Planning Your Bike Ride on the Great Allegheny Passage – Part Two

Planning your Great Allegheny Passage ride? Here we continue with part two of our planning guide. Read the first part here.

Cumberland will probably be your starting point – it is relatively easy to find a hotel or bed and breakfast to stay for the night.

Frostburg is only 16 miles in to the trail, but if you are starting out later in the day on your bike ride it can be a good first stop. There are lots of places to stay and eat in Frostburg. There are chain hotels and bed and breakfasts available, and plenty of places to enjoy a meal or pick up food for a picnic.

great allegheny passage photo

Photo by jmd41280

Meyersdale is also a good place for a first stop. It is 32 miles along the trail so it a logical stopping point for a first night if you are going at a reasonable pace. You won’t find any chain hotels here but there is a good selection of bed and breakfasts.

If you want to push a little further on the first day or are taking it at a more leisurely pace for the second day Rockwood is also a good bet. You will find some very nice bed and breakfast places to stay in this nice little town.

Confluence is 60 miles along the trail so is another logical stop for day two. Even if you do not plan to stay overnight here, it is a good place to stop for lunch. It is a pretty, small town and well worth spending a little time exploring.

great allegheny passage photo

Photo by Jason Pratt

Ohiopyle is at mile 72. This is a very popular town at the weekend as it is a major center for whitewater adventurers. Ohiopyle can be absolutely packed on the weekend. There are a number of very nice bed and breakfasts, but you do need to be sure that you planned ahead as they are often booked ahead of time.

You may want to skip the next couple of towns, Connellsville and Dawson. The next place to stay, West Newton is 116 miles along the trail. This is a good place to stop, but again, book ahead as there are only very limited places to stay.

Boston is 130 miles along the way. This may be another place to pass by. McKeesport is just a little further, at the 134-mile mark, but really has no places to stay and nothing to see. Duquesne at mile 140 is somewhere you should not have on your list of places to stop either.

Fortunately at mile 144 you will find Homestead. There are plenty of options for lodging here if you want to stay, but you will most likely want to press on ahead the final 6 miles to Pittsburgh. Once you are there you can of course congratulate yourself. You made it all the way along the Great Allegheny Trail.

Planning Your Bike Ride on the Great Allegheny Passage – Part One

The Great Allegheny Passage is one of the great trail rides in the country. It covers 150 miles from Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, Md. It is a highly accessible bike ride with good surfaces throughout the trail. Once you have decided that you are going to take a bike ride along the Great Allegheny Passage you will need to start thinking about how to plan your route.

great allegheny passage photo

Photo by jmd41280

The first thing which you have to think about is how many days you have available for your trip. Linked to this question is how many miles do you feel that you want to cover each day. On average a comfortable pace for most people is around 10 mph on their bike. The speed limit on the trail is 15 miles per hour – but it is unlikely that anyone except the most experienced cyclist will want to travel at this pace.

It is very easy to do the math and see that if you want to travel 50 miles per day you will need 3 days on the trail, but if you have 5 days to spare you will only have to travel 30 miles a day. It is going to be a balance of how much time that you have available and how many miles that you feel that you can ride each day. If you want to take things at a reasonably leisurely place and allow time for taking in the scenery and spending a little time in the towns along the way a 5-day trip is ideal. However, if you have less time a 3-day ride is certainly very possible to complete the Great Allegheny Passage.

When you are thinking about how long to devote to your bike ride it is useful to do a little research into the towns along the trail. The Great Allegheny Passage has the advantage that there are many towns along the way. You are usually no further than 10 miles from the next town. Some places have more to offer than others so it is good to plan ahead as to where you may stop for lunch or stay overnight.

You will now be getting some idea about your daily mileage and fitting that in with the places that you want to explore along the way. You will then need to plan where you are going to stay. There are camp grounds along the way, but you definitely need to plan ahead. Surprisingly, the Great Allegheny Passage is not as set up for camping as you may expect. Camping is only permitted in designated areas. There are some places to camp in the towns along the way, but you do need to plan ahead to get a spot.

