I’ve done a lot of amazing things during my travels around Pennsylvania, but few have been more exciting and rewarding as my bike trip along the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP). This trail follows the route of the old Western Maryland Railroad and several other defunct railroad companies from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Cumberland, Maryland.
This 150-mile trail is the fourth longest rail trail in the United States and offers stunning views of southwestern Pennsylvania and western Maryland. Of the trail’s 150 miles, roughly 130 of them are in Pennsylvania, cutting through the Laurel Highlands, Allegheny County, and downtown Pittsburgh.
The Great Allegheny Passage took nearly 30 years to complete, with the first nine miles near Ohiopyle completed in 1986 and the last section, from West Homestead to downtown Pittsburgh, completed in June 2013. The trail is relatively flat, with a maximum grade of less than 2%, and, with the exception of a few blocks in downtown Pittsburgh, avoids motorized traffic.
I completed the Great Allegheny Passage in May 2016 with my wife and nearly two-year-old son. We are not avid bikers, having never biked more than 25 miles in a day. Nevertheless, we were able to complete the trail in six days, biking between 11 and 35 miles each day. Our success should prove that anyone in reasonable health can complete all or portions of this amazing trail.
I put together three guides to the trail: Pittsburgh to Connellsville,Connellsville to Confluence, and Confluence to Cumberland. However, I decided that it was also important to put together a detailed guide to answer questions that I had when I was planning our trip along the trail, which was our first overnight bicycle trip ever. I hope that my research and experiences can help you in the planning of your trip and make you realize that this is an amazing trail that anyone can ride.
Please note that this guide only covers the Great Allegheny Passage Trail between Pittsburgh and Cumberland. If you wish to also ride the C&O Canal from Cumberland, Maryland, to Washington, DC, a good place to start is this information page from the National Park Service.
If you have any additional questions or suggestions, feel free to comment below, and I may add them to the article in the future.
How Long Does It Take To Ride The GAP?
The Great Allegheny Passage is 150-miles long and relatively flat. Many experienced riders can do the trail in two or three days. Less experienced riders or those looking for a more leisurely trip usually complete the trail in four to six.
If you, like me, have never done a long bike ride, plan on the side of having too much time. While most of the communities along the trail are small, they all offer amenities such as restaurants and local parks. Some even have small museums. Taking your time on the trail will allow you to enjoy your trip more fully, allow you to rest your sore legs, and possibly avoid poor weather.