Ontario cyclists besides exploring this province like to visit nearby regions such as Route Verte in Quebec or the Finger Lakes of Upper New York State. Now you should also consider Pennsylvania including the Great Allegheny Passage and/or Pine Creek route for your next cycling vacation.
And I am not alone in discovering this route as we met other riders from Toronto along the bike path near a town called “Deal”. For Toronto residents the drive is same as heading to the Eastern Townships or Vermont, about 7 hours.
Great Allegheny Passage
The Great Allegheny Passage is a rail trail which starts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and heads for 150 miles to Cumberland, Maryland where it connects to the C & O Canal Trail which goes into Washington, a total of 335 miles.
You might figure why drive all that way for a rail trail? This one which only permits cyclists, walkers and those on horses (in sections) packs a lot of interesting things to see. There are several tunnels with the Big Savage at about 3,000 feet, great vistas of the surrounding countryside, the Youghiogheny River where you can go white water rafting or just watch them as you ride along.
Also you will cross the Salisbury Viaduct which is almost 2,000 feet long and there are other viaducts and bridges as you cycle through the scenic mountains and over the Eastern Continental Divide, not a big challenge on a rail trail. Although the trail ascends or descents slowly you will be riding through the Appalachian Mountains and Laurel Highlands.
In each town the train station is a tourist office with rest rooms and route maps. It appeared that there were bike stores with rentals in each town as well. You will not be alone, expect plenty of other cyclists along the route.
For history lovers you will be crossing the Mason Dixon Line, dropping into Harper’s Ferry and much more. There are distance signs each mile along with the occasional plaque with bits of history, information plants or animals, etc.
Some of our group camped while the rest of us stayed in a cabin in a state park, however there are plenty of B & B accommodation as well. So instead of bicycle touring with packed panniers we drove to different trailheads each day to tackle a different section. If you do cycle the entire route there are several companies which can transport you and your bike back to your starting location.
C & O Historic Trail
Okay, this is not really a Pennsylvania cycle as we headed to the Cumberland Gap where the Great Allgeheny Passage meets the C & O Historic Trail. However some of our group did head west on the GAP towards Frostsburg, Maryland.
I headed along a very rough section of the C & O where the surface is not as good as the GAP, although a good mountain bike would manage fine. We passed a number of campsites, turtles sitting in the sun, and of course the locks.
Pine Creek Rail Trail
After cycling along the GAP I headed to the north end of the state and the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. Although I was visiting the area in early July found Leonard Harrison State Park on the east rim not to be full even though it only has 25 campsites.
A quick walk brought me to the edge of the canyon for some great views before I walked the 2 mile Colton Point Rim Trail and then stopped into the visitor center to catch up on the local history.
The next morning myself (and apparently many in the neighboring campsites) headed the nearby parking lot for the 62 mile ride along the rail trail down the middle of the canyon.
I saw people kayaking on the river and a bald eagle flying along as well. When I reached the Turkey Path Trail (which connects with the campground) I got off my bicycle and took a walk part way up this one mile trail to view the waterfalls.
Pine Creek Outfitters operates a shuttle service to various points if you only wish to cycle one way or even part of the distance.
Click on the link for other regional cycling routes. Find out why the Great Allegheny Passage has become the premier bike route in the Eastern USA.