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My Top Tips for Biking the Great Allegheny Passage

I’ve done a lot of amazing things during my travels around Pennsylvania, but few have been more exciting and rewarding as biking 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.

Tips for biking the GAP with your family
My family and I ready to depart on the GAP in Cumberland, Maryland.

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. There are also many other great rail trails in Pennsylvania that you can use these tips to help you plan for as well.

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?

Crossing the Salisbury Viaduct outside of Myersdale, Pennsylvania
Crossing the Salisbury Viaduct outside of Meyersdale, PA.

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.

There is more information further down this page with my suggestions of where to stop along the trail.

Can I ride smaller sections of the GAP?

Biking the GAP with Family
Some sections of the trail, like the part between Connellsville and Confluence, make for a scenic weekend trip along the GAP.

If the thought of riding 150 miles in one trip sounds a bit daunting, you’re in luck. It is very possible to ride only small portions of the trail.

Trail towns are spaced between four and 25 miles apart, with several road crossing and parking areas between each of these. Whether you want to get out for a short bike ride or even walk along a portion of the trail, or want to do the entire trail in stages, doing smaller sections is a great way to get a taste for the trail.

While the entire trail is quite beautiful, in my opinion, the most beautiful portion of the trail is the roughly 30 miles from Connellsville to Confluence. Much of this portion of the trail is located in the very beautiful Ohiopyle State Park, with the small town of Ohiopyle being situated in the middle of the route. You’ll also pass the beautiful Great Passage Falls.

No matter where you are along the trail, it is possible to ride one way and get a shuttle service back from one of the many bike shops along the trail.

Those on supported bike trips, like those from my trip partners at Golden Triangle Bike in Pittsburgh, can even ride portions of the trail on their bikes and skip others in the support van. This is a great option if the whole family wants to ride the trail but are at different biking skill levels.

When should I ride the GAP?

Waterfall along the GAP Trail Ohiopyle State Park
Small waterfalls can be found all along the GAP, especially during the spring rains. This unnamed waterfall was found on the outskirts of Ohiopyle State Park.

While it is possible to ride most of the GAP Trail any time of the year, assuming the trail isn’t covered in snow and ice, the Great Allegheny Passage’s season is considered mid-April through mid-November. In addition to weather, the main reason for this is the Big Savage Tunnel, which closes from roughly mid-December through mid-April. Unfortunately, there is no easy detour around this tunnel, effectively closing through-rides during this time, no matter the weather.

During the GAP’s season, May is the rainiest month between Cumberland and Pittsburgh, while October is the driest. Riding in the rainy season, however, will let you best enjoy the many waterfalls along the side of the trail in their full glory. It is also much less crowded along the trail in the first half of May compared to the drier months of the year. On the other hand, riding during October means you not only get the best chance of dry weather, but you can also enjoy the fall foliage along the trail, which I can only imagine would be gorgeous.

Which direction should I ride on the GAP?

Eastern Continental Divide on the GAP
No matter which way you are biking on the GAP, you are sure to be excited to see the Eastern Continental Divide.

When planning a trip on the GAP, many first-time riders wonder which direction they should head. On your trip along the GAP, you’ll likely encounter riders going in both directions, but it seems like the majority of riders completing the trail travel from Pittsburgh to Cumberland.

During my trail ride, I biked from Cumberland to Pittsburgh, against the advice of most trail experts that I talked to. However, I also heard from others than they prefer the direction that I chose, so it’s hard to say that there is a single best direction to ride the trail.

Unlike many rail trails, where the trail is downhill in one direction, that isn’t the case with the Great Allegheny Passage. While there are rolling hills in places throughout the trail, the two ends of the trail are at roughly the same elevation. The Eastern Continental Divide is located 23.5 miles outside of Cumberland, and the trail climbs in both directions to reach this point at an elevation of 2392 feet above sea level. This is nearly 1800 feet higher than Cumberland, MD and more than 1700 feet higher than Pittsburgh.

GAP Trail Between Cumberland and Frostburg, MD
If biking from Cumberland, Maryland, the GAP is a constant uphill for 23.5 miles.

