How long should I take? There are two schools of thought on this one. If your motivations is: "Because it is there", then you will probably opt for one of these choices:
Believe it or not, there is actually a fair amount of interest in this option. I don't know about you, but 184 unpaved miles severely exceeds my pain threshold <grin>!
However, for all you "X-People" out there, the current record (totally unofficial) is 11 hours and 41 minutes held by Paul Gruenberger and Ralph Olinger set October 1994. This was a supported ride starting from Cumberland. Paul Gruenberger also claims the unsupported record time of 12 hours and 36 minutes set in September 1991.
If you have a weekend to "kill", you might as well kill yourself trying this fun little ride. For those lugging their own camping gear, you can split this into two 90 mile days. However if you wish to travel light, then your overnight stay options would be either Shepherstown/Sharpsburg or Williamsport. Either way, you are looking at doing a century during one of the days.
This is the itinerary I used for my first two rides. It works out pretty well with convenient stops at Harpers Ferry and Hancock, about every 60 miles. Also, this option allowed us a few moments to actually enjoy some sites along the way.
If you belong to the other school of thought, you might actually want to "see and learn" along the way. The C&O has a great deal of Civil War history. To really experience all the interesting history in this part of the country, you should plan more time so that you can make some side trips away from the towpath.
For those planning to use lodging, you will find that options are very limited
in the upper 60 mile segment. Thus you might wish to break this into a
You can break up the 60 mile day by adding an overnight at the B&B in Paw Paw, WV. This would keep all your riding days under 40 miles.
The Washington Post had a story a few years ago about a canal bicycle trip
For families making the trip with younger children riding their own bikes (9-13), it is probably a good idea to keep your trip limited to about 20 miles per day. Also, plan frequent diversions such as fishing or swimming breaks.
During my 2004 trip, I shared a campsite with Judy and her daugher Libby. They had planned to only do 120 miles over seven days, but has such a great time they decided to extend the trip all the way to DC