The Great Allegheny Passage trail is also known as the GAP. By combining the GAP with the C & O Canal Towpath trail, you’ll have almost 320 miles of trail… one way! It’s a long haul, no matter which direction you go. Before I rode the two trails, I had numerous people tell me that the GAP trail was much more beautiful, and believe me, it’s gorgeous. However, I found them to be equally rewarding in their own way. I would have a tough time choosing between these two spectacular, long-distance trails.
The Great Allegheny Passage trail is also known as the GAP trail. As of just recently, it starts in Pittsburgh, but there are still some sections that are not complete and will require you to ride on the road. If you want to ride only trail, you may want to start your trip in Connellsville, PA if you’re going west to east, as I did. In fact, a nice way to ride the trail is to fly into Washington D.C., then take the Amtrak train to either Pittsburgh or Connellsville, then ride back to Georgetown/D.C. If you decide to go this route, you will find that you can take your bike on the train if you’re going all the way to Pittsburgh, but not if you’re getting off in Connellsville. So then, you will either need to rent a bike in Connellsville (But then, how do you get it back?) or ship your bike there, as I did. While in Connellsville, I recommend staying at the Connellsville Bed & Breakfast. They treat their guests like old friends and serve a nice pretrip breakfast.
If you expect to be going downhill towards D.C., you’re wrong. At least for the first day and a half, you’ll be heading uphill toward the Eastern Continental Divide. Of course, you’ll barely notice the grade for most of the way, since it is such a gradual climb. Just don’t plan on making great time for that first day or so.
In addition to Connellsville, some nice towns for overnight stays include Ohiopyle, Rockwood, Meyersdale, Frostburg, and Cumberland. Although most trail maps show an abundance of towns along the trail, some of them are just far enough away from the trail to be inconvenient for stopping to re-provision, so make sure to bring plenty of water and snacks on your bike.
There will soon be a trail guide available for your smart phone at Everytrail.com under the name trailking.
Another great source of information for the Great Allegheny Passage is the GAPTrail.org