The 334.5 mile adventure along the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Towpath is likely to raise 334.5 questions.- how to plan, what to pack, where to eat….it can be overwhelming. And, that is why we are here. The following page will address the questions that you may have about the trip, the trail, our services and more. And of course, you can always call us at 412-600-0675. We are here to help!
Great Allegheny Passage FAQs
About the Ride
What can I expect from the Terrain?
The GAP trail (Pittsburgh – Cumberland) has a packed crushed limestone surface for a smooth ride. Built mainly on abandoned rail beds, the trail is nearly level, with an average grade of less than 1%. The steepest eastbound grade – 0.8% – is from Harnedsville to Markleton and Garrett to Deal. The steepest westbound grade is from Cumberland to Deal at 1.75%. Near the Big Savage Tunnel, the trail crosses the Eastern Continental Divide. From that point going east, the trail drops 1,754 feet in 24 miles to reach Cumberland and, going west, it drops 1,664 feet in 126 miles to reach Pittsburgh. Below is an example of the GAP’s surface.
C & O Canal (Cumberland – DC) is a dirt towpath. It is well maintained and also mostly flat. Because the towpath is mostly dirt and slightly less smooth than the GAP Trail, you will encounter roots, rocks and mud – particularly if you experience inclement weather. However, it is by no means a trail that requires a mountain bike or mountain biking skills. In most places it is wide, smooth and easily navigated. Below is an example of the path surface in dry conditions.
How many miles is the trail?
You’ll ride approximately 335 miles between Pittsburgh and DC, 150 miles between Pittsburgh and Cumberland and 190 miles between Cumberland and DC.
What should I bring!
One of the thousands of amazing things about this trail, is that you are passing through towns on a pretty regular basis. If you forgot or need something along the way, you can usually find it. It also means that you don’t have to carry a lot of gear, or food, or water. Keep your gear and weight low….its easier on you and the bike!
A couple bottles of water, rain gear, a few snacks, clothing, toiletries and any other basic necessities that will keep you comfortable are all you need. Check out this awesome blog post about one item you may have not thought of….earplugs!
What should I expect from the accommodations?
Whether you’re a Western PA native, or you’re coming from across the globe to ride the GAP, there are a few things you should know about the region, the town’s along the way, and their amenities. Its our goal to match your expectations up with your experience.
Or, check out a sampling of our lodging partners below:
What should I expect from trail towns?
Whether you are a Western PA native, or are traveling across the globe to ride the GAP, there are a few things you should know about the region, the town’s along the way, and their amenities. From the 2,500 residents of West Newton to the 42 of Little Orleans, expect that small town feel.
At Golden Triangle Bike we want your expectations to match up with the experience. Here are some details about the trail town
Which direction should I travel?
There is plenty of information and opinion out there on the best direction to travel. There is no easiest or hardest direction. At Golden Triangle Bike, we prefer west to east (Pittsburgh toward DC) because of our location. Your riding experience and expectations all something to consider (another reason to let us help you plan). Remember that the steepest portion is between the continental divide and Cumberland. At 2.5% it is by far the hardest climb or the most exhilirating descent of the trip. This section is roughly 25 miles. Traveling west to east lets you cruise down, east to west is an invigorating uphill. Check out our resources section for more info on milage and elevation.
Can I self plan?
Golden Triangle Bike wants you to have the BEST possible experience on the Great Allegheny Passage. Letting us assist in arranging your itinerary, lodging, side trips and beer/ice cream breaks is the best way to make sure your trip is a success. You can check out our Trip Planning Services Here.
If you are a glutton for punishment (just kidding) and you don’t mind spending some time figuring it all out, check out our resources section below. They are a great place start.
How many miles should I plan to ride per day?
Our motto at Golden Triangle Bike is “ride relaxed”. No matter what your riding experience, you will likely average somewhere between 7-10 miles an hour. When you push yourself, your bike and the trip, you are increasing the risk of being delayed by injury or mechanical difficulties. Take it easy, shut off your phone, take in the beauty and have fun…..its that type of trip.
Planning your trip around 35-60 mile days is reasonable. A trip plan with consecutive 50+ miles days or single 60+ mile days is aggressive. Golden Triangle can talk you through this process and suggest an itinerary as part of our Trip Consulting Service.