If traveling from Cumberland, the ride is a constant uphill for those first 23.5 miles. While a grade of roughly 1.75% might not sound like much, it is daunting for an inexperienced rider and should not be taken lightly. However, once you reach the Eastern Continental Divide, the trail has more downhill than uphill, with each trail town being at a lower elevation than the last.

Those riding from Pittsburgh don’t have to deal nearly as much with the uphill climb, with the trail climbing 1,700 feet in roughly 125 miles. However, no matter how slight, you are traveling uphill for 125 miles, which can get tiring on the legs. On the plus side, the last 23.5 miles into Cumberland are an easy coast. I met some trail riders traveling in that direction, and they told me that they were approaching speeds of 20 miles an hour on the downhill from the continental divide.

Having only ridden one way, it’s hard for me to say exactly which direction is best. However, as I said, most trail experts that I talked to recommended leaving from Pittsburgh. Given that advice, I would suggest that as the best route unless you have a compelling reason to start in Cumberland.

Where do you stay while riding the GAP?

Levi Deal Mansion in Myersdale, Pennsylvania
There are many great sleeping options along the GAP like the Levi Deal Mansion in Meyersdale, PA.

One of the great things about the Great Allegheny Passage is that there are trail towns evenly spaced along the path, meaning that you are never far from somewhere to stay or eat. While there are other places along the trail with amenities, there are 12 towns along the 150-mile trail that function as the primary stops. These communities are between four miles (McKeesport-Boston) and 25 miles (West Newton-Connellsville) apart.

During my six-day trip on the GAP, I had a chance to see at least a small portion of each of these communities and stayed in Meyersdale, Confluence, Ohiopyle, Connellsville, West Newton, and Pittsburgh. I enjoyed my brief time in each of these communities, and my recommendations for where to stay can be found in my trip guides (which are linked near the top and bottom of this article) Suffice to say, each community offers a nice place to rest while traveling along the trail.

For those who would rather camp than stay in a hotel or a bed and breakfast, there are also campgrounds along the trail. These range from KOAs with nice amenities to rustic campgrounds that lack running water. However, just as with the trail communities, these are spaced close enough together that bikers can go at their own pace while not having to worry about lacking a place to set up camp.

If planning the trip sounds daunting, consider using a trip planner such as Golden Triangle Bikes. They were kind enough to give me some complimentary assistance on my trip and really know their stuff.

What gear do I need to ride the GAP?

Biking the Great Allegheny Passage - Gear
Figuring out what to pack on your bike can be one of the biggest challenges of planning a trip along the GAP.

Planning a biking trip can be surprisingly different from planning a regular vacation. Despite all of the trips I’ve gone on, several of which involved living out of a small bag for long periods of time, I was still a bit unprepared for what to take on a bike touring trip.

One of the biggest questions that I had was whether I needed to buy completely new clothing and dress in tight fitting biking clothes. While there is a good chance that many of the trail riders that you see will be wearing clothes like this, it is honestly completely unnecessary.  I found a pair of padded bike shorts useful, but I got a pair that was built in to a pair of regular shorts, and could even be removed to be used with other pants. I also found that a regular moisture-wicking shirt was perfectly adequate for the trip as well.

However, just because you might not need entirely new clothes for the trip, that doesn’t mean that you don’t need gear.

If you aren’t planning to ride regularly, don’t have the right kind of bicycle, or don’t want to purchase the gear, renting a bike can be a good option. Bike rentals are available in most of the trail towns for both short and long-distance trail rides. If you are starting in Pittsburgh, my friends at Golden Triangle Bike offer bicycle and gear rentals, as well as the option for a one-way rental so you don’t have to worry about how to get your bike back to Pittsburgh.

Should you want to purchase your own gear, you will need the following at a minimum for luggage: a hybrid bike, a rear rack, and panniers. Many also find a handlebar bag and a trunk bag to be great for additional storage (Affiliate links). As for gear, make sure you have a light for the dark tunnels along the trail, a tire repair kit, a first aid kit, and several containers for water.

Flat tire on the Great Allegheny Passage
Make sure you pack tools for minor bike problems, like flat tires.