If you are considering staying in a hotel this has the advantage that you will have to pack less gear on your bike. Carrying a lot of stuff with you on your bike will slow you down quite a bit. The advantage of course is that you will save money if you camp. The cost of hotels can add up quickly.

There are some towns along the way which will have a choice of hotels which include chain hotels. This tends to save money as the alternatives are bed and breakfasts which can be on the more expensive side. It is easier to find hotels in Pittsburgh, Connellsville, Frostburg and Cumberland. 

The Great Allegheny Passage – Part One

The Great Allegheny Passage is one of those bike trails which you really need to do at least once in a lifetime. You may not believe that the perfect bike trail exists, but the Great Allegheny Passage really does come pretty close. It is suitable for both beginners and expert riders. The scenery on the trail makes it one of those great challenges which is well worth it.

The trail is 150 miles long and runs mostly along an old railroad line. It has small towns located about every 10 miles along the trail, so it makes it perfect for taking things easy and enjoying the experience. You can take your time and always be close to civilization, but get away from it all at the same time.

The trail is suitable for most types of bikes. The crushed limestone surface is fine for most bikes, but many people have a hybrid bike. You need to think about what type of bike will be the most comfortable for a 150-mile ride where you may be doing extended mileages every day. This is probably not the time to test out that new bike to find out if it works for you for longer distances! You do not need a special bike, but you do need to know that it will work for you on those 150 miles. Make sure that all the maintenance is carried out before you leave and remember to pack essential tools and spares for the journey.

The Great Allegheny Passage connects Pittsburgh PA to Cumberland MD. The trail takes you through the beautiful southwestern mountains of Pennsylvania. The elevation never goes more than 2,375 feet, but you are still going to be able to enjoy some spectacular vistas. The gradients are not too difficult, even for a beginner.

The Great Allegheny Passage is very well maintained by a team of volunteers. The whole project took many years to complete.

great allegheny passage photo

Photo by jmd41280

The surface is mostly crushed limestone. However, this is a natural setting so you do have to be aware that sometimes the weather conditions mean that the trail can be blocked by trees or landslides. Sometimes trails quickly become difficult to pass because of erosion.

If you want to just travel on the paved surface you should start at the Pittsburgh end of the trail. You will have about 15 miles of paved surface before you run into the crushed limestone surface.

If you are going on a bike ride you must always consider the elevation and gradient. The Great Allegheny Passage some changes in elevation. The highest point is close to Deal where it crosses the Eastern Continental Divide. Here you will be 2,375 above sea level. If you are heading towards the C & O Canal you will be on the trail which drops 1,754 feet in 24 miles. Those heading to the west have a much gentler slope – over 24 miles the slope is 1,664 feet. Really, the Great Allegheny Passage is very manageable. Much of the trail runs alongside on old railway, so none of the ground has too much of a slope. Most of the time you will feel as though you are going on flat ground as the elevation changes are very gradual.

 

The Great Allegheny Passage – Part Two

The Great Allegheny Passage has a bike speed limit of 15 mph. This is a pretty quick pace unless you are a more experienced cyclist. You will want to work out how many miles you comfortably want to do in a day so that you can plan your stopping points. There are small towns about every 10 miles around the trail so you will never be very far away from a place to pick up supplies or find shelter. If you want to travel at a very reasonable pace you should budget for around 30 miles a day. You will have to decide how many days you can devote to biking the Great Allegheny Passage. It can be done in a weekend, but most people will want to spend more time so that the ride is not so strenuous and that they can take their time to enjoy the process.

bicycle tent photo

Photo by theslowlane

Many people camp along the way. You do have to make sure you are camping in one of the designated areas. The only problem with camping is that the locations of the camp grounds are not necessarily the best for the trail. Many of the camp grounds are primitive and quite a way from the trail. The other thing which you have to think about is how much gear you will have to carry with you if you are camping. This can weigh you down quite a lot, so you need to take that into consideration when working out your daily mileage.

