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Elevation change comparison

I am planning a Katy ride in May with folks I have ridden with many times before and some have asked about the elevation changes at the western end of the Katy. I crunched the numbers, then compared them with a mountainous section of the Great Allegheny Passage, which we have ridden several times.

These are the Katy numbers.

Clinton 780'

Calhoun 770' - descend 10' in 9.1 miles - 1.099 ft/m

Windsor 890' - climb 120' in 7.5 miles -16 ft/m

Highest Point 955' - climb 65' in 4.2 miles - 15.48ft/m (I'm not certain of the exact location of the highest point, but I think it is near Bryson MO)

Green Ridge 905' - descend 50' in 4.6 miles - 10.87 ft/m

Sedalia 905' - No change, except that the chart indicates a swale between Green Ridge and Sedalia, without giving the elevation of the lowest point.

Clifton City 725' - descend 180' in 13.6 miles - 1.32 ft/m

Pilot Grove 835' - climb 110' in 12.1 miles - 9.09 ft/m

Booneville 615 ' - descend 220' in 11.5 miles - 19.13 ft/m

Here are the GAP numbers from Ohiopyle to Cumberland.

Ohiopyle trailhead 1234'

Confluence at the bridge over the Yough 1329' - climb 95' in 10.3 m - 0.92 ft/m

Rockwood trailhead 1831' - climb 502' in 19 m - 26.4 ft/m

Meyersdale trailhead 2107' - climb 276' in 12m - 23 ft/m

Eastern Continental Divide 2392' - climb 285' in 8.2m - 34.76 ft/m

Frostburg trailhead 1819' - descend 573' in 8.2m - 69.88 ft/m

Cumberland at the towpath - 616' - descend 1203' in 15.5m - 77.6 ft/m
posted Mar 18 2013 1:13PM - Denbo, Louisville KY

I correct myself. The rate of change from Sedalia to Clifton City is descending at 13.2 ft/m.
posted Mar 18 2013 1:18PM - Denbo, Louisville KY

FWIW the data I have on the whole trail indicates for the section you have:

Clinton to Lewis - 13.9m, 2.9m
Lewis to Calhoun - 19.8m, 11.3m
Calhoun to Windsor - 47.7m, 26.2m
Windsor to Bryson - 75.1m, 29.2m
Bryson to Green Ridge - 81.1m, 37.4m
Green Ridge to Camp Branch - 83.1, 48m
Camp Branch to Sedalia - 101.3, 75.1
Sedalia to Clifton City - 140, 135
Clifton City to Pilot Grove - 208.9, 190.1
Pilot Grove to Prairie Lick - 217.6, 225.1
Prairie Lick to Boonville - 244.2, 256.3

Of course, as I keep saying, it's an old railroad bed, so by design there isn't going to be much climbing for distance. Basically computes as "flat". Of course, there are those that will complain, but there's ride routes outside of the Katy that will prove them different.
posted Mar 18 2013 1:42PM - Skyguy9999

The columns didn't copy. The first one is cumulative ascent, the second is cumulative descent.
posted Mar 18 2013 1:45PM - Skyguy9999

You can go here for a graphic illustration of the trails elevation created by mi hermanito.

posted Mar 18 2013 3:13PM - Jim, St Thomas

Sky, I suspect your data presentation is confusing/misleading. Wouldn't it be more accurate to say:

Start/Finish, total ascent, total descent
Clinton to Lewis - 13.9m, 2.9m
Clinton to Calhoun - 19.8m, 11.3m
Clinton to Windsor - 47.7m, 26.2m
Clinton to Bryson - 75.1m, 29.2m
Clinton to Green Ridge - 81.1m, 37.4m
Clinton to Camp Branch - 83.1, 48m
Clinton to Sedalia - 101.3, 75.1
Clinton to Clifton City - 140, 135
Clinton to Pilot Grove - 208.9, 190.1
Clinton to Prairie Lick - 217.6, 225.1
Clinton to Boonville - 244.2, 256.3
posted Mar 18 2013 6:26PM - Paul Toigo, Kansas City

Elevation change??? There is a "little" bit of hill in the Western end of KT, but nothing that should be avoided.

On the mileage chart of this site is an elevation chart you could show them.
posted Mar 19 2013 6:47AM - Figs, Olathe, KS

That was exactly my point. I had seen some comments on this web site about the hills at the western end and some of the folks in our group asked about them. That is why I included the comparison with the GAP, which we have ridden many times and is also a RR grade, albeit much steeper than the Katy. No Problemo. The only hill of any significance on the GAP is the 23 miles from Cumberland to the Eastern Continental Divide, which gains more than 70 feet per mile.
posted Mar 19 2013 7:25AM - Denbo, Louisville

Paul Toigo: Maybe.