Beyond these key supplies, make sure that you pack lightly. The more weight you have on your bike, the harder the ride will be. I made the mistake of carrying extra water in a backpack, which made riding significantly more difficult, especially on the first day’s uphill climb from Cumberland. Don’t make the same mistake I did and make sure to leave ample room for water on your bike.

For clothing, pack something that will dry quickly. Not only will this make you more comfortable if it rains, but it will also allow you to do laundry more easily along the trail. It’s also a great idea to have a set of clothes to change into after a long day of bike riding and rain gear just in case it rains.

Where do I park and how do I get back to my car after riding the GAP?

Rockwood Mural Trail Town GAP
The Trail Towns, like Rockwood, PA, all have parking areas for GAP users.

Two of the biggest concerns that riders have when planning their trip on the Great Allegheny Passage is where to leave their car and how to get back to it. Let me start with the first question.

There are many small parking lots that you’ll encounter along the trail, most of which are marked on trail maps. If you plan to leave your car overnight, GAPTrail.org has put together a great list of parking lots in each trail town. Keep in mind that at some of these you need to register your car if leaving it overnight to avoid getting towed.

If you’re doing a one-way ride, getting back to your car might seem to be a problem, but fortunately, there are several easy options to make this process simple.

Many of the bike shops along the trail offer shuttles for riders and their bikes, whether you book other services through them or not. This can be useful both for day-trips and for trips along the entire passage.

Another option is Amtrak. One train a day in each direction passes between Pittsburgh and Cumberland on the trains’ journey between Washington, DC, and Chicago. Up to eight bikes per trip can be rolled onto the train and secured by the passenger. This service is available in Pittsburgh, Connellsville, and Cumberland (as well as at several stops along the C&O Canal).

Amtrak Capitol Limited Train in Cumberland MD
Amtrak’s Capitol Limited offers a great option for bicyclists looking to travel between Cumberland and Pittsburgh.

When I completed the GAP in May 2016, I opted to use this bicycle service. I was a bit nervous about getting on and off the train in a timely manner, as well as being able to secure my bike, but found that it was very simple. The train stops in Pittsburgh and Cumberland for several minutes, giving you ample time to unload your bike and gear.

If you want to use this service, you need to book your bicycle with your ticket. Train times are unfortunately not great along this route, meaning that you will miss most of the beautiful scenery (and some sleep) if your train is running on time. However, the ride is easy and provides a great option for getting back and forth along the trail.

(It’s worth noting that the Pennsylvanian, which travels across PA to Pittsburgh from New York and Philadelphia, does not allow bicycles as of May 2016.)

Great Allegheny Passage Resources

GAP Halfway point marker
The GAP’s halfway point is located in Ohiopyle State Park.

While I’ve done my best to make this guide a detailed resource for those planning a trip on the GAP, there is too much information to include in one article. Here are a few resources that can help you plan your trip that I’ve linked to throughout the article. Specific recommendations for trail towns will be included in the articles about those towns coming out later this week.

GAPTrail.org – The official website for the GAP Trail. Lots of great information on planning the trail. I’m a fan of their Trail book and their elevation and distance charts. Their t-shirts are pretty cool, too, and a fun souvenir.

Golden Triangle Bike – The website of Golden Triangle Bike in Pittsburgh. They are a full-service bike shop that offers trip planning, shuttles, and equipment rentals. Special thanks to Golden Triangle for providing some of the equipment that we used on the trip.

Amtrak – The page for Amtrak’s Capitol Limited Trail. Bikes can be taken on this train between Pittsburgh and Cumberland (and on to Washington, DC).

Recommended Equipment List (Affiliate Link) – A list I made on Amazon with some of the equipment that I used while biking the trail. If you are looking to buy your own equipment, this is a good place to start.

Biking Guide from Pittsburgh to Connellsville: My guide covering the Great Allegheny Passage from Pittsburgh to Connellsville.

Biking Guide from Connellsville to Confluence: My guide covering the middle portion of the Great Allegheny Passage from Connellsville to Confluence.

Biking Guide from Confluence to Cumberland, MD: My guide covering the final third of Great Allegheny Passage from Confluence to Cumberland.

