Great Allegheny Passage

This trail currently runs 135 from near Pittsburgh to Cumberland, MD where it joins the C&O Canal Towpath trail. It provides free recreation on a nearly level rail-trail as well as access to rivers and opportunities to observe wildlife.

photo: The Great Allegheny Passage crosses the eastern continental divide as it passes under a road. Photo by Mary Shaw. Type: Backcountry, Rail Trail, Urban Trail
Length: 150.00 miles
Loop Trail? No
Allowed Uses: Bicycling (on pavement)
Bicycling (off pavement)
Boating, Motorized
Camping
Agency: Nonprofit
Entry Fee? No
Parking Fee? No

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Directions

Location: Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, MD
States: Pennsylvania, Maryland
Counties: Allegheny, Westmoreland, Fayette, Somerset (PA)
Latitude: 39.6818   Longitude: -78.80055

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Description

The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) is a 150-mile multiple use rail-trail system between Cumberland, MD and Pittsburgh, PA. Completed in 2013, the GAP links to the 185-mile C&O Canal Towpath in Cumberland and provides a non-motorized, nearly level trail between Washington, DC and Pittsburgh, PA.

The trail has a compacted crushed limestone surface. Following abandoned railroad beds, the average grade is less than 1%. The steepest section is westbound from Cumberland to Deal at 1.75%. Near the Big Savage Tunnel, the trail crosses the Eastern Continental Divide.

The trail is maintained by the Allegheny Trail Alliance, a coalition of seven trail organizations in southwestern Pennsylvania and western Maryland. The group is also charged with promoting and enhancing the trail and providing maps and tourist information.

The GAP received over a million visits in 2016, an increase of nine percent over the prior year. A key feature of the GAP is the Trail Town Program® which focuses on cooperation and economic development around trail tourism and outdoor recreation. The goal is to ensure that trail communities and businesses maximize the economic potential of the region’s trails, while working to improve the connections between trail and town.

A 2008 study of the trail found that, on average, business owners indicated that one-quarter of their gross revenue was directly attributed to trail users. A 2014 survey found that 62% of trail users included an overnight stay and spent an average of $124.58. This has increased by $26 since the 2008 trail user survey. The average day user spends roughly $18.

A popular feature is the Big Savage Tunnel, the longest of three major tunnels along the route. The 3,294-foot tunnel was built in 1911-12 through Big Savage Mountain near the PA-MD border. Last used by the railroad in 1975, the flooded and damaged tunnel was the major obstacle to getting over the mountain between Frostburg and Meyersdale. To have the tunnel drained, repaired, stabilized, and developed for trail use cost nearly $13 million. It was officially reopened in 2008.

The GAP can trace its beginning to 1978 when the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy purchased the first section of right-of-way from the Western Maryland Railway. In 1986 the first of many rail-trail conversion projects route opened 9.5 miles of trail in Ohiopyle State Park. In June 2013, thirty-five years after construction first began, the final GAP section was completed (from West Homestead to Pittsburgh) at an overall cost of $80 million.

For more information contact the Allegheny Trail Alliance at P.O. Box 501, Latrobe, PA 15650 or email admin@atatrail.org. Visit the ATA website at www.GAPtrail.org.

Additional Details

Width: 120 inches.
Primary Surface: Crushed Rock
Secondary Surface: Asphalt

Average Grade: 0%
Elevation Low Point: 715
Elevation High Point: 2,392
Year Designated:

Supporting Webpages and Documents

Website: GAP website
Website: Photos of the Great Allegheny Passage

Contact Information

For more information and current conditions, contact the trail manager (listed below). For questions, suggestions, and corrections to information listed on the website, contact American Trails.

Trail Management:
Allegheny Trail Alliance
P. O. Box 501
Latrobe , PA 15650
(888) 282-2453
atatrail@atamail.org
http://www.GAPTrail.org/

 

Photos

On the trail between Ohiopyle and Confluence. Photo by Clare Kaczmarek.

On the trail between Ohiopyle and Confluence. Photo by Clare Kaczmarek.

On the trail at the Ohiopyle high bridge over the Yough River. Photo by Clare Kaczmarek.

On the trail at the Ohiopyle high bridge over the Yough River. Photo by Clare Kaczmarek.

 

View of the Ohiopyle high bridge from below at river level. Photo by Clare Kaczmarek.

View of the Ohiopyle high bridge from below at river level. Photo by Clare Kaczmarek.

View of the Casselman River at Markleton. Photo by Clare Kaczmarek.

View of the Casselman River at Markleton. Photo by Clare Kaczmarek.

 

The low bridge over the Yough River at Ohiopyle. Photo by Clare Kaczmarek.

The low bridge over the Yough River at Ohiopyle. Photo by Clare Kaczmarek.

Nothing like standing at the Western Terminus of the GAP and watching the Three Rivers Water Trail action! Photo by Betsy Manderino.

Nothing like standing at the Western Terminus of the GAP and watching the Three Rivers Water Trail action! Photo by Betsy Manderino.

 

The Great Allegheny Passage crosses the eastern continental divide as it passes under a road. Photo by Mary Shaw.

The Great Allegheny Passage crosses the eastern continental divide as it passes under a road. Photo by Mary Shaw.

The Rockwood trailhead features this sculpture celebrating the railroad grade conversion!. Photo by Mary Shaw.

The Rockwood trailhead features this sculpture celebrating the railroad grade conversion!. Photo by Mary Shaw.

 

Riverton Bridge near McKeesport. Photo by Mary Shaw.

Riverton Bridge near McKeesport. Photo by Mary Shaw.

The Wymps Gap fossil bed emerges beside the trail. Photo by Mary Shaw.

The Wymps Gap fossil bed emerges beside the trail. Photo by Mary Shaw.

 

Decorated tanks along the trail near Connellsville. Photo by Mary Shaw.

Decorated tanks along the trail near Connellsville. Photo by Mary Shaw.

The GAP shares the rail-bed with a Western Maryland Scenic Railroad steam train. Photo by Mary Shaw.

The GAP shares the rail-bed with a Western Maryland Scenic Railroad steam train. Photo by Mary Shaw.

 

Public art project of the South Side Works development. Photo by Mary Shaw.

Public art project of the South Side Works development. Photo by Mary Shaw.

Riverton Bridge under construction. Photo by Roy Weil.

Riverton Bridge under construction. Photo by Roy Weil.

 

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