Amtrak to GAP
Hello fellow cyclists, my husband and I are coming down from Maine to ride the GAP/C&O next month. We plan to take the train from DC to PIT arriving just before midnight (yeah, I know). We have found out we can keep the boxed bikes overnight @the station so we won’t have to navigate the city at that time of night, but we are now wondering the best route to get us across the river to start the GAP trail. Ideas please? We will have loaded touring bikes and I doubt they would fit on the front of the metro buses. Safest and most direct way to any bike path would be welcome, any route on the southside to the GAP would do.
Why not cycle from DC to Pittsburgh? In Pittsburgh the Jail trail starts at PNC firstside on Grant street downtown and you can cross to the southside trail on the Hot Metal Bridge. Quick and easy very little road riding involved.
We prefer to go west to east, those who have cycled the whole thing report it’s more downhill in that direction. Our drive to DC is much shorter from Maine and we have friends to stay with there. Is the Hot Metal Bridge the same as the Smithfield Bridge? The latter looks better to cross than the Liberty Bridge. Thanks.
The Hot Metal Bridge is a few miles from downtown and has a bicycle trail lane. It crosses the Monangahala River by the southside works, there is a REI there if you need any expensive gear.
Really, You only have to cycle about a mile through downtown from the amtrak station to hit trail. Just go south on grant street, you can enter the eliza furnace trail at the intersection of 1st ave and grant street (on your left, right before the highway entrance). It doesn’t look like a trail, just hop on to the sidwalk and pedal towards the river, and then bear left and you’ll see it’s a bike / ped path. Take that to the hot metal bridge, cross the bridge and make a left on to the three rivers heritage trail at the end of the bridge.
Then you pretty much follow that the rest of the way to DC. It does get a bit confusing between mckeesport and boston, pa, but just keep trying to follow the Great allegheny passage / steel valley trail signs and you’ll be fine (don’t go towards the clariton connector, that’s a branch that will take you the wrong direction). Once you get close to boston, pa the trail turns to crushed limestone, and will be that way till cumberland, md where the trail changes to the C&O canal trail which is packed dirt mostly, and takes you the rest of the way to DC.
If you get lost, and have a smartphone, the google maps app has bike directions, and they definitely favor the trails. If you get lost, it’s likely that you’ll be directed where you need to go if you use the google maps app and get directions to mckeesport, pa using the bike directions option. Once you’re on the steel valley trail, it’s relatively smooth sailing from there.
They have done a lot to improve the section of trail from Pittsburgh to Little Boston it’s pretty much easy going. Just follow the signs once you get on the jail trail.
Benzo’s directions are spot on!
Thanks everyone this Hot Metal Bridge route looks great. Sounds like getting out of Pittsburgh won’t be that tricky after all.
I would go start at Point State Park which is the official start of the trail. It is not far from the train station and there is another trail that takes you there: http://goo.gl/maps/2p4h7
Get someone to take your picture in front of the fountain, then go rejoin Benzo’s route. Unfortunately there is a bit of an on-street detour as you leave the park, but it’s a wide road and not bad to ride on. http://goo.gl/maps/pHnKL
You should also watch this video if you want to find the “real” DC end of the trail because it is well hidden: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kzs51zRsSY
I rode from Pittsburgh to DC in September and it was great. I’d like to go the other way sometime. Have fun!
It is a bit more downhill going east, but I think the profile is the bigger factor – the eastern slope is much steeper. http://www.atatrail.org/tmi/docs/ElevationChart.pdf
First – agree with Salty – begin at the Point.
Second – if you’d like, you can PM me with dates and contact information. We might be able to meet you and provide an escort through the city. My friend and I have done this on several occasions. At the very least we can answer any other questions. We’re fairly familiar with the GAP.
In any case, hope you have a great trip and get a chance to see a little of Pittsburgh while you’re here.
Thanks for all your help and suggestions, several of you have actually offered us a bike escort in and out of the city, for which we’re grateful. We don’t have firm dates yet – latter part of April, so about a month away. I will keep you posted as the time gets closer – this is a great site with lots of useful information about PIT. I have spent time there in my former life so it’s been interesting seeing some familiar landmarks.
I will third the motion to provide an escort through the city. If we know when your train is due, we would be happy to guide you from there to the Point.
I will most likely be gone for a week while you come through, haha but at this rate, you will have a mob of people anxiously awaiting to escort some visitors through town! It’s a real simple ride, no worries. Enjoy your visit!
If only we had the time/manpower to send off every GAP rider with such a parade/show-of-force!
No kidding eh? You folks are wonderful, once plans are made we will definitely be back on to let y’uns know. :)
Hopefully GAP trail conditions are a little bit more firm and less white when you ride than they were today in the mountains. My wife and I decided to get a little crazy and attempt a 12 mile “Pedal For Pancakes” ride from Rockwood to Meyersdale for the PA Maple Syrup Festival’s opening day. In addition to a tree that was blocking the entire width of the trail about 4 miles out of Rockwood, it was an extremely soft, sludgy mess. Other stretches were still covered in snow (sink in) and ice (fishtailing adventures). I figured it would be soft, but didn’t expect anything quite to this level. We only made it 6 miles, at about a third of our normal pace, before deciding to turn around and return to Rockwood. Before reloading the car, we biked across the bridge into the town proper. Pavement never felt so good!! We then adjusted to the much wiser decision to drive the rest of the way into Meyersdale. I never claimed that intelligence was a strong point.
For what it’s worth, one of the people working in the Meyersdale train station visitor’s center/museum told another out of towner that the trail normally should start to firm up in about a month. But given how this winter has been, it may be a bit longer this year.
So we have AMTRAK resies for Saturday April 26th, arriving late that night in PIT. We’ll be storing the bikes at the station that night and then getting dropped off the next day to begin our journey back to DC on the GAP. While it looks pretty easy to get to the Point Park and beyond, if anyone wants to ride along they are welcome to of course. We’ll not be going race fast….
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