Looking for other biking adventuring in Pennsylvania? Check out the Pine Creek Rail Trail in Tioga County or go mountain biking on the Allegrippis Trails in Huntindgon County.

Disclosure: This article may contain affiliate links. We will make a small commission from these links if you order something at no additional cost to you.

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38 thoughts on “My Top Tips for Biking the Great Allegheny Passage”

  1. Very good article, lots of goo d info. I plan on riding the trail late September or early October. Any advice on good, reasonable lodging. I am planning on doing it in four days.

    • I’ve got specific lodging suggestions in the individual articles I’m writing about the trail. I’ll be linking all of them from this article in the coming week.

  2. Good information. We’ve biked the GAP from Pittsburgh to Cumberland twice in the past 3 years and enjoyed the ride downhill to Cumberland. This year, in a week, we will be riding from Cumberland to Pittsburgh. We are seasoned bikers who range in age from 54 to 68 and plan to ride the first day from Cumberland to Rockwood. A few are worried about the first 27 miles up. I haven’t seen very many comments from people about their Westbound experience. The grade of less than 2% shouldn’t be a problem but …. Any thoughts? We plan to stop in Frostburg for a short break and then continue onward for lunch in Meyersdale or so.

    • Joni, That’s the direction that I rode in. To be honest, the uphill was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, though it’s 23.5 miles, not 27). However, I had never ridden with so much extra weight on my bike and am not an experienced long-distance biker. I did make it in the end, though. So, it is doable, but it’s definitely a challenging climb since it’s unrelenting for over 23 miles.

    • Hello Joni – The wife and I are in our late 50’s and camp-ride the GAP every year. We have ridden both way’s but prefer the west bound ride. Tackle the hill with the proper mindset and it is not a problem, I do it with 50 pounds of pack. The main thing is to take your time, it’s not a race is it? Plan to lose a few miles-per-hour and stop a few extra times and you will be at the top before you know it. When planning our trips I use a factor of 60% to calculate the climb time. In other words if your daily average speed is 10mph use a speed of 6mph for the climb to the divide. On the plus side, if you are used to traveling east bound you can add a daily average of 1 or 2 mph headed west once you cross the divide. Like Jim mentions most experts discount the slope from the divide to Pittsburgh, but I have done it both ways with full pack and I can tell you it is a 125 mile long hill, and it is a lot more fun riding west.

      • Gene,

        We are planning to do this for our first time this year in 2020. If you could give us some advice on when to stop and how many miles is doable in a day, where to camp, etc… We would appreciate it! I’m just getting started with our trip and am in the planning stage.

  3. My husband and I did the uphill crawl from Cumberland just last week, and honestly, would not try that again! It is a constant 23 miles of pedaling. No leveling off. No coasting. It was tough and we were also towing gear, which made it harder. Granted, the downhill slide to Cumberland was much better, but given a choice if I had to do it over – start in Pittsburgh!

    • I did it the same way you did, and feel the same way. However, I’ve also been told that some traveling from Pittsburgh would rather do it the way that we did the next time. It all depends if you want a very gradual increase for 130 miles or a crazy uphill for 20.

  4. Very true! We loved it, though! We were sick with the stomach flu two days prior to our trip (which made that Cumberland slog so much harder!), so we had to adjust our itinerary and cut off 2 days. We would love to do the whole thing, and do plan on it in the future. Next year, we will find another “rails to trails” route and try another one. We discovered the we love biking and are now hooked 🙂

  5. Hi Jim – very nice article.

    I currently have a 7 gear touring bike which I consider just fine for the GAP. I do not believe that a hybrid bike is necessary and stating that a hybrid “is an essential piece of hear” might discourage novice long trip riders from enjoying the GAP. The trails are in good enough shape for a touring bike. (Not the C&O though, for sure).

    I will agree that I am not looking forward to slogging it up from Cumberland to Myersdale in August on a touring bike – and look forward to investing in a hybrid bike later this year.

    Great piece and I am sure you will encourage many to enjoy the GAP through it.

