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It's a cool idea. There is a fairly wide shoulder on route 7 but I would be pretty nervous about the speed of traffic - it's a divided highway that functions like an interstate. Looks like you could take business route 7 west of Purcellville for a few miles, then 719 to 725 to 734 which gets you to Bluemont. If you get to where 601 intersects route 7 there is actually a large parking area with a connector trail to the AT right there.

I'd guess the bigger reason not to worry about making the AT the target of the W&OD is that you can't bike on it. :-D

A really industrious person could bike from the DC area out to the AT, backpack along it, then ride back, all without ever using a car. It actually sounds like a really cool trip idea. I'd like to see this trail extended.

@DE: a really industrious person can do that now without the trail ;-) In general I'd like to see broadly useful destinations, and the AT just doesn't seem like one. Now if the plan included improved access all the way down to Sky Meadows, which is a really beautiful park with facilities, etc., I think it would see much higher utilization. Similarly, better access to the C&O via Whites Ferry & Brunswick makes those much higher value connections than the AT.

Sky Meadows would be awesome since riding along 17 is right out. But I'm not aware of an old rail ROW there, so it would have to take land (or be put along the road). Not impossible--that's what they did for the Virginia Capital Trail. Not aware of any plans for it though, whereas there have been plans for this.

I've biked out to Bluemont before, doing two-lane roads after the trail ended. I would say that's only for a certain type of cyclist.

There are other reasons to extend it besides the AT. For instance, to make it a full out-and-back century, or to have it extend past current development and be more of a draw.

If you simply want to bike to the AT, of course the easiest way to do it would be to ride to Harper's Ferry on the towpath.

But I like the idea of extending the W&OD trail to the top of the ridge, even if the primary reason were not for accessing the trail. Most people won't be combining hiking and cycling, at least on a longer trip, since the gear/clothing requirements are somewhat different. I can't see riding significant distance while carrying a large backpacking pack.

One cool way to use a bike in combination with a backpacking trip is if you are doing a one-way hike along a linear trail such as the AT. For example, park a car at the route 7 crossing and leave a bike in Harper's Ferry. Hike the trail section, then use the bike to get back to your car (I have done a variation of this).

I was thinking of a bike trailer for the gear, which we've done before for camping elsewhere. I have a large waterproof commuter pack that would also work for light camping. But yeah, it's not anything approaching a sole reason for extending it, just a bit of a bonus.

I've done the bike shuttle as well, for backpacking and for boating.

@DE: well, there isn't a rail ROW anymore past purcellville, either. :) so extending the W&OD needs to be weighed against other projects like the brunswick & whites ferry extensions which are also on the books and presumably would compete for the same money, which is why it's important to consider whether it's making a connection to something that will actually draw a lot of interest.

The connection to Bluemont would be even more useful as the next step to Winchester or Front Royal.

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