Denbo: Most of the Katy (as most of MO through the center part, I understand there's more serious climbs in the south) is mainly short steep climbs followed by relatively equal descents, which is why I formatted the data the way I did. The numbers I posted above state about 332' of climbing between Clinton and Sedalia (35.6 miles). There are places I can think of where you can hit that number before you reach double-digit mileage. There's very few steady climbs in MO because of the geography (the longest one I'm aware of is 131' over about 0.9 mi), but you can find a few scattered about. Point was, as you state. You'll do more work resisting the limestone on the Katy than you will climbing.
posted Mar 19 2013 10:39PM - Skyguy9999

Amen to what Skyguy999 said. Rolling resistance of the limestone is, IMO, the greatest source of resistance on the Katy (and why I like to ride wider tires than most here suggest---700c x 40's that keep me on top). But even the limestone is nothing to complain about, it's just a slower surface than most are accustomed to. I think that as a rule, the Katy surface is easier to ride on than many chip and seal roads.

To that, add that there is usually a level of wind protection (often a great deal of protection) from the vegetation in the railbed, no cars, and no hills: The Katy is my idea of the perfect ride.
posted Mar 20 2013 7:41AM - ArkyKenny

Denbo, I'm checking out the GAP & C&O for a ride into DC to meet my wife in late July. Could I ride by myself and stay at hotels & B&Bs along the way without riding for miles off the trail to a hotel the whole way during the busy summer?
posted Mar 20 2013 8:18AM - DSD

DSD, I think you could if that was your priority and you were flexible in how many miles per day you wanted to ride. There are hotels and B&Bs near the trail and I recommend using the appropriate web sites and guide books for details. On our PIT -DCA ride, we stayed at some places that were a few miles from the trail and it was not too much of a problem. We had a support wagon and enough people who were not obsessed with riding every mile to share the driving and used it on a couple occasions to move people and bikes to the hotel or B&B. One thing we did that I would not recommend is taking White's Ferry across the Potomac to stay in Leesburg. That was a mess. If you are riding by yourself, you may need to be able to do some repairs on you bike or be prepared to push it considerable distance on the Towpath. There are some remote sections without cell phone coverage east of Cumberland.
posted Mar 20 2013 9:47AM - Denbo, Louisville KY

Denbo, I have gone to the similar forum like this one for both trails and I realized the C&O is similar to the towpath canal trails near Chicago (I&M and Hennepin Canal trails) which are pretty unkept for surfaces and isolated for towns and services. I will carry bike tools and provisions but will not have any SAG since my wife will be driving separately to DC. Thanks for the info.
posted Mar 20 2013 11:22AM - DSD

DSD, the good thing about the Towpath is that every mile has a marker and there is never more than 10 miles between a nice campground, with an outhouse, a water pump, a fire ring and a picnic table. The surface is quite a bit different than the GAP and the Katy from what I have seen about the Katy. There is usually lots of deadfall, potholes, roots, rocks and if it rains lots of puddles and mud. It is tough on bikes and people. My brother has had branches break something on his bike twice and we have seen tires take a pounding. In many places the Towpath is just two ruts with grass several inches high in the middle. These ruts will fill with water when it rains. I'm not trying to discourage you, I would do it again, but I want you to be prepared. You might try to match up with someone who is going the same way along the trail for mutual support.
posted Mar 20 2013 4:54PM - Denbo, Louisville KY

I just remembered to tell you that there is a rock slide closing the trail just east of the Paw Paw Tunnel, requiring a detour. You can walk your bike up what is a hiking trail over the mountain. Is is about a mile and a quarter long, half up half down. This could be a problem with a heavily loaded bike. Check all the web sites for more info.
posted Mar 20 2013 4:56PM - Denbo, Louisville KY

DSD, If you're planning a C&O and/or GAP trip, be sure to check out BikeCandO.com. It looks and works a lot like this website, with info on both C&O and the GAP. Disclaimer: I run BikeCandO.com, as well as BikeKatyTrail.com.

Happy trails!
posted Mar 20 2013 5:36PM - Ray (webmaster)

DSD, when you check the site Ray mentioned, you will probably see that the final section of the GAP is being completed at this time and will be complete soon, with a grand opening in June. This will allow an easy transition all the way from The Point in Pittsburgh. We were able to do this before the trail completion of this section, because we were traveling with some local people who had knowledge of the area, but that will not be necessary by the time you make the trip. You are traveling at a time when the days will be longer, allowing you flexibility in finding a place to stay near the trail.
posted Mar 22 2013 6:47AM - Denbo, Louisville KY

I just started planning an autumn ride on the GAP for family and friends and learned that the B&Bs do not want to rent rooms for one night only on weekends from May to the end of October. That will be a problem for a through bike ride if you are traveling on a weekend.
posted Mar 29 2013 2:13PM - Denbo, Louisville KY


I have ridden the trail end to end, and various parts of it many times. To me there are no "hills" ( I am 63), just gradual changes in elevation in certain sections. The only elevation change that is annoying is heading east from Clifton City to Pilot Grove.
posted Apr 3 2013 5:02AM - zbiker, Boonville

As a follow-up on the C&O comments, I rode it last year after a day-long rain and, yes, the first part out of Cumberland was a muddy mess! The other issue is that the trail is actually quite remote, without all the nice "trail towns" that you find along the GAP. There are few towns convenient to the trail for much of the way, so you will have to plan carefully if you're not camping. And be sure you're able to fix a flat (or two or three) along the way!
posted Apr 7 2013 12:26PM - Doug G, Rochester Hills, MI

Tags: Sedalia, Green Ridge, Bryson Modify Tags

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