You can also consider staying in one of the local towns along the way. If you want to do that you need to plan ahead – the trail is popular and the good places get booked up fast. Some of the towns have chain hotels, but most are small bed and breakfast places. These have a very limited number of rooms and most people book ahead, so it is rare to get a bed for the night without advance reservations.

Some towns on the trail are definitely more interesting and appealing than others. You will probably not want Dawson, McKeesport or Duquesne on your list of places to stop on the trail and you certainly will not want to stay overnight. However, there are plenty of great towns to spend some time in, either just as a lunch stop or to stay overnight. Confluence and Ohiopyle are great small towns with a good selection of places to eat and stay. Cumberland will either be your starting or finishing point and it is certainly worth spending some time here. There are lots of places to stay including some chain hotels. It is always good to seek out one of the charming bed and breakfasts to make the most of your stay.

A bike ride on The Great Allegheny Passage is something that you should have on your wish list. With some careful planning you will have a great experience on this beautiful trail.

Great Allegheny Passage: Place to Stay Along the Way – Part Two

bike touring photo

Photo by k.steudel

 

 

We continue where we left off on the GAP trail with Confluence.  Check out part one here.

Places to Stay in Confluence

Confluence is a delightful small town which is located about 60 miles into the trail.

  • The River’s Edge is a great place to stay. Built in 1930 it stands at the side of the Youghiogheny River. The bed and breakfast offers a choice of three rooms, one of which has a private bathroom. The continental breakfast is simple, but adequate offering a choice of cereal, muffins, juice, coffee and tea.

http://www.riversedgecafebnb.com/bed-and-breakfast/

Places to Stay in Connellsville

This is another town along the trail where it is well worth spending a little time. It is around the 88 mile marker of the trail. The town once had a bustling economy as it was home to many coke factories. Those days are long gone, but the town is still worth a stop if you are traveling on the trail.

  • Fox Castle has four rooms to choose from with such names as the Frank Lloyd Wright Room and the Marquis de Lafayette Room. Whilst the names are rather more grand than the actual reality, the rooms are comfortable and reasonably well furnished. All rooms have a private bathroom. The breakfast here is excellent. You will certainly not leave hungry after the hearty fare on offer which could even include fresh baked apple pie.

http://www.foxcastlebedandbreakfast.com/

Places to Stay in West Newton

West Newton is at the 116 mile mark and is an excellent place to stay along the trail. It is home to the Trail Head Visitor’s Center.

  • Bright Morning Bed and Breakfast, Annex Inn, Willow Springs and Station View are all housed on the same site and owned by the same person. The business has grown a lot over the years and so the owers added more buildings and rooms. Guests all have access to the facilities of the main common areas.
  • Rooms are very simply furnished, but are comfortable. All have a private bathroom.They offer a cooked breakfast and will even prepare a bagged lunch for your bike ride.

http://www.brightmorning.net/

Great Allegheny Passage: Place to Stay Along the Way – Part One

bike hotel photo

Photo by smilygrl

If you are riding your bike on the Great Allegheny Passage there are some places to camp. However, if you want to make your journey a little more comfortable you may want to consider staying in one of the bed and breakfasts along the way. We’ve spoken to lots of people that have traveled the trail, from hardworking plumbers in New Jersey to teachers from Maryland.  Everyone has their own idea of the perfect bicycle touring trip, and you can find most of these options on the GAP trail. Here are some ideas of the best places to stay close to the Great Allegheny Passage.

Places to Stay in Cumberland

This is at the very start of the trail, so you may want to stay here on either the first or last day of your bike ride. Cumberland is a great little town with a good choice of places to stay and eat. You will also find bike supply and rental stores.

  • Bruce House Inn offers a very comfortable place to stay overnight in Cumberland. The hotel was originally owned by someone who was reputed to have been a descendent of Robert the Bruce of Scotland. The house itself was built in 1840 in an unusual Federal Italianate style. This means large windows and high ceilings are a feature of the house.

