Trekkers come from all over to ride the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP). Indeed, being able to say that you’ve completed the entire 141-mile long trail is nothing short of impressive! The longest rail trail east of the Mississippi River, the GAP hosts over 750,000 users per year.
The Great Allegheny Passage originates near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and ends in Cumberland, Maryland, at which point its riders can connect with the 185-mile C&O Canal Towpath to create a continuous 335-mile path to Washington, D.C.
Although the trail presently begins in Homestead, PA, construction is underway to change its origin to Point State Park in downtown Pittsburgh. When complete, tourists will be able to jump on an airplane to Pittsburgh International Airport, hop onto the Montour Trail, connect with the GAP, and ride uninterrupted all the way to Washington, D.C.!
October is an especially beautiful month for a ride on the GAP. In late October, my husband and I sampled the trail beginning in Ohiopyle State Park and ending in Confluence. We chose this section because it is the oldest section of the trail and Ohiopyle is the most frequented trail town. The total distance round-trip was 22-miles.
As you follow the curves of the Youghiogheny River, the scenery of the Great Allegheny Passage will keep you spellbound mile after mile. With such a smooth, level surface and an average grade of less than 1%, it’s almost impossible not to lose yourself in the ride. The miles seem to creep by unnoticed.
While in Ohiopyle State Park, rhododendrons and massive rock boulders line the path. An active CSX rail line chugs along across the river.
Gradually the river valley gives way to small streams and woodlands.
All along the GAP lie traces of the former abandoned Baltimore and Ohio, Pittsburgh and Lake Erie, Union, and Western Maryland Railroads.
Many small waterfalls adorn the trail. We tried to keep a tally, but quickly lost count!
The Youghiogheny River is the source of some of the best white water rafting in the eastern United States. We paused to watch a lone kayaker brave the Class II, Ramcat Rapid.
The trail gives a sense of isolation as it heads towards Confluence.
Upon reaching Confluence, visitors discover why the town’s motto is, “Where mountains touch rivers…and visitors become friends.”
The quaint town of 800 is nestled at the junction of the Casselman River and Laurel Hill Creek with the Youghiogheny River. Despite its origin as an ancient Indian village, Confluence achieved fame after George Washington and a small party surveyed the area in 1754. A guide pointed out how the bodies of water came together to form the shape of a turkey’s foot below the surrounding mountains. Even today the area is known as Turkeyfoot Valley.
Regardless, Washington and his men were forced to turn around in the midst of their attempt at capturing Fort Duquesne because they could not navigate the rapids of the Youghiogheny.
Shortly after passing the Casselman River Bridge, riders cross over another historic bridge dating back to 1896, into the heart of Confluence. Visitors are welcomed with a map of the town and thrust into the center of the town square. There are a quite a few dining options here if you forget to pack a lunch.
Albeit our ride was a short one, it was an incredible adventure. Sharing even a small part of such a long journey is sure to bind two or more people together. Thus it’s a safe bet to say that the Great Allegheny Passage will live up to its description as “the ride of your life!”
For more information on the biking Montour Trail, visit:
For more information on hiking Ohiopyle State Park, check out: