped off the car near Pitt. From there, I rode to the start of the GAP.
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Old 08-15-20, 06:46 PM
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Unless the schedule recently changed, the DC to PGH train leaves around 4 pm. I prefer west to east, but it really doesn't make much difference which way you ride. Just make sure you add a bike to your reservation when you book.
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Old 08-15-20, 08:11 PM
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For physical, there really is no difference in the direction. Some people like to avoid the 20ish mile climb out of Cumberland heading north. I personally find the GAP a little boring compared to the C&O so I'd rather do the GAP first but it's not a big deal. Others prefer the relative smoothness and consistency of the GAP as the back half...

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Old 08-15-20, 09:50 PM
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I don't care to drive in and around DC but prefer driving in downtown Pittsburgh in order to drop off my vehicle. Also, on two occasions, once we arrived in DC, we spent a couple days seeing a lot of the sights before heading back on the train.
Oh, and yea, you gotta love the 20 mile "glide" down to Cumberland
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Old 08-16-20, 05:32 AM
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On my C&O/GAP trip I parked for almost free @ the Great Falls Tavern Visitors Center (301) 767-3714, a NPS parking lot right on the C and O. From there I peddled into DC and took the train to Pitt. and peddled back to my Truck. Secure parking with no problems at all. Call them to see what if anything has changed with COVID19.
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Old 08-16-20, 08:16 AM
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Also check the official trail sight for the GAP. It might have long term parking suggestions.

Also...Where do you live? Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian from NYC to PGH now has bike service. So does the Vermonter from DC up to Vermont.

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Old 08-16-20, 09:12 AM
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My friend took a bus from Baltimore to Pitt. If memory serves he left late (11ish??) and arrived at the first morning light. It was cheap and he slept on the bus so he saved some time.
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Old 08-16-20, 05:23 PM
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Some very helpful information, thank you! Based on what's been said it sounds as though I'd ride West to East, either leaving my auto at the parking garage near the Amtrak station in Pittsburg or parking at Great Falls Tavern Visitors Center (after verification). The latter might be a better option (like mbusky) if I need to make a reservation for the bike, as I'd have more control of the first day as opposed to making sure I stayed on schedule and caught the train coming back.

Edit - the Great Falls Visitor Center is closed, so....other options like parking in downtown Pittsburg.
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Old 08-16-20, 07:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Ridefreemc View Post

Edit - the Great Falls Visitor Center is closed, so....other options like parking in downtown Pittsburg.
Consult the official website. There is fee parking at Station Square in PGH.

https://gaptrail.org/plan-a-visit/directions-parking
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Old 08-17-20, 04:28 AM
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You should check with Amtrak - they might not have roll-on bike service on that route any more - someone told me they had to box up their bike because of that change.
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Old 08-17-20, 05:56 AM
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Originally Posted by jpescatore View Post
You should check with Amtrak - they might not have roll-on bike service on that route any more - someone told me they had to box up their bike because of that change.
The Capitol Limited has carry-on service for 8 bikes. You can also box and check between certain stations:

https://www.amtrak.com/bring-your-bicycle-onboard
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Old 08-17-20, 06:17 AM
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The way you can normally tell in bike space is available is via the Amtrak advice:

Enter your origin and destination in the Fare Finder (for example, Los Angeles to Seattle). If bike service is available, an icon with a number of spaces available will display.

Select your desired journey option and proceed to the 'Add Ons' step to add bikes to your reservation.
I just did a test try - no biking icon appears for Cumberland to PGH or Washington Union Station to PGH.
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Old 08-17-20, 06:32 AM
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When we rode the GAP they allowed overnight parking at the Pump house in Homestead about 10 miles from the end of the trail. We however used a hotel at Homestead the night prior to our ride and they let us leave our vehicle in the hotel parking lot. We actually came in the day before and rode from homestead down to the Point to "cover" that last 10 miles of the GAP and see the river area, then started the next day south from Homestead. Since we had a tandem (not allowed on train) we rented a car in Cumberland and drove back to Pitt. Other than the train there were also shuttle services out of Cumberland which might give more flexibility than the train since it arrives at something like midnight.
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Old 08-17-20, 06:38 AM
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I rode the C&O on the July 4th weekend and took the train to Cumberland. They had roll on bike service then. If the bike icon doesn’t show up, it may mean they are full.
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Old 08-17-20, 12:04 PM
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Originally Posted by DCwom View Post
When we rode the GAP they allowed overnight parking at the Pump house in Homestead about 10 miles from the end of the trail. We however used a hotel at Homestead the night prior to our ride and they let us leave our vehicle in the hotel parking lot. We actually came in the day before and rode from homestead down to the Point to "cover" that last 10 miles of the GAP and see the river area, then started the next day south from Homestead. Since we had a tandem (not allowed on train) we rented a car in Cumberland and drove back to Pitt. Other than the train there were also shuttle services out of Cumberland which might give more flexibility than the train since it arrives at something like midnight.
I would never even consider parking a car overnight at the Pump House in Homestead. I live about six miles from there. Though they did a great job making that area a nice place to go out to eat and shop, it was built in one of the worst parts of the metro area. It is a high crime area. The hotel is not as bad since they have security, but not the Pump House.
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Old 08-17-20, 05:07 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
Consult the official website. There is fee parking at Station Square in PGH.