  6. I have ridden the GAP twice starting at McKeesport as well as sections of it many other times. My first ended at Meyersdale and predated the opening of the Big Savage Tunnel. Each trip on the trail has seen more traffic and more amenities available as the trail towns buy into the concept of cycling as a form of tourism. The people we met have been friendly, food has become more available and plentiful along with more and better places to stay along the way and more bike shops. Camping, however has always been an issue as there is a lack of it along the trail. Careful planning is required if one intends to camp but there are some great places to camp; Dravo Cemetery, The Outflow Campground at Confluence and Husky Haven at Rockwood.

    Several times, some friends and I have started either at West Newton or Frostburg or Meyersdale with a destination of Ohiopyle for whitewater rafting. The up hill from Frostburg to Meyersdale is a bit of a challenge but with the right company, a good set of legs and some energy bars, it is worth the effort to go through the Big Savage Tunnel and to know you are working your way closer to some world class whitewater rafting.

    My advice for first timers on the trail; take your time as there is much to see along the way from urban to farmland to forest. Take the time to experience the trail towns such as Connellsville, Meyersdale, Frostburg, Rockwood and, of course, Ohiopyle. You just might make some new friends along the way or experience small town charm and kindness such as when my son and I were driven to a local restaurant in Meyersdale by one of the people working at the train station welcome center or when the owner of Husky Haven, whom I met by flagging down the first car I saw, allowed four of us to stay on his property in Rockwood before he opened his campground because the GAP brochure for that year showed a hiker/biker campsite that did not exist near the town. It was near dark and we really needed a place to stay.

    For those who are interested, I have a Trek hybrid with some carbon components and usually carry a load of 40 pounds of lightweight backpacking gear including a tent and food. We will often camp where we can legally and do hotels when we can’t and only make reservations if we need to. Flexibility is the key. Not knowing where you are going to spend the night but knowing your options makes the trip more fun, I think. Most of our lives are too structured as it is.

  7. Great info and very helpful on our trip last week! We are a group of eight women, age 55 to 65, and we rode from Pittsburgh to Cumberland in four days, staying in West Newton, Ohiopyle, and Meyersdale. We had great weather, and Sara at Bike-the-Gap.com arranged our accommodations, shuttle service, and luggage transportation. The trail was in great condition, and we thoroughly enjoyed all of the sites and scenery along the way. Our hosts at Bright Morning B&B and the Levi Deal Mansion could not have been more gracious. We also had a nice visit with the owner of the bike shop in Confluence, who was extremely helpful. None of us are athletes, but we all enjoy bike riding and the outdoors. It was an awesome trip, and we would do it again in smaller sections to allow more time to spend in the lovely towns along the trail. We met so many nice people along the way. Our only advice to anyone using the trail on a Monday, be prepared with plenty of food and water, because many restaurants and shops in the trail towns are closed on Mondays.

  8. Best advice i can give anyone considering a trip on the trail – do it!!!! I was 59 on my first ride, not athletic, never exercised besides an occasional hike in the woods & my husband & friends were planning the trip 3 yrs ago Pgh to DC. I was going to sit quietly & read while they biked and my husband kept begging ‘you can do this’….’ no i can’t’ was my repeated reply!!! Finally i gave in & i have to say it was the proudest moment of my life ! Mile Marker Zero is stained with my tears!!! Now 3 yrs later I am actually the one that suggested we do the return trip from DC to Pgh this year!! I think the hardest part is fighting the boredom in a few places and once you ‘break in’ all your lower parts then you have it made as far as pain goes!!! I’ll be 62 this ride & it was a little harder to whip this body into shape with a month or two of weekly riding but I say it is like childbirth this time around…been there. done that, know what to expect & let’s just getter done. Our last trip we had 5 flat tires, all between the same two people out of six!! Take two spares if possible. Ohh one last tip you will thank me for – Take Zinc Oxide (or baby Desitin). You can rub that on anything & everything that hurts with great success!!! Enjoy the sights, it is a beautiful ride. You’ll talk about it for years till people are sick of hearing about it (and make sure you add on a few miles each time you retell the story!!! I think I’m nearing 1000, lol)

    • Thank you. I needed this! Two friends and I are planning Pittsburgh to DC this September of 2019. I will be 72 (female), and they are in their 60s. We are all seasoned road cyclists belonging to the Plano Bicycle Association (N. Texas), so this type of traveling will be a challenge. I have done four days in a row, but not seven, on cycling trips overseas. Planning to be as fit as possible and do more back to back long rides this year with the club. Do you have any other tips? (And I already use Desitin)! Especially cycling on the C&O Towpath. Little bit nervous about that . . .

