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GAP Trail 3 day tour - questions

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GAP Trail 3 day tour - questions

Old 05-23-19, 09:45 AM
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riceowls
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GAP Trail 3 day tour - questions

My wife and I are considering 3-4 day trip to Pittsburgh to ride on the GAP trail over 4th or July holiday. A few questions:
1) West- or East- bound? Is there a way that will be significantly better experience or we should do whichever works best logistically with regards to transfer (see below)? Anything on teh way that is a must see - or just ride and enjoy the ride. Will 150 miles over 3 day be ok? We did this mileage on the roads in other tours but not sure if gravel will slow us or wear us?
2) Transfer options -- did anyone try to haul an Uber from Pit to Cumberland, MD or in reverse. The price estimate on Uber website seems attractive enough to consider ditching Amtrak with a 2+ 3+ hrs delays per week and going with that option? Note that our bike Friday will be disassembled and have no issues of fitting even into a sedan trunk. Any bus service between the two ends of the GAP trail?
3) Alternatively, Amtrak one way and riding the other. However, looking over the delays over the last week makes me reluctant. Also the schedule (leaving Pit at 5:20am will make a very tiresome day...).


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Old 05-23-19, 10:21 AM
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Direction is a matter of opion. I like going toward DC for a couple of reasons. First it is downhill from my house to the start of the Montour which connects to the GAP. Also it is a fairly steep ride up from Cumberland to the Big Savage. While others find the long steady gind up the the continental divide annoying.

I have never had issues on the Capital Limited. I will be using it again in September.


I hope you are camping or already have your reservations for rooms. July 4 is bound to be busy.

I would offer to help at the Pittsburgh end but plans, for July 4, are to be touring in Oregon.
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Old 05-23-19, 10:52 AM
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I've ridden from Pittsburgh to Cumberland twice. I've never done the reverse. Pittsburgh to Cumberland is a very gentle (to my mind) uphill for 120 miles or so, getting slightly steeper towards the end, but always very manageable. The you loose all the elevation you gained and then some over the next 20 to 30 miles. So to reverse the trip, you finish virtually all of you climbing in the first 30 miles, but it's a lot steeper. I've never done it. The people I saw going fully loaded the other way didn't look too happy, but it's still railroad bed, so not super steep, and you finish it all at once. Not my preference, but, again, I've never tried it.

I've taken the Amtrak from Cumberland to DC. It leaves in the AM, but not super early, and, yes, it was about an hour late. But that trip was all done at reasonable, daylight hours and might be preferable to leaving Pittsburgh at 5am or getting there at 12am (or whatever time the train comes in. I can't remember.) But I don't know your travel details. Maybe you need to roundtrip to Pittsburgh. The other time I did it, we left a car in Cumberland, took a shuttle to Pittsburgh, and returned to the car over the course of a few days. Can't say the exact price of the shuttle because it was bundled with our lodging through Noble Invention bike tours.
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Old 05-23-19, 10:59 AM
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Originally Posted by riceowls View Post
<snip>Anything on teh way that is a must see - or just ride and enjoy the ride. Will 150 miles over 3 day be ok? We did this mileage on the roads in other tours but not sure if gravel will slow us or wear us?<snip>
Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece, Fallingwater, is a must see, IMO. Make a reservation for a tour.

My friend & I rode the GAP in 3 days on our Bike Fridays, starting in Pittsburgh. No problem. However, if there has been recent rain, the trail will be softer and the riding slower.
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Old 05-23-19, 11:31 AM
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Have you made Amtrak reservations? I'll bet it's a busy week for that train. At least you won't need bike space with the Fridays.

I rode PGH to ***. I used the first three letter of "Cumberland." The censor didn't like it. Liked that direction, in part because I thought the trail got more interesting as I went along. And then there is the nice descent.

As suggested above, reservations for beds could be a deal breaker.
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Old 05-23-19, 11:41 AM
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I just rode it a couple weeks ago from West Newton to Cumberland. A few years ago, I rode out and back from Cumberland to Connellsville. Greatly prefer starting in Cumberland and doing the 25 mile steeper climb on fresh legs, and then a 65 mile descent. The constant uphill either direction is grueling, so the shorter the better.
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Old 05-23-19, 12:26 PM
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I've done the GAP from West to East and piecemeal from East to West. I kinda like doing the climb out of Cumberland at the start and biking with the gentle downhill in your favor all the way to Confluence, where we rent rooms at the Parker House, but there is also camping. Then, you have a number of options for splitting the two days up, depending on what you want to do and if you are camping or hotel/motel/inn-ing.

