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Old 06-07-11, 09:29 AM   #1
bwgride
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Pittsburgh Recommendations

A friend and I will be touring on the GAP (Great Allegheny Passage) this summer. We will start in the Pittsburgh area and tour south to Cumberland. So far we have found three starting options:

1. Start somewhere on the Montour Trail (maybe near the Pittsburgh airport) and connect with the GAP in McKeesport.

2. Start in Pittsburgh.

3. Start in McKeesport (this seems to be a common starting point according to ride reports on Crazyguyonabike.com),

Any other starting point options you can recommend we consider?

For those of you who know Pittsburgh --- is this a good city to see by bicycle? Are there scenic areas you would recommend for bicycle tourists? Hows the route from Pittsburgh to McKeesport? Some reports Ive read suggest riding from Pittsburgh to McKeesport can be awful.

Thanks for your help!
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Old 06-07-11, 10:28 AM   #2
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The best thing to do is just do it and have a ball.Take your time see as much as you want and don't forget to take lots of pics so we can see how much fun the two of you had.I have found out that its more fun not to know than to know what might be lol.
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Old 06-07-11, 11:35 AM   #3
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The best thing to do is just do it and have a ball.Take your time see as much as you want and don't forget to take lots of pics so we can see how much fun the two of you had.I have found out that its more fun not to know than to know what might be lol.

Do a search of the forums. There have been some recent discussions about the difficulties involved with getting between PGH and McKeesport.

I lived in PGH for 3 years ago back in '88-'91. I found getting around by bike to be difficult because of the topography. The downtown area, where the "Golden Triangle" (the three rivers confluence) is, is flat and petty compact. Everything else, like the interesting neighborhoods, were always up some big hills or across some bridge(s) that were not easily negotiable by bike. For example, the park up by U. Pitt and Carnegie Mellon Schenley I think it's called) required a pretty good climb. And since there are only so many through roads due to egoligical features, traffic was concentrated. There may be better bike access these days, but I think using public transit may be just as simple. Take transit and take walk on the South Side (where the Polish girls go "do do-do do-do do do-do do") and ride one of the the inclined railways up to Mt. Washington for the view.
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Old 06-07-11, 02:34 PM   #4
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All I can say is that I started from the Allegheny County airport in West Mifflin (where I dropped off the rental car) and it was a great option. A few short miles of road riding to McKeesport, mostly downhill (staying on the west side of the river), and right on to the trail.
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Old 06-07-11, 03:18 PM   #5
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I just finished riding the GAP. I have a bunch of videos on my youtube channel (in my sig). I had a great time, made a bunch of new friends and just marveled at the incredible scenery
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Old 06-08-11, 09:10 AM   #6
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I live just a mile or two from the Montour Trail.

The Montour is not exactly the GAP but pretty darn close. We have a number of bridges and at least 3 tunnels which includes the National Tunnel.

Two problems with the Montour. It is nearly twice the distance to the start of the GAP from the airport area and the lower section is full of detours. Having a local guide helps a lot with detours.

Your other option is to go through the city. It is only 30 miles from my house to the start of the GAP. It is about 63 miles by way of the Montour.

There is a newly open trail that leads at least part way to the GAP and it is wonderful. All asphalt. It starts in Homestead (about 1/3 of the way from the city to the GAP). It gets you around the worst section of Route 837 (though I never thought 837 was that bad). Plus I have a fairly low stress route that gets you up to Homestead (the trail will go all the way from the city to the GAP in November, there is just a short but complicated section to complete).

Both routes are excellent options. It really depends on how much time you have and how much you are willing to put up with finding your way.


PM me. Assuming I am home, I would be happy to lead you either down the Montour or through the city. If you are flying in, I could pick you up at the airport, I live very close. Friday night or Saturday arrival is always best for me.

Last edited by spinnaker; 06-08-11 at 10:12 AM.
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Old 06-08-11, 09:42 AM   #7
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Your other option is to start in Mckeesport as you mentioned. Frankly I think you are cheating yourself as Pittsburgh is an interesting city and the Monour should not be missed either.

But if you don't have enough time then a Mckeesport start might be needed.