  9. One postscript:

    There used to be a great Mongolian barbecue restaurant, BD’s, in Bethesda, MD.

    But it recently closed and relocated to Pittsburgh, PA: It’s about a block and a half from the Hot Metal Bridge, which is where the GAP trail crosses the Monongahela River into downtown Pittsburgh. This restaurant is south of the river, south-southwest of the bridge.

    Recommended! 🙂


  10. Our plan to get back to our car (parked in Cumberland) is to rent a car from Homestead and do a round trip to pick up the car in Cumberland. You need 2 drivers to do this obviously, and this will take a little over 4 hours total. Seems much more convenient and cheaper than doing the train.
    I am curious if anyone else has thought of this or actually tried it. There is an Enterprise car rental in Homestead very near the trail and the hotel where we plan to stay that evening.

  11. A buddy and I just got done with a Pittsburgh to DC ride in 4 days. That was a real challenge and wasn’t nearly enough time as we ride until after dark a couple nights.
    Let me say that the slope from Pittsburgh to the divide is a grueling 70-80 miles of constant uphill. It took a toll on us. I’m planning on doing Cumberland to Pittsburgh in the near future. Can’t wait. Cheers!

  12. Get Out and Play! Outfitters (Cumberland, mile 0) we’re a great help when we planned our trip. Shuttled us to Pittsburgh so we could bike back to our cars. They had a wealth of knowledge of the trail. It’s a great ride!

  13. Riding the trail in 2 weeks and continuing on to DC on the C&O… we ride a recumbent tandem and are seasoned riders- will be pulling a BOB trailor- only thing that worries me are the detour around the PAW PAW tunnel and the weather- not being a paved trail and we are riding the “semi” when loaded… any advice for these 2 obstacles??

    thanks- Cindy

  14. We plan to ride the GAP and C&O the summer of 2018. Can’t wait!
    So glad I stumbled on your site. I’d love to hear more about hotel, B&B, and camping options, if anyone has experiences they’d like to share.

  15. Like many readers, I have riden the trail both ways several times (5) and each time has been exciting. The trip is a ride through history. A question was posted about using a road bike. If this is your choice, I would recommend using tires more suited to dirt and gravel and balance your gear as evenly as you can for a better ride. Unlike the C&O Canal, the trail flooring does not have the major roots and bumps with the exception of the section between Confluence and Ohio Pyle. This section is also very crowded on weekends and holidays as it is a popular short trek for families. I have used both a hybrid and Fat Tire bike. Both performed very well the nod going to the Fat Tire because of the smooth ride and hauling capabilities. When travelling west to east, be cautious of the descend into Cumberland. The gravel is thick in places a huge disadvantage to road bikes with skinny tires. Also, there are a lot of walkers most with ear buds that do not hear you coming. Do I have a preference? If you like to climb like me, start in Cumberland and celebrate when you get to Meyersdale. From Meyersdale to Pittsburgh is a joy with great tree cover for the most part, and towns that are very welcoming. Rockwood has an excellent bike shop with a great owner. Cumberland has a top notch bike shop too. Wear sun screen, helmet and carry water to sip while you ride. I use electrolytes in one bottle. Perhaps the best advice has already been said that being that the trip is not a race but rather an experience for most ages. Make certain you have a light front and back. The tunnels are dark and often foggy from humidity. Take your time, you are riding the best trail in the east. Volunteers do a super job maintaining the trail such that you can have a positive experience. Enjoy!

    • We are thinking of biking westward. I haven’t read a lot on families biking the GAP (Cumberland to Pittsburgh), is it suitable for a family (ranging from 8 to 49) to do over a week’s time? I think this would be an epic ride, but want to make sure it is doable for all of us. Thanks for any input.

