|Photo by Jason Pratt (cc Flickr)|
I started my short journey along the GAP from Cumberland. This is a town that understands and has benefited from bicycle and recreational tourism. At the center is the old trail station and a nice park with a bike shop, many good restaurants, and hotels. Departing Cumberland, the trail is in far better condition than the C&O. I rode comfortably on 28c tires at 100 psi over the surface of crushed limestone and asphalt.
The trail out of Cumberland involves climbing a steady steady less than 2% grade climb for 23 miles. The grade is optically deceiving; you cant necessarily tell that you are climbing other than you feel like you are dragging a sack of concrete behind your bike. I actually got off of my bike to make sure my brakes were not rubbing. As much as the climb up the hill can be a grind, the ride back down is a throw-back to childhood (its like flying down the neighborhood hill on a Big Wheel only the ride is 30 minutes long).
This is a journey into a wondrous land of imagination. After mile 5 you will come upon the Brush Tunnel, and further along you will pass the Cumberland Bone Cave where bones from 41 genre of mammals were uncovered. The Great Western Railroad will follow you up the mountain until Frostburg (if you want to cheat, you can take the railroad up to Frostburg, get off, and start your ride). After Frostburg comes the Borden Tunnel and the Big Savage Tunnel, which is the longest tunnel along your journal at 3294’. At about mile 23 you will cross over the Eastern Continental Divide. You will wind through the mountains, bridges and along farms. Your companions will be many other through-cyclists and hikers, and cows.
There are plenty of services along the trail and businesses that cater to recreational tourism. The trail meanders through small towns about every ten miles where lodging may be available, or cyclists can pack and camp along the trail.
- Bike Washington: C&O Canal Bicycle Guide,
- The Great Allegheny Passage
- Scenic Western Maryland Railroad
- Cycling the Great Allegheny Passage