Whats the best time of year?
Each season (spring, summer and fall) has its own unique beauty on the trail. The “season” runs from late April to late October. Ideal trail surface sets up around mid-May…so we recommend waiting until that time frame at the earliest. Any trip later than mid October can potentially see temperatures in the mid-30’s and sometimes SNOW in the upper elevations! July and August are awesome months for those who don’t mind hotter tempuratures. There is less rain, and accommodations are plentiful at this time of year. The most popular times of year, are late May through June for spectacular spring….and September through mid-October for fall foliage.
What kind of weather can I expect?
Chances are you will encounter some rain. There is a higher chance in spring and early summer and temperatures range from the mid 40’s to upper 60’s in the spring and fall. The summer offers temperatures that average from high-60s to mid-80s. For a more accurate average temperature, visit the website HERE
Bikes and Gear
What are the best bike options for the trail?
We are 100% confident that our bike options are exactly what the trip, trail and terrain demand. Our mechanics ensure that your bike is tuned to perfection and trail ready prior to your arrival. Upon your arrival, our fitting specialists will make adjustments to ensure that you are as comfortable as possible before you hit the trail. You can check out our options HERE
If you are considering using your own bike here are some tips and things to consider:
- Use a minimum of 700x32c tire. Even at this size your ride on the C&O will rattle your teeth! If you have inclement weather or the trail conditions are not ideal (early spring), you will have problems with anything less.
- Road bikes are not good. Don’t do it. Its not worth it.
- Front Suspension is not vital but is great! It allows you to cruise over the ruts, roots and terrain of the C&O, rather than navigating around it. A little goes a long way to keep you moving forward and riding at a steady pace
- Shipping your bike can be expensive. Breaking down, boxing and rebuilding…then, doing it again on the return trip can be REALLY expensive. If you decide to go this route, Golden Triangle Bike can receive your bike and build it…give us a call to find out more. 412-600-0675
Exactly what equipment will I get as part of the Fully Equipped rental package?
Our bike rental packages include helmet, lock, rear rack, rear panniers (2 panniers 850-950 c.i. each), small water-resistant handlebar bar, headlight, multi-tool w/chain tool, one tube, bottle cages, pump and bell. Please let us know if there are any additional items that you may need or want to take on your adventure.
Here is a photo of the gear:
Are your panniers big enough for all my stuff/gear?
The panniers are all roughly 12″x15″x6″. Most people find that they can fit everything they need in the panniers….even on an 8-10 day trip! Of course, you will have to pack light and be mindful of what you carry. We recommend packing less than 15 lbs of gear in order to reduce stress to you and the bike, so leave the hair dryer at home! You will thank us later! If carrying your gear is out of the question, no problem…..give one of our gap guides a call and get a quote for point to point luggage service.
How many days can I keep the bike?
As long as you like! Contact us and we will get you the best deal on a multi-day package.
What other equipment can I rent from Golden Triangle Bike?
We’ve got it all. If we don’t, we can get it. Bags, racks, phone mounts, trip computers, bar ends, the kitchen sink. Whatever we can do to make your trip more awesome, we will do it.
Can I bring my own saddle/helmet/odometer/panniers/pedals for my rental bike?
Yes! No problem at all. Make sure you run it by our crew to ensure that your items are compatible.
Do I need to have extensive mechanical knowledge for a self supported trip?
The overwhelming majority of our customers do not even encounter a flat tire much less a serious mechanical problem. Our bikes go through a detailed process before they are deemed “Trail Ready” by our expert mechanics. We do everything we can to make sure that you have a trouble free trip. However, wether you are using our bike or your own, there are no guarantees. If you are taking a self-supported trip you should know the basics of bike maintenance. How to adjust a brake, change a flat, adjust a handlebar and tighten a saddle are very important when you are out on the trail. Your local bike shop, outdoor store or REI will often offer basic bicycle maintenance classes if you need to learn from scratch or just need a reminder.
Its also important to remember that one of the awesome details of this trail is that you are never too far from a town or bike shop. There are also a lot of super friendly folks using the trail. If you have an issue that you can’t handle, chances are you aren’t far from a bike shop or a friendly face that can help you out.