If you are driving, do not park anywhere near Mckeesport. I would also include the large parking lot in Boston. Instead you can park at the Yough Shore Inn in Boston. Parking is either free if you stay with her or some minimal amount for the period you will park.
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Old 06-08-11, 06:56 PM   #8
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As QueueCT mentioned. Another option (if you rent a car) is to return it at the Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin. I think Enterprise allows one way.

The road down to the trail isn't all that bad and is pretty much all downhill.

But as I said, if you are flying or even renting then I can pick you up (assuming I am around). That would give you your ride either through the city or down the Montour.

Sometime this year, they are "supposed" to complete the trail from the airport to the Montour Trail. This will be really great if this happens. Eventually, they are supposed to construct a building and stock it with packing supplies, so you can pack up your bike for a trip. Though I think that might just be pie in the sky talk.
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Old 06-09-11, 05:27 AM   #9
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Spinnaker is right about the road from Allegheny County Airport, piece of cake. Though I hit 45mph on the approach to the bridge on pretty rough pavement. Fun and scary at the same time with a loaded bike. A minor correction, Hertz offers the one way rental.

Last edited by QueueCT; 06-09-11 at 05:27 AM. Reason: typo
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Old 06-11-11, 10:27 AM   #10
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Thanks everyone for your suggestions, and thank you Spinnaker for your offer. We are using Uhaul to transport ourselves and bikes from Cumberland, so we have several starting options around the Pittsburgh area. Must now confer with cycling buddy to make further plans.
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Old 06-11-11, 06:55 PM   #11
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Just finished coming through (Williamsport Md C&O to the Northern Tier. Not being familiar with the area I'd recommend starting at McKeeysport or get someone like Spinnacker to guide you through. I did run in to one local cyclist that gave me http://map.bike-pgh.org/#c=trail to find a route out of Pittsburgh.

That said, going north out of Pittsburgh can be a real bear.

And if you can make Frostburg MD (15.5 miles marker) before noon on Friday, Saturday or Sunday they have an old steam engine train that comes in from Cumberland and then returns.

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Old 06-11-11, 07:15 PM   #12
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That said, going north out of Pittsburgh can be a real bear.
I think the OP is just interested in the GAP and C&O. But north out of Pittsburgh is really not all that bad. Take PA Bicycle Route A. With exception of about 10 miles of Route 51 north of Coraopolis, it is actually kind of pleasant. Some of it can be bypassed by crossing the Coraopolis Bridge and north on Route 65 to the Ambridge Bridge then back north on 51. This also avoids a very steep climb on 51.


I would think the OPs choice of U-Haul opens a lot more options, It would not surprise me if there was a U-Haul return right near the Waterfront and the OP could ride the best part of the new trail.

Also there is a U-Haul just a mile or so from my home an the OP could ride the Montour.

Yeah you don't want to miss the steam engine i Frostburg / Cumberland.

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Old 06-12-11, 12:17 AM   #13
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Call Alan at Pittsburgh Pro Bikes in Squirrel Hill and he'll have the lowdown for all your best options. Tell him you read on BF his shop was the **** when it came to all things cycling in Da'burgh. Also, try contacting Danny Chew @ http://danychew.com as he runs the Pittsburgh Dirty Dozen and knows the city and surrounding areas like the back of his hand. An invaluable resource.
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Old 06-12-11, 07:12 AM   #14
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Call Alan at Pittsburgh Pro Bikes in Squirrel Hill and he'll have the lowdown for all your best options. Tell him you read on BF his shop was the **** when it came to all things cycling in Da'burgh. Also, try contacting Danny Chew @ http://danychew.com as he runs the Pittsburgh Dirty Dozen and knows the city and surrounding areas like the back of his hand. An invaluable resource.


Gee thanks for the vote of confidence.
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Old 06-12-11, 09:09 PM   #15
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Gee thanks for the vote of confidence.
No disrespect intended. Just trying to help out a fellow cyclist w/some addtional info sources. Get a life and grow some thicker skin.
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Old 06-13-11, 06:25 PM   #16
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No disrespect intended. Just trying to help out a fellow cyclist w/some addtional info sources. Get a life and grow some thicker skin.

But you didn't. All you did was to obligate someone else to answer the OPs questions.

As a busy business person, I would do my best to answer questions from people, if it brought me in business or not but I don't think I would appreciate someone volunteering me to answer questions via email.

The purpose of forums such as this one is so everyone can participate in knowledge share and do so when folks have the time to participate.
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