Biking the GAP Trail
Small towns, picturesque scenery and history. The Great Allegheny Passage has all that and more.
The Ohiopyle trailhead of the Greater Allegheny Passage (GAP) trail is about four hours from Arlington. Pennsylvania’s Ohiopyle State Park offers more than 20,000 acres of rivers, mountains, woods, waterfalls, zip lines and trails to explore. Get permission from the ranger station to leave your car overnight in a remote lot.
All in all, we rode 71 miles over 2½ days. Feeling tentative about your endurance? E-bikes are permitted if they are 750 watts or less and have operating pedals (pedal assist). Note: The Big Savage Tunnel closes every winter from early December until the first week of April, so that part of the ride isn’t doable those months; the rest of the trail is open and also great for cross-country skiing in the winter.
Two Frank Lloyd Wright masterpieces near Ohiopyle exemplify the architect’s desire to create harmony with nature. Fallingwater, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Mill Run, Pennsylvania, is perhaps his most famous work of organic architecture. We toured nearby Kentuck Knob in Chalk Hill, a one-story home designed on a hexagonal module that appears to be built into the side of a mountain. The onsite wooded sculpture walk includes works by artists Andy Goldsworthy and Claes Oldenburg. Both sites require tickets ($30 and $25, respectively) for house tours.
The recently completed Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, is about an hour from Ohiopyle. The site honors the 40 crew and passenger members of Flight 93 who thwarted a terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 11, 2001. The visitor complex includes a learning center, bookstore and flight path overlook. The site also includes walking trails, a guided audio tour that you can access via smartphone, and the 93-foot-tall Tower of Voices, which has 40 wind chimes.
The Cumberland Visitor Center, located in the 1913 Western Maryland Railway Station, provides interactive exhibits on the history of Cumberland, Maryland, and the C&O Canal.
Ohiopyle is home to several tempting spots for sandwiches and treats, including burgers at Falls Market Restaurant, which also has rooms and a hostel in town. On the way to Kentuck Knob, we enjoyed caffeine and sweets at Rustic Joe’s Coffee House.
In Confluence, the River’s Edge Cafe, located in an 1890s farmhouse that also includes lodging, serves savory pastas, pork chops, steaks and amazing desserts. Reserve a spot on the veranda. Mitch’s Fuel & Food is the nicest gas station you’ll ever see, and a worthy stop for coffee, omelets and sausage gravy with biscuits. Lucky Dog Café serves up nachos, burritos and fish tacos in an outdoor setting.
Stop at the Rockwood Mill Shoppes in Rockwood for ice cream, salads and train-themed pizzas, such as the vegetarian “Skinny Train” or the meatier “Whole Caboose,” along with made-in-America goods and an opera house with entertainment options. (Note: The entire complex is closed on Sundays.)
In Meyersdale, at the fun Pit Stop Kremery, treat yourself to soft-serve or a vegan, fat-free Dole Whip. The maple-flavored offerings are popular. Check out the spacious and historic Morguen Toole Co., previously the town hardware store and mortuary (yes, really), for ribs and casual food in a pub setting. The White House Restaurant is a local favorite with a bread and soup bar.
Bikers like to hit the trail early, so many lodgings offer kitchen access or self-serve breakfast provisions. In Confluence, The Parker House has seven rooms, many with local antiques and lovely fireplaces. At Pedalers’ Rest, you’ll have a house to yourself (sleeps eight) with a full kitchen, dining room and sitting area.
In Meyersdale, Yoder’s Guest House has 11 en-suite guest rooms and cold drinks in the fridge to enjoy on the front porch. The turreted Levi Deal Mansion offers elegant rooms and a gorgeous wood staircase, along with locally sourced breakfasts. The Morguen Toole Co. has affordable, comfy rooms in its main structure and the nearby Trailside Inn.
Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, which offers a spa, golf courses and zip lines, is about 8 miles from the Ohiopyle trailhead.
We wanted to bike unencumbered, so we used transport services to schlep our luggage from lodging to lodging. Chuck Gehringer of Yoder’s Guest House and Angela Bonnell of Sunshine Luggage Shuttle made our rides easier. Maple Leaf Outfitters also offers shuttle, camping and hiking services on the trail.
Take the Train: If you’re an early riser, Amtrak will transport you and your bike from D.C. or Rockville, Maryland, to several towns on the trail, including Connellsville (beyond Ohiopyle) and Pittsburgh.
Arlingtonian Amy Brecount White hears the GAP trail is gorgeous in autumn and can’t wait to ride it again.