About our location and what to expect when you arrive
Our little shop is nestled under the First Avenue T-Station, right in Downtown Pittsburgh. We are located directly on the Great Allegheny Passage about 1-1/2 miles from Point State Park (the Western Terminus of the Trail).
When you arrive at our shop, we’ll be ready for you. We are anticipating your arrival. Your bikes, paperwork, and a friendly face will be waiting. We will take our time in making sure that you are comfortable and have everything you need for the adventure. However, we are not a “traditional retail shop”, so we really only carry the basics. If we don’t have what you need, we will point you in the right direction. There are plenty of opportunities to buy that French Chamois Creme that you love before you head out of the Burgh.
Our modest facility is not equipped with a restroom or changing room, but don’t fret, we are located next to the First Avenue Parking Garage and Gasoline Street Coffee both of which offer facilities to our customers. The garage is also a great place to part during your trip!
We are looking forward to seeing you and assisting you on this adventure! If you have any questions, please call us at 412-600 -0675
Can Golden Triangle Bike offer a trouble free gaurantee?
Sorry, but NO. Golden Triangle Bike cannot guarantee a trouble free trip. Bikes break, trails flood, rain happens, B & B’s burn down….and you are on a 300+ mile bike trip in the woods. Stuff happens. We do everything in our power to make sure your trip is awesome. We can count on one hand the amount of times our tens of thousands of customers have had a serious issue that delayed their trip. Its rare, but we can’t guarantee a trouble free trip.
Check out our TERMS AND CONDITIONS for more info.
How should I pack? What should I bring?
The most important things that you can bring are for you own personal comfort, mike maintenance and safety. Rain gear, basic first aid, ear plugs, cycling shorts, multi-tools, tubes, lock, pump, tire levers, etc…..these simple items can make a break a day on the trail. If you forget them, no problem! We supply many of these items with our fully equipped bike rentals and sell them at our shop.
We also recommend packing your gear in water proof plastic bags or even garbage bags. Then, slide those into water proof panniers and you are good to go. No one likes soggy underwear!
Most of your basic necessities can be picked up in the small towns that you will pass through. We encourage you to visit the businesses along the trail and pick up whatever you need along the way.
Finally, pack as light as possible if you are carrying your gear. Your body and bike will thank you for not making the trip harder than it has to be by loading you down with tons of stuff!
Do I need to pack food? How much water?
One of the many great aspects of the trail is that you are passing through towns on a fairly regular basis. Two water bottles and some snacks are usually plenty to get you to the next town where you can restock. So, don’t weigh yourself down with more water and food than necessary. Enjoy the benefits of traveling light and restock in town.
Fun Fact: The word “Passage” in “Great Allegheny Passage” refers to the notion that you are passing through towns like a boat passes through ports while at sea. Access to food, water, lodging, and amentities were all part of the construction and planning that went into the Great Allegheny Passage.
Will I be charged for damages to the bike?
Again, this is a very rare occurrence. From time to time, it happens. We expect the normal wear and tear that comes along with a 300+ mile bike trip. But, if you turn in the bike in two pieces, you can expect to hear from us.
More info at our Terms and Conditions page
Does Golden Triangle Bike or anyone else offer emergency services?
If you any sort of serious emergency, you should dial 911. Golden Triangle Bike is available during regular business hours to help you with any other issues that may occur. Need a shuttle to the next town? Have a mechanical issue? Need directions to the nearest beer and/or ice cream? Give us a call. If we can’t help, we will do our best to get you to someone who can….
What if I need to cancel?
We do everything we can to refund as much money as possible in the event of a cancellation. Unfortunately, we rely on a host of contracted services (lodging, shuttling and transfer services) that all have separate fees for cancelation.
Getting to Golden Triangle Bike for the start of your trip
Many of our riders come in from all over the country to take a ride on the GAP. Their first step almost always starts with coming Downtown to our shop at 600 First Avenue. If you drive or take the train, you’re just an easy walk across town. For all our riders flying into Pittsburgh though, here are some options to get from Pittsburgh International Airport to Downtown Pittsburgh.
- The Pittsburgh Port Authority operates the 28x Airport Flyer for service between Downtown and the Airport. When you step off the flyer in Downtown, make your way up to Grant Street and head south towards the Monongahela River. Continue on Grant and make a left heading east on First Avenue. The ride can take 45 minutes in traffic. The cost is $3.75.
