A grand dream has become a reality! The Allegheny Trail Alliance, a unique group of trail organizations, has joined together to help make the dream of a motor-free connection between Pittsburgh, PA, and Washington, D.C. come true.
The Great Allegheny Passage is a combination of a series of trails that form a continuous 200-mile recreational path from Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, MD (and there even is an additional 52-mile branch, the Montour Trail that will take you right to the Pittsburgh International Airport).
The Allegheny Trail Alliance (the ATA) was formed so that the several separate area trails could be linked together into one whole. Now the entire trail system is completed, you’ll be able to begin your adventure trek at Station Square in downtown Pittsburgh (the official trailhead), and you’ll then travel south on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail and the Steel Valley Trail to McKeesport. Sure, the trail goes way south of Luzerne County, but it gives you a perfect idea of Pennsylvania’s beauty.
At McKeesport, you’ll link up with the 71 mile Youghiogheny River Trail (which Trail Manager Bob McKinley refers to as “the interstate of rail-trails”) and travel on the absolutely wonderful crushed gravel and limestone dust path through the Laurel Highlands of southwestern Pennsylvania. For more information on outdoor activities in Luzerne County, way up north, click here.
A 28-mile section of this trail meanders through Ohiopyle State Park (which is a great base for whitewater rafting and kayaking trips on the popular river). After exiting the park, the Youghiogheny River Trail continues to Confluence, where you can link up with the Allegheny Highlands Trail and continue your journey to Cumberland, MD (highlights of this section of the route includes the 1900 foot Salisbury Viaduct and the impressive 3300 foot Savage Tunnel).
The Pennsylvania section of the Allegheny Highlands Trail is from Confluence to Meyersdale and the final section, which crosses the state border into Maryland. The Big Savage Tunnel is completed as well as sections of the trail between Frostburg and Cumberland.
The ATA has been instrumental in the development of this multi-purpose recreational trail between Pittsburgh, PA, and Cumberland, MD. It celebrates the region’s railroad and industrial heritage, as well as helps to protect the river environment, offers economic stimulus to the communities along the route, and provides several educational opportunities.
At the same time, the Great Allegheny Passage will certainly provide extensive recreational opportunities – for the walker, jogger, cross-country skier, and cyclist; some sections are even open to equestrians (between Boston and Connellsville – and between Rockwood and Garrett).
You’ll face a relatively gentle climb for much of this route. After completing the Great Allegheny Passage and arriving at Cumberland, you’ll link up with the already completed 184 mile C&O Canal Towpath and continue your journey all the way to Georgetown, in Washington, D.C., where you’ll find yet another series of connecting trails (for your exploring pleasure), including the paved Capital Crescent Trail and Metropolitan Branch Trail (which will take you directly to Union Station).
If you journey southeast from Cumberland to Georgetown on the C&O Canal Towpath, the canal’s 74 locks, with the little descents at each, will give you the impression of traveling “downhill” all the way. You’ll find campsites sprinkled along the towpath, and you’ll encounter 11 aqueducts and several historical locks.
The most impressive structures along the route are the 3100 foot long Paw Paw Tunnel (where you’ll hug the wet wall of the tunnel’s dark interior, separated from the canal itself by a railing) and the 500 foot Monocacy Aqueduct (a seven-arch stone bridge used to carry the canal over the Monocacy River).
The most heavily used section of the towpath is in the Great Falls/Mather Gorge area (where you may hike on the rugged “Billy Goat Trail”, rock climb in Mather Gorge, or kayak in the Potomac rapids).
Your journey will take you through urban areas and wilderness, and you’ll experience a great variety of terrain on this adventure trek. You’ll travel through mountainous terrain and spectacular tunnels, over massive steel viaducts, and along the historic C&O Canal on your journey from Pittsburgh, PA to Washington, D.C. (from the Steel Capital to the Nation’s Capital!). What a spectacular route! It’s coming very soon as an adventure for you!
There’s even an annual end to end ride already (from Washington, D.C. to Pittsburgh, PA): “the Yockatomac Trek” (an organized 8-day ride, with luggage transportation). Linking paved trails will give you access to the train station and the airport (at both ends of the trail system). And you may choose to travel this magnificent route in either direction.