Review the Greater Allegheny Passage

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.


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.

Tour Day 8

Middlebury – Burlington, 34 miles by car, 38 by our bike route.

The last day’s route involved a covered bridge, a stop at a great deli/grocery in Charlotte, and more beautiful scenery. It started out the same as our previous self-chosen ride with John’s sister and brother-in-law. That gave us a vivid demo of the difference between riding an unencumbered vs a loaded bike. All I can say is wow.

Ready to take off:

We saw art in unexpected places: rock sculptures along the causeway coming out of Burlington, the sculpture garden outside of Plattsburgh NY and this mobile at a lakeside part in VT:

Our intrepid, capable, hardworking tour leaders, Kevin and Happi. Kudos to them for their commitment to making the trip a great experience for us. Their planning was meticulous. Our lodgings ranged from lovely to 50’s style family motels, depending on what each town offered. Most meals were terrific, a few were meh, but that again is the luck of what’s available at each stop. Most certainly we did not go hungry! Each day Kevin and Happi found a store to buy snacks and lunch supplies for the next day. That meant in addition to their own clothes and gear, they lugged pounds of food for our group of 15 as well. They clearly put in many hours finding lodging and meals for us ahead of time and plotting the beautiful route. They even arranged for it to rain only one day of the trip, and that was our layover day. Nice work.

Can I arrange for my whole life to be this way please? Everyday getting up to a great breakfast, followed by a long ride through gorgeous country side, then a wonderful dinner, with beer and conversation, closing with the deep sleep of the well-exercised. It was wonderful. As great as it is to get back home, I was sorry to see the tour end.

Tour Day 7

Rest day today in Middlebury VT. Started with breakfast at the Inn, a stroll through town that included a visit to a local bakery (Otter Creek) and to a small bike shop where John got a Vermont-made tool roll.

Otter Creek

While other members of our tour group went on either 20 or 37-mile rides, or enjoyed Middlebury’s shops and galleries, we relaxed and awaited John’s sister and brother-in-law. They’ve recently taken up cycling, live near the region where we’ve been touring and were able to make time to join us today.

They arrived late morning, and fortified by coffee at the Otter Creek Cafe and Bakery, wanted to try a ride to Vergennes and back. At 25 miles, this would double the length of rides they’ve previously done.

We took off in a light rain, really the first rain we encountered all week. The two of them did a great job handling the hills and the distance. When we got past the mileage they were used to, and a hill became too much (and there were plenty of them on the route) they just walked for a bit.

We had lunch at 3 Square in Vergennes and then retraced the route back. By this time the rain had stopped and eventually we got sunshine.The hills were manageable but seemed a little shorter but steeper on the return ride.

There was one encounter with an extremely large and wide piece of farm equipment travelling toward us on the narrow road we rode along. The driver had to move way over onto the shoulder and we had to do the same to create a few inches of space to allow him to pass us.

Beautiful view along the way.

Tour Day Six

Ticonderoga to Middlebury, about 33 miles. First stop was Fort Ticonderoga, a tiny outpost that played a large role in US history.

From the fort.

Next a 7-minute ferry ride to Vermont.

Once off the ferry, 17 miles of challenging but do-able terrain, with the remainder gentler rollers. We stopped by a covered bridge. The area surrounding it was populated by little spotted leaping frogs. They moved too fast for me to photograph.

Arrived at Middlebury Inn, grateful to find iced tea and lemonade in the lobby after the day ‘s warm, humid and hilly ride. Ravenous cyclists that we were, every crumb of our delicious dinner got consumed!

Tour Days 4 & 5

No Internet connection yesterday, so no post until today. We ended our 43-mile (I think) hilly route (about 2000 feet elevation total) in Westchester. Great weather again. Could not ask for better. The owners of the Lake Shore Hotel left the doors open and keys in our rooms so we wouldn’t have to ride the extra mile to their other property the West Chester Inn, in order to check in. We were very ready for dinner they provided at the Inn that evening.

Earlier in the day, we found this whimsical sculpture garden a few miles outside of Plattsburgh.

Further along the route, we got to see New York state’s "Grand Canyon of the East." Does every state have a "grand canyon?" I know Pennsylvania does.

And finally, this sign and motto on a conveniently placed outhouse:

No new photos today as my iphone’s battery had run down overnight, vainly seeking a signal. We had a short ride of 28 miles to Ticonderoga. Shorter hills that were easier climbs today, other than the short steep one at Port Henry, where a Stewart’s dairy store provided a great rest stop.