- Bill’s Taxi can arrange to pick you up from the Airport and drive you directly to our shop. We recommend giving Bill’s a day’s notice. This shuttle runs about $50. Give them a buzz at 412-855-4484.
- Take an Uber! Rides from the Airport to our Shop run about $35.
- The Pittsburgh Transportation Group runs both Taxis and Airport Shuttles. Find out more about these services, or book a ride, by visiting their website.
Whether you pick up a taxi, Uber, or even hitchhike to our shop, let your driver know that you’ll be dropped off at the First Avenue ‘T’ station, right beside the First Avenue Parking Garage.
Our physical address is:
600 FIrst Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Our latitude/longitude coordinates are :
Check out our Location and Directions page for more info on getting to us.
When you reach First Avenue, be aware that we are not directly on the street. We are located directly on the Great Allegheny Passage trail, which is located directly behind the parking garage and under the T-Station. There along First Avenue in this area to directly you toward us.
Where should I stay in Pittsburgh?
Golden Triangle Bike is conveniently located directly on The Great Allegheny Passage in Downtown Pittsburgh. There are many awesome places to stay within walking distance or a short ride via hotel shuttle, taxi, uber or public transit. Here are a few great options:
Downtown Double Tree– 5-10 minute walk from to our shop
Holiday Inn Express South Side– 5-10 minute walk to our shop…and you get to cross one of our iconic bridges!
Hotel Monaco – Boutique Hotel in Downtown Pittsburgh.
Courtyard Marriot– In the heart of Pittsburghs Cultural District.
Trail Guide for GAP-C&O
Please note that our trail guide is currently out of print. We are doing our best to update, print and have it available in the near future. Thanks for your understanding.
After leading a lot of bicycle tour groups via the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Towpath Trail from Pittsburgh to DC (and DC to Pittsburgh), we’ve developed a Trail Guide for the GAP and C&O trails. The purpose of this booklet is to help you navigate the trails from Pittsburgh to DC, help you maintain situational awareness while you’re adventuring, and help you make informed decisions.
This package of route charts, drilldown area maps, and addresses with GPS coordinates will fit easily in a bike jersey pocket or a handlebar bag and is designed to avoid information overload.
The Trail Guide is designed by a cyclist, for a cyclist riding the trail; it’s not a car map. Our Trail Guide is an artisanal cartography project. We’ve curated and hand-assembled it to deliver important information while avoiding the non-essentials. We think it’s better than anything else; you’ll find it delightful and useful.
There’s a lot of up-front information before you begin the adventure, and you’ll learn a lot enroute. This Trail Guide lets you bring along expert insights to reduce uncertainty and make a satisfying experience more likely. When you consider the cost of your trip in time and money, it’s a smart investment.
Includes coordinates for road crossings and trailheads to simplify connecting with support vehicles.
- Identifies areas of low- or no-cellphone coverage so you’ll know in advance when you’ll be incommunicado.
- Highlights the “must-see” portions of each segment for riders who aren’t going to ride every mile, but want to see the key sights
- Identifies restrooms, portajohns, water, food, shopping, lodging, camping, bike shops, tool stations
- Links to a customized Google-map showing the route with tags
- Primary and alternate routes, including the W&OD transition and the paved WMRT
Custom Trip Packages!
Looking for something more (or less) than what our Great Allegheny passage and C&O Towpath Trip Packages has to offer? No problemo! Consult with our experts to customize a trip package and custom itinerary that fits your needs of you and your riding partner(s).. Accommodations, bike rentals, daily luggage service, shuttles, side trips, itineraries and details are arranged to give you a custom experience that is second to none. Let us focus on the details while you focus on the fun!
Trip Consulting Services
How many miles should I ride a day? What are the best places to stay? Where can I get a beer? Get the inside scoop on how to arrange your own trip with a little help from our experts. This awesome service option takes the guessing out of self-planning.
Here’s how it works.
You Consult with one of our “Adventure Architects”. We create a custom itinerary for you and your crew…based on our conversations and your groups needs. We also provide our “Preferred Trail Partner” list and a few other awesome trip planning tools….and you have everything you need to self-plan. We take care of the big picture, you take care of the finer details. You have an awesome adventure!