I've always had others with me and we self-shuttled but my friend did the park in Cumberland, bike 3 days to Pittsburgh and take Amtrak back. No delays, no need to disassemble bike to get it on the train, but the train leaves at something like 0530 from Pittsburgh so you have to stay at a nearby pricey downtown PGH hotel or do some early hours biking to get there.
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Old 05-23-19, 12:46 PM
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Originally Posted by riceowls View Post
3) Alternatively, Amtrak one way and riding the other. However, looking over the delays over the last week makes me reluctant. Also the schedule (leaving Pit at 5:20am will make a very tiresome day...).
Well, you could consider riding west to east and catch Amtrak back to Pittsburgh, arrive late and book a hotel to crash. Sleep in late and then make your way home. It looks like the Capitol Limited is scheduled to depart Cumberland, MD, at about 7:24 PM. With folding bikes, you wouldn't need to worry about reserving RORO space for your rides. Of course, delays could impact that departure time.

Originally Posted by Rob_E View Post
IThe other time I did it, we left a car in Cumberland, took a shuttle to Pittsburgh, and returned to the car over the course of a few days.
I've done this and it worked out pretty well. Having the last 22 miles being all downhill left me fresh enough to drive back to Pittsburgh after eating dinner at the Crabby Pig.

Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
Have you made Amtrak reservations? I'll bet it's a busy week for that train. At least you won't need bike space with the Fridays.
I rode PGH to Cumberland...Liked that direction, in part because I thought the trail got more interesting as I went along. And then there is the nice descent.
As suggested above, reservations for beds could be a deal breaker.
Agreed. The trail seems like it gets busier every year. Makes me think of the Yogi Berra quote: "it's so crowded nobody goes there anymore."

There are more accommodations popping up every year so maybe you'll get lucky.
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Old 05-23-19, 01:05 PM
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My main motivation to do it eastward (if using the Amtrak) is to spend the Saturday night in Pittsburgh. It seems that we should be done on our last day early afternoon and Cumberland, MD is not the most exciting city to wait around for the train. Also 1800 ft does not sound like that big over climb overall so doing it over 20 miles sounded better than over 40. But I never had a consistent 1.5% grade before. Is there prevalent wind direction? It seem I can find bed/train reservations in either direction at this point and will keep bike disassembled on the train.
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Old 05-23-19, 01:40 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
Have you made Amtrak reservations? I'll bet it's a busy week for that train. At least you won't need bike space with the Fridays.

I rode PGH to ***. I used the first three letter of "Cumberland." The censor didn't like it. Liked that direction, in part because I thought the trail got more interesting as I went along. And then there is the nice descent.

As suggested above, reservations for beds could be a deal breaker.
Yeah the big one is bike space. Not people space.
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Old 05-23-19, 01:42 PM
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Originally Posted by spinnaker View Post
Yeah the big one is bike space. Not people space.
Yes, that's why we love our two'sday tandem.
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Old 05-23-19, 01:47 PM
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Originally Posted by riceowls View Post
My main motivation to do it eastward (if using the Amtrak) is to spend the Saturday night in Pittsburgh. It seems that we should be done on our last day early afternoon and Cumberland, MD is not the most exciting city to wait around for the train. Also 1800 ft does not sound like that big over climb overall so doing it over 20 miles sounded better than over 40. But I never had a consistent 1.5% grade before. Is there prevalent wind direction? It seem I can find bed/train reservations in either direction at this point and will keep bike disassembled on the train.


Be sure to check out Bicycle Heaven while you are in town.


But you might opt to take the Montour Trail to finish (or start) your trip. If you take the Montour, you can ride right up to the airport parking lot. The Montour is well worth seeing IMHO.

You can see the city and also take the Montour. You can take the light rial to or from Library. The Montour goes right through Library. The downside is that you will be missing the newest section of the trail. And one of the prettiest. It is short but very nice section.


Heading toward Pittsburgh from Cumberland, you can avoid part of the climb by taking the excursion train to Frostburg. But I think it only runs on weekends. It might run on July 4.
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Old 05-23-19, 03:36 PM
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Originally Posted by riceowls View Post
My main motivation to do it eastward (if using the Amtrak) is to spend the Saturday night in Pittsburgh. It seems that we should be done on our last day early afternoon and Cumberland, MD is not the most exciting city to wait around for the train. Also 1800 ft does not sound like that big over climb overall so doing it over 20 miles sounded better than over 40. But I never had a consistent 1.5% grade before. Is there prevalent wind direction? It seem I can find bed/train reservations in either direction at this point and will keep bike disassembled on the train.
Maybe I don't understand the logistics. Don't you spend Saturday night in Pittsburgh either way? If you go south east, you end in Cumberland and catch the train back to Pittsburgh. If you go north west, you still end on your last day in Pittsburgh.