There are six beautifully decorated and spacious rooms to choose from. One of the best features of your stay here will be the delicious home cooked breakfast – just the thing that you need to prepare you for the long bike ride ahead!

http://www.brucehouseinn.com/index.php

  • The Inn at Decatur is another historic building in the town which is a good place to stay before you embark on the challenge of the Great Allegheny Passage. The house dates back to 1870 and is now run as a bed and breakfast. The owners also run Mountain Getaway Rous and Mountainside Bike Tours, so understand very well the needs of those biking on the trail.

There are just two rooms in this very pleasant inn. As a nice touch they are named after the owners grandchildren George and Kaliya. The rooms are spacious an nicely decorated. Be aware that there are no televisions in either of the rooms. Breakfast is a home cooked meal with lots of things to choose from. The breakfast room can best be described as cozy – just a small table for four people. However, the food is plentiful and the small space makes for a great place to chat with fellow guests and the very friendly owner.

Places to Stay in Frostburg

You will arrive in the charming town of Frostburg around the mile 16 point of the Great Allegheny Passage. There are a number of restaurants and shops in the town, as well as some good lodging options.

  • The Trail Inn has 12 rooms in the main building ad an additional space at the back for people who want to camp. The camp ground is a good option with showers, picnic tables and barbecue grills available. Prices are very reasonable to camp here.

If you are looking for comfortable lodgings the Trail Inn also offers a variety of room options. There are some rooms with their own bathroom and others even have access to a shared kitchen. Most of the rooms are supplied with a breakfast food basket upon arrival.

http://www.trailinnatfrostburg.com/Default.aspx

  • Savage River Lodge is the place to choose if you are looking for a very comfortable place to stay. Here you will find peace and quiet – the Lodge is surrounded by 700 acres of State Forest Lands. The main lodge houses an excellent restaurant and a library with a large collection of books.

Guests of the Savage River Lodge can choose between staying in one of the cabins or a yurt. The cabins are all very nicely furnished and appointed. They are two story and have a sleeping loft and a main floor living area. There is a good sized bathroom with a soaking tub. You will enjoy sitting on the porch on the traditional rocking chairs. They offer three different types of cabins, with the Premier Cabin being located in the most secluded locations. You will find a breakfast basket of muffins and orange juice on your porch every morning.

You may also want to choose one of the yurts at the lodge. Glamping has reached Frostburg! All of the eight yurts provide a luxury place to stay in the grounds of the lodge. Each of the yurts is 30 feet in diameter and offers a king sized bed with luxury linens. All of the yurts have a private bathroom with a shower. You can relax on the deck of your own private yurt. If you are staying in a yurt you will also get the breakfast basket to enjoy every morning.

http://www.savageriverlodge.com/

Need more places?  Click for part two.

 

The Allegheny River Trail – A Spectacular Journey

allegheny river trail photo

Photo by Mike Procario

The Allegheny River Trail is the perfect setting for a picture perfect, not too strenuous bike ride. This 32 mile trail offers hikers and bikers an idyllic setting to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

The trail is follows the path of the old, long since defunct, Allegheny Valley Railroad. It is paved with smooth ashphalt so is ideal for biking as well as hiking. The surface is smooth and most of the path is about 10 feet wide, so a perfect surface for a bike ride. The surrounding scenery is stunning and varied. It is well worth making the trip on the Allegheny River Trail.

One of the first landmarks that you will reach is the Belmar Bridge, which is just about 5 miles from the start of the trail. This very distinctive red colored bridge was built in 1907.

One of the most interesting features of the Allegheny River Trail is the Rockland Tunnel. This is not for you if you have a fear of the dark as it is unlit! Remember to bring your flashlight so that you can navigate through the 2,868 long tunnel.

You know when you are getting close to the tunnel as you feel a drop in temperature. If bats are not your thing the Rockland Tunnel is best avoided as many of these feared creatures have made it their home! However, if you can put any fears aside it is an interesting experience to ride through the Tunnel.

Once you have emerged from the Tunnel a short ride away is a beautiful waterfall. The whimsically named Freedom Falls is 50 feet wide and more than 20 feet tall. How dramatic they are will depend upon when you see them. If you are lucky enough to see them after a heavy rains they are a spectacular sight. The water at the bottom of the Falls is a great place to go swimming. You may even see someone jumping off the top of the Falls into the pool below. It really is an idyllic spot to spend some time.

