Where to Start
With dozens of trail towns and scores of great destinations along the Great Allegheny Passage — and the adjoining C&O Canal Towpath — there are plenty of places to begin your adventure. You can start a day trip from any trailhead or parking area. If driving isn’t an option, you can also fly to a nearby airport or arrive by train. In some locations, shuttle services are available to transport you and your gear. If you’re considering an overnight ride or hike, pick a few trail towns you’d like to visit and center your travels among them. Here are some of our recommended trips.
There is parking in every trail town and canal town, but overnight parking is limited to certain locations, and you’ll likely pay for a parking garage in Downtown Pittsburgh, on Pittsburgh’s South Side, and in Georgetown (or anywhere around Washington, D.C.), whether you’re parking for the day or overnight. Some lodging properties may offer guests overnight parking, after which you can retrieve your car upon return.
If you plan to park overnight or arrive back after dark, we suggest notifying local police or a nearby visitor center to provide them with vehicle information. This may prevent them from starting a search-and-rescue operation or towing your car. For fee-based parking garages or lots, you may need to complete a form showing your intended return date.
Transporting Your Gear
If you would like to travel light, you can hire a shuttle service, tour operator, or outfitter to haul your bags from town to town. Or you might arrange for a friend to transport your gear and meet you at your next lodging location. If you’re camping, keep in mind that most hiker-biker campgrounds are not accessible by shuttle service or car.
Consider renting a minivan or van for a one-way return trip at the end of your journey. Your best options are the major car rental companies in Downtown Pittsburgh, Cumberland, and near Georgetown. Alternatively, you might plan to be retrieved by a friend, or have someone drive a support vehicle from town to town to mirror your itinerary and pick you up at the end. Please note that it’s unlikely you’ll find a ride-sharing or taxi service anywhere along the GAP or C&O Canal Towpath, other than in Downtown Pittsburgh, Cumberland, or Georgetown.
If you’re starting or finishing outside of one of the major cities, consider hiring a private shuttle service or outfitter to take you from your endpoint back to your car. Of course, you can hire a service to provide just the shuttle or to take care of planning the entire trip. There are several outfitters and tour operators who offer a variety of packaged or flexible trips on both trails.
Arriving by Train
Amtrak’s Capitol Limited provides one-way service among Chicago and Washington, D.C., through Toledo, Ohio, and Cleveland, with trailside stops in Pittsburgh, Connellsville, Cumberland, and Harpers Ferry. For an extra $20 on top of the regular fare, you can secure your bicycle in a retrofitted baggage car and get on or off at any station. Each train has room for eight bikes. Great for making an end-to-end tour possible, this service can also facilitate fun overnight trips. Visit Amtrak’s Capitol Limited profile page for additional tips, scheduling information, and suggested trips.
Arriving by Air
By flying into Pittsburgh International Airport and bicycling or hiking connecting routes to the Montour Trail, you can get to the Great Allegheny Passage in either Downtown Pittsburgh or McKeesport. There are some marked on-road sections. Alternatively, you can fly into Washington Reagan National Airport and bike or hike to the C&O Canal Towpath in the city’s Georgetown neighborhood via dedicated nonmotorized paths that follow the Potomac River. For details, pick up a copy of TrailGuide.