https://gaptrail.org/plan-a-visit/directions-parking
Thanks Indyfabz. When I click the link (did that yesterday too) it doesn't take me to any info. Just a list of city names and when you click those a tiny map comes up with an A and a B on the map with no further info. Am I not seeing something you are?
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Old 08-17-20, 05:09 PM
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Originally Posted by jpescatore View Post
The way you can normally tell in bike space is available is via the Amtrak advice:



I just did a test try - no biking icon appears for Cumberland to PGH or Washington Union Station to PGH.
Same here.
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Old 08-17-20, 05:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Ridefreemc View Post
Thanks Indyfabz. When I click the link (did that yesterday too) it doesn't take me to any info. Just a list of city names and when you click those a tiny map comes up with an A and a B on the map with no further info. Am I not seeing something you are?
Yeah. Not well designed. You have to click right on the word “here.” Can be tough if you’re using a phone. Station Square is the only place listed for PGH. It’s on the South Side, along a trail that connects with the GAP.
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Old 08-18-20, 03:04 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
Yeah. Not well designed. You have to click right on the word “here.” Can be tough if you’re using a phone. Station Square is the only place listed for PGH. It’s on the South Side, along a trail that connects with the GAP.
Its like using a secret handshake or code. Had you not shown me that I'd have never figured it out, as I though the word "here" referred to the list of clickable (but get nowhere) links in the list below :0

Interesting that site is not listed in the Pittsburg Parking Authority site.
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Old 08-18-20, 11:42 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
Yeah. Not well designed. You have to click right on the word “here.” Can be tough if you’re using a phone. Station Square is the only place listed for PGH. It’s on the South Side, along a trail that connects with the GAP.
Originally Posted by Ridefreemc View Post
Its like using a secret handshake or code. Had you not shown me that I'd have never figured it out, as I though the word "here" referred to the list of clickable (but get nowhere) links in the list below :0

Interesting that site is not listed in the Pittsburg Parking Authority site.
The Station Square garage is not owned or operated by the Pittsburgh Parking Authority. Rates can be found here: https://www.stationsquare.com/parking/

The PPA owns the Grant Street Transportation Center garage very close (about 2 blocks) to the Amtrak station. It looks like you can park overnight, but interested parties should probably call ahead to confirm. If I'm reading the website correctly, it looks like a less expensive option. Rates and phone number can be found here: PPA | Grant Street Transportation Center

The Grant Street garage is directly on Penn Avenue with segregated bike lanes leading to Point State Park. Be sure to get to the very tip of the Point in front of the fountain for the photo op with the medallion/plaque set in the walkway marking the confluence of the the rivers and history. https://www.flickr.com/photos/evad310/13990610488
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Old 08-18-20, 01:04 PM
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Pittsburgh airport parking is cheap, $8 a day in their extended lot, though I just looked and that lot is now closed due to covid, but they changed the rates for their long term parking to $8 a day. It is a ways out from the start of the trail, but you can ride to it, or Uber to the Point. Just a possible option. Cheaper than parking at Station Square. You can also get a cheaper rate by making a reservation.
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Old 08-18-20, 01:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Ridefreemc View Post
Its like using a secret handshake or code. Had you not shown me that I'd have never figured it out, as I though the word "here" referred to the list of clickable (but get nowhere) links in the list below :0

Interesting that site is not listed in the Pittsburg Parking Authority site.
When are you planning to do the ride? Also, Bike Pittsburgh is a good resource, and here is a thread regarding biking from the airport, not a great option for someone who doesn't live in the area. It's not easy or bike friendly, like most of the area.

When I did the trip, I rode Pittsburgh to DC, and rented a car at Reagan International Airport, and drove it to the airport in Pittsburgh and dropped it off. It wasn't really cheap, but I had few options since it was during Hurricane Irene. I had to wait an extra day for a rental car as well since they were sold out due to the hurricane and cancelled flights. It worked well though, and it may even be cheaper than the train if you can find a deal.

I just found a one way minivan from DC to Pittsburgh airport for $155 total.
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Old 08-18-20, 04:42 PM
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I'm probable doing this at the end of the month or beginning September. My van has a high clearance so I studied the PPA site and they list clearances! I added an exclamation point because hardly any city does this and I've even called to inquire (Asheville) and never received a return call (pre-COVID so they can't use that as an excuse).

I'll look at the airport parking option (and the bicycle route too the trail head), as I was concerned about crime leaving it in one spot for a week or more. Airport parking seems to be better than a lot of garages in downtown areas.

Edit - looks like a mix of MUP and two lane roads from the airport for a little over 20 miles. Maybe not so bad, depending on the time day (and day).
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