The Allegheny River Trail has an exceptionally unusual feature – petroglyphs. It is rare to see these Native American carvings anywhere in the country, but here on the River Trail you can see the petroglyph carvings on a sandstone bolder on the river bank about 8 miles into the Trail. It is thought that they could date back as far as 1200. The carvings show animals and people, and are well worth spending some time looking at if you are on the Allegheny River Trail.

When we are enjoying excellent trails like this we should always remember that such trails are only made possible when people recognize the importance of sustaining natural places of beauty. The late Jim Holden was a university professor who was passionate about conserving places of natural beauty and making them accessible to all. He and David Howes formed the Allegheny Valley Trails Association. Their first trail was the Allegheny River Trail. We all have them to be thankful to for this amazingly beautiful trail.

The Best Bike Trails in Allegheny County

There are so many great biking trails in Allegheny County it can be difficult to know just where to start! Here is our guide to the very best bike trails in the area so you can get out in the open air and enjoy the amazing scenery.

The Montour Trail

The 55-mile-long Montour Trail has to be high on your list of trails to ride in Allegheny County. It is suitable for the beginner, but also has much to offer the more experienced rider. The trail is part of the Great Allegheny Passage, but if you do not want to commit to the full 150-mile experience, this is a great trail to experience.

montour trail photo

Photo by MissMessie

There are plenty of outstanding things to see on the Montour Trail. The McDonald Viaduct is a highlight. It is almost 1,000 feet long and offers breathtaking views from the top. It crosses over the Panhandle Trail, which you can join at this point if you want to.

The National Tunnel is another attraction of the Montour Trail. It is 600 feet long and as it is curved you cannot see the exit when you first enter. There are lights in the Tunnel, but it is still a slightly challenging ride, particularly in the winter. When the temperature drops icicles can form in the ceiling and ice can cover the floor – so be extra careful.

The Three Rivers Heritage Trail

three rivers heritage trail photo

Photo by Allie_Caulfield

This is a very easily accessible trail. It runs for 22 miles in urban Pittsburgh and offers walkers and cyclists a trail which runs along the Ohio, Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers. The trail is flat and very accessible for everyone. It is a wonderful way to spend some time seeing the picturesque rivers. It is difficult to believe that this tranquil trail is right in the heart of Pittsburgh.

The Great Allegheny Passage Trail

If you want something a little more challenging you will want to plan a trip on the Great Allegheny Passage Trail. This is a 150-mile trail which passes through some very beautiful scenery. The Trail runs from Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland Md.

It is a very accessible trail with small towns located about every 10 miles along the trail. You can plan to ride the whole trail or just a part of it. There are some spectacular highlights to the trail which include The Big Savage Tunnel. This is the longest tunnel on the Great Allegheny Passage and has amazing views from the South End. It is closed from the middle of December to the middle of April due to the dangers of the ice which forms in the Tunnel.

Sandy Creek Trail

The Sandy Creek Trail runs through some stunning areas of natural beauty. It is just 12 miles long, and has a good asphalt surface. The Sandy Creek Trail passes over 7 bridges and through a tunnel. The appeal of the trail is that it is suitable for beginners and more advanced riders who simply want to enjoy the breathtaking scenery.

Top 8 Things You Must Not Miss on the Great Allegheny Passage – Part Two

For the first 4 things you must not miss on the GAP, read here.

5) The Mason Dixon Line

You will find The Mason Dixon Line around the midway point between the Big Savage Tunnel and the town of Frostburg. There is a piece of important eighteenth century history on the Great Allegheny Passage. This important landmark was the result of a land dispute between the British Colonies. Between 1763 and 1767 Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon were tasked with surveying the border to solve the dispute. This has now become an important landmark of American history. The Mason Dixon Line is now accepted as the line which forms the borders of Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware. It also marks the exact point on the land of the boundary between the southern and the northeastern states.