While I agree that Pittsburgh has more going on, I feel like you would finish the trail, have time for a leisurely meal, and then be off to the train station. Seems like there wouldn't be so much time there that you'd be bored out of your mind. Still, if it's nightlife you're after, then, yes, ending in Cumberland would be a bummer because I don't think there's any nightlife to speak of on the train.
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Old 05-23-19, 04:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Rob_E View Post
I don't think there's any nightlife to speak of on the train.
You are riding the wrong train.

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Old 05-23-19, 06:35 PM
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Originally Posted by riceowls View Post
Yes, that's why we love our two'sday tandem.
Have you been on a crushed limestone trail with it? A Bike Friday on the GAP would probably be OK. Not sure about the tandem version. Just hope you get no rain. Could make things difficult. The good news is the trail drains really quickly if you want to wait things out. But if you need to go in a downpour, things can get a bit mushy.
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Old 05-23-19, 07:30 PM
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Bicycled The GAP and C&O in June 2017. Started in Connellsville westward to Pittsburgh the next day Connellsville to Cumberland. Awesome trail! Nice downhill cruise into Cumberland if heading east. Next time I will definitely add The Montour Trail to the ride. I’m the only one from Hondo,Texas that has ridden The GAP and C&O and will probably be the only one forever

Last edited by Hondo Gravel; 05-24-19 at 11:45 AM. Reason: Wrong town Connellsville not Confluence
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Old 05-23-19, 10:40 PM
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I haven't done GAP yet but hopefully this year. Given that seeing historical sites is often a big part, Cumberland to Pittsburgh seems attractive to replicate the "pioneer" feel. Perhaps west-east is better for wind but maybe the trees help ameliorate that.
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Old 05-24-19, 05:41 AM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
I just rode it a couple weeks ago from West Newton to Cumberland. A few years ago, I rode out and back from Cumberland to Connellsville. Greatly prefer starting in Cumberland and doing the 25 mile steeper climb on fresh legs, and then a 65 mile descent. The constant uphill either direction is grueling, so the shorter the better.
I rode Pittsburgh->Cumberland and I didn't find the gentle railroad-grade uphill grueling at all. I wouldn't want prospective riders to be scared off by that description.
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Old 05-24-19, 05:49 AM
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When we rode the GAP, we rented a car in Cumberland and drove back to Pitt to shuttle our van back to Cumberland. Since we have a tandem (no couplers) this made the most sense, plus Cumberland was somewhat on the way home anyway. The rental car was about $100 at the time, if I recall there are shuttle services which cost about the same, but for us, the rental made the most sense for our itinerary. Here's our crazy guy journal:
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/12687
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Old 05-24-19, 07:00 AM
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Does anyone know if I would need reservations for camping during the last week in June?
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Old 05-24-19, 07:42 AM
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Originally Posted by axolotl View Post
I rode Pittsburgh->Cumberland and I didn't find the gentle railroad-grade uphill grueling at all. I wouldn't want prospective riders to be scared off by that description.
Be scared. It is grueling.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/grueling
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Old 05-24-19, 09:45 AM
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Originally Posted by axolotl View Post
I rode Pittsburgh->Cumberland and I didn't find the gentle railroad-grade uphill grueling at all. I wouldn't want prospective riders to be scared off by that description.
Originally Posted by alan s View Post
When I first rode the GAP, we did 54 miles of the 150 on the first day. It rained part of that day, too. My total prep mileage (from purchasing a bike to actually hitting the trail) was only 150 miles. I would say, under those circumstances, it was grueling (we rode west to east, Homestead to Connellsville). The longest ride I'd ever taken prior to the GAP was about 25 miles and that was on paved trails!

If you have a some decent training mileage under your belt, I don't think it would be grueling. Stay hydrated, eat enough calories along the way and you should be fine. Even now, I don't think I'd want to ride the climb out of Cumberland.
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Old 05-24-19, 10:07 AM
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On the way down the mountain to Cumberland they have speed limit 15 posted frequently. Some bikers going uphill looked gassed some didn’t. This thread made me decide to ride the GAP this summer I can’t wait Now I’m going to get out my road atlas and start planning. Like Spinnaker said the Pittsburgh airport has a connecting trail straight to the Montour that intersects the GAP.
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Old 05-24-19, 10:08 AM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
Telling touring cyclists to "Be scared" of the GAP Trail is asinine. You are trolling, IMO.
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Old 05-24-19, 10:40 AM
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Originally Posted by axolotl View Post
Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece, Fallingwater, is a must see, IMO. Make a reservation for a tour.

My friend & I rode the GAP in 3 days on our Bike Fridays, starting in Pittsburgh. No problem. However, if there has been recent rain, the trail will be softer and the riding slower.
Did you ride to Fallingwater? How hard is it to get from GAP? Do you recommend house or ground tours?
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