As Mother Earth is awakening from her slumber, we can’t help but get excited by all the possibilities the warmer months bring. Two popular hobbies many outdoor enthusiasts look forward to pursuing this time of the year are biking and hiking.
For those who love the outdoors, a must-do trail on our bucket list should be the stunning Great Allegheny Trail, or GAP, as it is known. The GAP is a 150-mile rail trail between Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Cumberland, Maryland.
Whether you walk, hike, run, bike the trail, or are just looking for some time in nature, you are in for a grand adventure.
Although the GAP is 150 miles long, you don’t have to make the entire trail at one time. Along the route, many trail towns and parking lots accommodate your needs. On the GAP, you are never more than nine miles from a trail town, and there are campsites along the way. But before you get started, it is essential to plan accordingly. The TrailGuide is the official, authorized guidebook for the GAP.
Several shorter hikes compose part of the GAP’s route. The section of the trail between Ohiopyle and Cumberland is part of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, which is one of only eight nationally designated scenic trails. Others include The Allegheny Highlands Trail of Maryland and the Youghiogheny River Trail.
The path is crushed limestone with only gradual elevation changes and provides a level surface. The section from Cumberland to the Eastern Continental Divide, 23.7 miles, has a gradual incline rising to 1,767 feet. After the Divide, the trail drops 1,680 feet over 125.1 miles.
No matter how you choose to travel, plan to stop by some of the friendly trail towns along the way. Many of these charming towns are situated on scenic winding rivers and offer cafes, inns, restaurants, and outfitters to make your journey enjoyable and memorable.
Enjoying the GAP during the day is glorious, but hearing the harmonious sounds of the night and viewing the magnitude of the night sky and stars is impossible to describe. If you want to camp along the trail, there are some free, first come, first serve campgrounds and a few reservation-only public campgrounds that charge a fee. Several private campgrounds are also available.