The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) stretches 150 miles from the Golden Triangle in downtown Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland. The scenery, history, and smooth riding make it an amazing adventure from end to end (it was the first path inducted into the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame).
In Cumberland the GAP meets the C&O Towpath, which continues another 185 miles to Washington D.C., creating a 335-mile route that ambitious cyclists can do in a week or so. But the GAP is also a great route for a weekend trip, and is ideal for anyone looking to give bikepacking a try. There are a number of free campsites within a day’s riding distance of Pittsburgh, and they’re right on the path for easy access and logistics.
Getting on the Path
GAP trail access can be found in a number of places along Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Heritage Trail, which blankets the banks of all three rivers around the city’s center and act as tributaries for the trail. Check with local bike advocacy group Bike Pittsburgh for specific route planning from your home if you live in the city itself.
If you can’t ride to the GAP, there are good options for overnight parking. The commercial parking structures on Sidney Street in the city’s South Side, near Hot Metal Bridge, offer secure parking for less than $20 a day. Another good option: the Waterfront shopping complex in Homestead, where there’s a GAP parking lot between TGIfriday’s and UNO pizzeria.
Free campgrounds along the GAP, located within relatively easy reach of the city, make it simple and affordable to try bikepacking. The Hiker/Biker campsites offer large open spaces for tents, Adirondack-style shelters, pit or composting toilets, and (in most cases) potable water from April 15 to October 31. Taps and maintenance are often suspended for the winter, so check if you’re going during the colder months.
The campgrounds outlined here are situated 27 to 60 miles from Pittsburgh, offering options for riders of varying levels, and also the option to camp more than one night. No reservations are taken for these sites; they’re all free and first-come, first-served.
Dravo Hiker-Biker Campground
Distance from Pittsburgh: 27 miles
This expansive site sits along the Youghiogheny River, next to the historic Dravo Cemetery (established in 1812). The camping area has two Adirondack shelters (first-come, first-served) and room for up to 30 tents. Visitors will find picnic tables, potable water, a pair of composting toilets, several fire rings, and free firewood provided by the Mon/Yough Trail Council. Bonus: The site has a large pavilion that provides shelter from sun or rain.
Find it: Heading east, the campground is easily spotted on the left hand side of the trail; just watch for the cemetery immediately preceding it.
Cedar Creek HIker-Biker Campground
Distance from Pittsburgh: 39 miles
Located at the far end of Cedar Creek Park, along the Youghiogheny River, this campground has it all: two Adirondack shelters (first-come, first-served), plenty of room for tents, potable water, bathroom facilities, fire rings, and picnic tables.
Want to start a trip here? Cedar Creek also offers overnight parking. Just register your vehicle at the parking kiosk, and be aware that the park gates close at dusk so any car left will be locked in for the night.
Find it: You’ll pass through the bulk of the park, including a boat launch and several pavilions, before arriving at the campground on the left hand side, when travelling east.