Great Allegheny Passage - Cumberland, MD to Pittsburg, PA
I learned about the Great Allegheny Passage, the GAP Trail, from a bike trip several coworkers made from Pittsburgh, PA to Washington D.C. over the course of a week. My focus is on shorter weekend trips, so at the time I heard about it didn’t think much about it. However, while preparing for the Wilderman, the only off-road Ironman distance triathlon in the world, I wanted to test myself with a 12 hour ride on my mountain bike (the expected time to ride 112 miles (180k)). The 150 mile (240k) GAP Trail, just a three-hour drive from my house, would be a perfect place for a pretty ride and one likely to take around 12 hours given its packed limestone surface.
While I rode the trail on my mountain bike, this trail makes an excellent first ultra running destination given the services along the trail and easy surface. I wouldn’t recommend starting from Pittsburgh as that section is very urban, but that is the exception, so any other starting point, especially from Cumberland, MD has great scenic views.
My plan for the weekend:
12:00 Friday - Leave Columbus, OH by car with my bike
15:00 Friday - Reach Pittsburg, PA and park at Station Square
16:00 Friday - Get picked up by shuttle for the two-hour drive to Cumberland, MD
18:00 Friday - Arrive in Cumberland, MD and check into hotel (Fairfield Inn and Suites)
21:00 Friday - Go to bed! Wake-up time at 03:00 to start
03:00 Saturday - Go time!
15:00 Saturday - Arrive in Pittsburgh, PA
19:00 Saturday - Back in Columbus, OH and dinner with family
The trip went almost exactly according to plan given the excellent weather and no surprises along the way.
Highlights of the trail are:
Portions that follow the rivers such as the Youghiogheny River
The longest tunnel on the trail, the Big Savage Tunnel
Crossing the Eastern Continental Divide, the highest point on the trail
Crossing the Mason Dixon Line
Hours of quiet solitude in the American countryside!
The GAP Trail is also part of the larger Great Eastern Trail, and inland version of the Appalachian trail, and connects to the C&O Canal Towpath Trail in Cumberland that goes all the way into Washington D.C. Any portion of these trails make for a great ultrarunning destination weekend. Especially if you want to test yourself on your first solo unsupported run. If you are visiting Washington D.C., Pittsburgh, PA or Cumberland, MD, these trails make for a convenient and efficient trip with plenty of shuttle options to get you from your start or finish!
Start: Cumberland, Maryland
Finish : Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Distance : 150 miles / 240k