6) Cumberland

The town of Cumberland will be either at the start or the finish of your Great Allegheny Passage trip, but it is well worth planning to spend at least half a day in this quaint and welcoming place. There are plenty of shops to pick up supplies and restaurants to satisfy your hunger. If you need a caffeine fix to get your motivated to ride the trail stop by Mark’s Café and enjoy an excellent cup of coffee and maybe a pastry. If you are looking for something a little more substantial, the Crabby Pig is a local favorite. They are best known for their hand pulled pork sandwiches.

7) Confluence

This is another trail town which is worth taking some time to include on your itinerary. It is one of the most attractive of all of the small towns along the route. There isn’t too much here but you will find a couple of cafes, a restaurant and some bed and breakfasts. It is a nice place to stop and relax before heading on out back onto the trail.

8) The Eastern Continental Divide

eastern continental divide allegheny photo

Photo by Nicholas_T

The Eastern Continental Divide marks the highest point on the Great Allegheny Passage. This point is of great geographical significance as it marks the divide between the Atlantic Seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico watershed. This is not only geographically important point, but an historically important one too. Up to the year 1760 it marked the divide between French and British colonies in North America.

The good news for cyclists is that once you have reached this point, the ride gets a lot easier as you will be going downhill! The view from the top is well worth seeing as well.

Top 8 Things You Must Not Miss on the Great Allegheny Passage – Part One

The Great Allegheny Passage took almost forty years to complete. This excellent trail which goes from Pittsburgh to Cumberland travels some 150 miles along the old Western Maryland railway track. The Great Allegheny Passage is a great trail for both beginners and more advanced cyclists. The trail is very well marked and paved.

allegheny passage photo

Photo by Trains & Trails

You can tackle the whole trail in a weekend, or take a much more leisurely pace and spend time enjoying all the sights. The trail has the advantage that you are never very far away from one of the small towns which run alongside the route. There are towns about every ten miles along the trail – you can take some time to stop for lunch and explore, or use them as a place to stay overnight.

There are many highlights on the Great Allegheny Passage and everyone has their own favorites. However, these are the ones which we think you absolutely must make sure that you do not let pass you by.

1) The Big Savage Tunnel

 

big savage tunnel photo

Photo by Dr. T

This was one of the most difficult parts of the trail in the whole project. It cost $12.5 million to restore the tunnel, but there was literally no way around the problem. It remained a major obstacle to the completion of the trail – it takes over an hour to walk over it. It was important to the success of the project that it became possible for bikers and hikers to pass through the Big Savage Tunnel.

The Big Savage Tunnel is about 9 miles from the town of Meyersdale. It is closed for the winter as the cold, ice forming weather may cause damage to the tunnel. It has doors at each end which are closed in mid-December and reopen sometime in the middle of April.

Big Savage is 3,294 feet long and is located on one of the highest points of the trail at almost 2,400 feet. The view is well worth taking some time to absorb. Fortunately, the tunnel is now completely lit and well paved. One of the best views on the trail is from the south end of The Big Savage Tunnel. It is a highlight of any bike ride or hike on the trail.

2) Western Maryland Station in Cumberland

Cumberland is either your starting or finishing point if you ride the whole of the Great Allegheny Passage. The restored Western Maryland Station can be a very welcome sight for those finishing the 150-mile trail. The station has been restored to its former glory and now offers steam train rides along the old track. The red brick building is a great example of a Victorian red brick railroad station of the time.

3) The Salisbury Viaduct

salisbury allegheney photo

Photo by Payton Chung

This was once the longest bridge on the Western Maryland Railroad at almost 2,000 feet long. It was built in 1912 and decommissioned in 1975. It became part of the Great Allegheny Passage in 1998. The towers of the structure are almost 200 feet high, so you get a great view when you ride your bike over this part of the trail.

4) The Tree Tunnels

There are some spectacular manmade structures on the trail, but mother nature has certainly provided some of her own marvels for us. The tree tunnels are formed by branches on either side of the trail reaching out and interlocking – you can find them between Ohiopyle and Confluence. They provide some very welcome shade for hikers and bikers on the trail in the hot summers.

For 4 more sights to see click here for part two.