      • Depends a lot on the ability of the younger kids. The ride uphill from Cumberland, if you start there, is pretty challenging and quite long. Otherwise, the towns are spaced relatively close together that if the kid can ride the distance, it shouldn’t be a major issue.

  16. Planning my 10th GAP/C&O tip and was hooked from the start. Most enjoy sharing experiences with those I meet along the way. Trail system is a great treasure

  17. Pittsburgh to DC right after Memorial Day. See you on the Trail and for a pop afterwards. I’m the guy with the big smile. Cheers.

  18. Any budget tips? Seems quite expensive to have a company book everything for you and shuttle your luggage from place to place. Is it any cheaper to book the B&Bs yourself???

    • VERY easy to book them yourselves. We’ve done it twice and have booked all the B&B’s ourselves. They cater to bikers, and have breakfasts included, places for your bikes, etc. Go to the GAP web site and it will show you a map of the cities along the route, and the hostels/B&B’s, etc. in each city. Enjoy! We LOVE riding the GAP and meeting lots of people and just enjoying the beauty

  19. No, not that I’m aware of. That is what an outdoor company does. We had paniers our bikes, no luggage. If you are taking actual luggage, you’ll have to hire somebody

  20. I read with interest this article. The bike trip goes through areas I am very familiar with. Meyersdale, Rockwood, Confluence are all areas I have some connection to, having come from that area 60 years ago to eastern PA. I was hoping to see something about a side trip to a historic area between Somerset and Bedford that was a major westward route through a gap in the mountains. The area is called Deeter’s Gap after my ancestor. It is located just off PA Rt 31, known as Glades Pike, in Somerset Co, due north of Cumberland, PA. Forbes Road runs through the area and Washington’s troops did camp in a meadow by an Old Church near the entrance to Deeters Gap Rd. (Deeters Gap Road is recognized by MapQuest, look it up).
    John Deeter is my direct ancestor. He was a Revolutionary War Veteran and purchased land with “script” issued to soldiers by Pennsylvania (script worthless other than to buy land from PA). Back Deeters Gap Rd. there is his quarry, where he obtained stone to make mill stones, the remnants of his dam on the creek for his combination grist and saw-mill. well hidden remnants of the homestead and the family cemetery (due to overgrowth that I am too old to clear). These are hard to find. If anyone is interested they may contact me at: [email protected].
    To those that want to trek this area, do contact me. It makes me only too proud to promote my ancestry. I might additionally add that my surname, Tipton, were brothers that were among the original settlers of Baltimore, MD, with Lord Baltimore. I also have information about an old recreational facility between Berlin and Meyersdale that was known as “Tip’s Inn”, that had a roller rink, picnic grove, campground, drive-thru restaurant and other facilities during the Great Depression.

  21. Hi, there! Thank you for this article. We are hoping to do Pittsburg to Cumberland this year. We live in Lancaster, PA, so we thought it would work best to park in Cumberland, get a shuttle to Pittsburg, and ride back. I have a question about the Amtrak you took with your bikes. How far/difficult is it to get from the trailhead parking in Cumbland to the Amtrak station? Same in Pittsburg–Amtrak to trailhead?

    Thanks again.

    • Getting from the train station in Pittsburgh to the trailhead is pretty easy. Just about a mile of flat riding in bike lanes. I didn’t bike from the Cumberland Amtrak station to the trailhead, so I can’t really comment on that end of it. Sorry.

  22. When leaving from Cumberland Amtrak departs at 7:24 pm and arrives in Pittsburgh just before midnight. There are several hotels close to the station. Going from Pittsburgh Amtrak departs at 5:20 am and arrives in Cumberland about 9:30 am. Food is available on both trains.

    • My son was one year old when we did the trip, so we just had a child’s seat that we attached to my wife’s bike. Unfortunately, I don’t have a recommendation for a bike for a 6 year old because we haven’t tried a long-distance ride with a kid that age yet.

  23. In that Amtrak arrives at midnight, could you advise how difficult & dangerous it would be to cycle to one of the nearby hotels?

    • I wouldn’t be at all concerned about riding a bike at the time of night in any of the three cities where the train stops (outside of the normal safety aspects of riding a bike on a road at night).


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