Review the Greater Allegheny Passage

 

Back in June 2017, I went on a S240 with two friends of mine on the Greater Allegheny Passage, a bike path from Cumberland Maryland to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. This path is a continuation of the C&O National Park that follows the Potomac from Washington DC to Cumberland so you could ride from DC to Pittsburgh along a pretty nice trail. Our plan was to ride 62 miles to Confluence PA and then return the next day.

We started in Cumberland. This is a cute town in western Maryland that has a lovely downtown courtyard area that on the Friday I was in town had a small crowd listening to a band play not half-bad rock music. I had dinner in a great little bar that had good food and a decent beer selection.

We started at the local bike shop, the Cumberland Trail Connection. This is a great little camping bike shop perfectly situated right on the trail. I got a bunch o packets of chamois butter and my compadres bought some last minutes supplies also. This should be your last stop in Cumberland before you take off. They have a great selection of gear for riding the GAP.

The trail itself is a packed cinder trail that is very well maintained. We encountered a tree that was already being dealt with when we got there. We encountered only one other bad patch the entire trip where the trail had washed out from a butt load of rain the previous week.

The trail itself is a pretty easy ride. You get on it and ride until you hit a town. You are not going to get lost in any of these towns with the possible exception of Pittsburgh. They are little towns that may have had industry at one point at time but now I am not sure how they exist for sure. They are not living high on the hog that is for sure. Basically, you are riding uphill into PA and downhill on the way back. It is an extremely minor grade in both directions. I did not really notice it on the way out and while I averaged a bit higher speed on the way back, it was pretty much the same.

There are three tunnels that were carved for the railroad that are pretty damn long. I had no trouble on the way out but in one of the two unlit tunnels on the way back I freaked a smidgeon because while I could see the end, I could not see the ground I was riding on. Still here so it ended well but it was a strange feeling.

The scenery is amazing.

Confluence, our destination, had a campground that I think was a state park. If you go there, do not get a regular campsite. They are designed for RVs I believe. That is what was mostly there. They suck for tents. However, there is a lovely bike camping area that was very nice. Showers are meh but functional and warm.

We ate at the Luck Dog Cafe and the food was surprisingly good. I know, I am a city snob but I had a great burger and a Fat Tire (well two but who is counting). After a day of cycling, it was a great feast. We also got a huge — think stoner huge — plate of cheese fries with bacon and spring onions. My compatriot got a burrito the size of a nerf football that he said was quite good also. A word of warning, the town pretty much rolls up the carpet at 9pm so you are not going to go hog wild here but after 62 miles, we were good.

As noted, the ride back was uneventful but a bit faster. I stopped at the Queen City Creamery for some great ice cream when I got back to Cumberland.

Things I liked a lot

  • The trail itself. Pretty easy, get on, ride until you get to your destination with minimal road crossings. Trail also had these cool water/tool stops where they had free water, a pump and an assortment of tools that was pretty extensive. This was a great feature!
  • Friendly people on the trail itself and in each of the towns we stopped at. People were genuinely happy to see us.
  • Rivendell Atlantis. Bike handled flawlessly on the trail
  • Swift Industries Sugarloaf basket bag was a perfect accessory. Held food and toiletries for this trip and a few other odds and ends and could have held more.
  • Bike shop was two thumbs up, way up.
  • Creamery was quite good and olde timey…
  • Downtown Cumberland was cute though it could use a few more active stores.

Recommendation

If you are looking for a S24O or longer ride to do in the mid-Atlantic region, this would be a strong candidate. It is impossible to get lost, moderately challenging and accessible to those who are not Lance Armstrong, scenic with some very friendly towns. I would give this ride two thumbs up, way up.

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