Bikers  on the Great Allegheny Passage trail

Pennsylvania’s Best Multi-Day Ride

Photo: Great Allegheny Passage Conservancy

Explore a premier long-distance biking trail: the Great Allegheny Passage.

There’s nothing like pedaling for several days in a row with no cars to worry about. One of the country’s best places to experience the freedom of long-distance cycling is on the Great Allegheny Passage. It starts in the heart of Pittsburgh and winds nearly 150 miles to Cumberland, MD, cruising past rivers, careening over soaring bridges, delving through tunnels, and connecting standout parks as it goes. On a ride along its length, you’ll trace the Monongahela, Youghiogheny, and Casselman Rivers; skirt the Laurel Highlands; get within spray range of dozens of waterfalls; and enjoy expansive views over tree-covered hillsides.

The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) makes for an excellent multi-day bike tour, with overnights in charming B&Bs, campgrounds, or small-town hotels along the way. Its many highlights are accessible destinations for a day trip, too. The fairly flat, crushed limestone surface draws everyone from endurance cyclists to families, all eager to explore some of western Pennsylvania’s finest scenery.

The GAP, which was constructed between 1978 and 2013 and links old railroad passages and some other trails, was the first route to be inducted into the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s hall of fame. The classic thru-biking trip takes four days, riding 30 to 40 miles each day; nearby bike rentals and shuttle services make it easy to customize your own trip. And if you haven’t had enough after completing the final mile, no need to stop: The GAP connects to the C&O Canal Towpath for a cycling route all the way to Washington, D.C.

A variety of different bike types work well for a GAP trip, including cyclocross, mountain, touring, and hybrids (a road bike isn’t ideal unless the trail is totally dry). Spring through fall bring the best conditions for a multiday ride, and the Great Allegheny Passage Conservancy maintains a list of lodging options so you can customize your trip according to your preferred accommodations (i.e., campsites versus boutique inns) and preferred daily mileage. 

So what’s all the fuss about? Here’s a taste of our favorite stops, starting in downtown Pittsburgh and riding southeast to the trail’s terminus in Cumberland.  

Bikers wave from the Borden tunnel on the Great Allegheny Passage trail Photo: Great Allegheny Passage Conservancy

GAP Highlights


Point State Park (mile 0, MM 148.8)

The trail’s kickoff point, Point State Park sits at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers. Don’t miss the park’s Fort Pitt Museum, which covers local history during the French and Indian War and American Revolution. 

Red Waterfall (mile 29.8, MM 119.0)

Acidic, iron-rich water gives this striking cascade its name. Though it’s a beautiful combination of red, orange, and brown, the colors point to pollution from coal mining. 

Cedar Creek Park (mile 38.5, MM 110.3)

This lush, forested park sits on the banks of the Youghiogheny River. Its signature attraction is Cedar Creek Gorge, a deep chasm dotted with waterfalls and featuring suspension bridges that’s well worth the two-mile hike through it.

Ohiopyle State Park (mile 76.9, MM 71.9)

This jewel in the Pennsylvania park system boasts 20,500 acres of wild river, waterfalls, gorges, and forest. It’s best known for its fantastic whitewater rafting on the Youghiogheny River, but you can also explore 79 miles of hiking trails, splash on two natural waterslides, and immerse yourself in the biodiverse Ferncliff Peninsula, where both rare plants and fossils can be spotted.

Salisbury Viaduct (mile 115.1, MM 33.7)

The longest railroad trestle bridge on the GAP, this viaduct extends for 1,908 feet and reaches 101 feet high as it crosses the Casselman River. Translation: gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside. 

Keystone Viaduct (mile 119, MM 29.8)

This 1911-era bridge over Flaugherty Creek is 100 feet high and 910 feet long, with similarly impressive vistas.

Eastern Continental Divide (mile 125.1, MM 23.7)

The ridge that separates the Chesapeake Bay and Mississippi River watersheds, the 2,392-foot Eastern Continental Divide, marks the trail’s high point. Once at the top, you have a nice, long downhill ahead.

Big Savage Tunnel (mile 126.8, MM 22.0)

Engineered for the railroad and opened for trains in 1912, this 3,291-foot tunnel now serves GAP cyclists and hikers (don’t worry—it’s well lit). Pop out on the east side to savor an overlook with views into four states.

Cumberland, MD (mile 148.8, MM 0)

The GAP’s eastern terminus, Cumberland, lies along the Potomac River. And even at the end, enjoy a few more highlights: Ride a vintage train with the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, go back in time at the Allegany Museum, or just hang out at the art galleries or the Charis Winery and Distillery. And start planning your next big trip: From here, it’s just 184.5 miles to Washington, DC, via the C&O Canal Towpath.



All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.