Early yesterday morning, we embarked upon one of our most ambitions vacations ever. (Yes, even more than fitting 3 cases of wine on a plane from CA to the ‘Burgh.) We hopped on our bikes and started the 334-mile journey from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC.
Yep. Six days, 334 miles. All on our bikes.
It’s our goal to update every night when we get to our destination town, but even that is proving to be a little tricky because we’re taking so many pictures (about 100 pictures each day so far). So, we’ve decided to divide up the days’ posts: each evening, we’ll post the trail pics, and then at the end, we’ll do a wrap up post of places to stay and eat along the trail if you decide to embark upon this trail yourself!
(Warning: a LOT of pictures ahead!)
We started our journey at the Point in downtown Pittsburgh, where we got to check out the city’s most famous new visitor, the duck!
The Point is also home to our fabulous fountain, as well. Looking good, fountain!
Since the full trail between Pittsburgh and DC was recently completed, and the Point fountain reopened, this is the official start of the west-to-east journey!
Here we are, just moments before embarking on the trip. Coming from the Point, you ride up through the city (the first stretch is shared sidewalk with pedestrians), and then you move onto the Eliza Furnace Trail (better known as the Jail Trail, as it goes right alongside the Allegheny County Jail).
After the Eliza Furnace Trail makes it past the jail, it runs right next to the Parkway East until you hit the Hot Metal Bridge into the South Side.
Stretch of the Eliza Furnace trail.
The bike & pedestrian connection to the Hot Metal Bridge is a rather new addition to the trail as well.
And the Hot Metal Bridge offers one of the finest views of the City of Pittsburgh!
The final piece of the trail to be completed was the stretch near Sandcastle Water Park, which connects the Homestead portion of the trail to the South Side. Boy is it tempting to just hop the fence and go on some slides on a hot day on your bike!
Arriving in Homestead, you can see the old Carrie Furnace across the river from the Pump House (which is a good starting point to get on the trail for a short ride – there’s a parking lot here that you can access easily).
Also a great view of a railroad bridge that’s still in use! The GAP Trail intersects with railroad tracks many times, functioning or not, and stretches of it are on former tracks (part of the Rails to Trails Conservancy).
Sign post leaving Homestead. These GAP Trail signs mark the major stopping points along the entire trail.
One of the coolest sights just past Homestead? Kennywood! When the park is running, you can see the rollercoasters in action (the Thunderbolt and Phantom’s Revenge both go right next to the trail).
Here’s one of the railroad bridges that has been converted into a bike path.
Occasionally, this happens: you get stuck waiting for a train to pass by. This was a reeeeeeeally long train in McKeesport.
The McKeesport section of the GAP is one of the least picturesque, aside from the McKees Point Marina, which is a cute little harbor.
After leaving McKeesport, you have two options: the regular GAP Trail path, or the ‘loop.’ The loop is a little easier terrain-wise, but it’s not as scenic (goes by some factories and the backs of houses). The GAP path goes up through Dead Man’s Hollow, which is the first patch of tough riding you encounter.
But we made it up the hill pretty well!
My little co-pilot Pooh Bear got to pose for some scenic pictures of his own!
The stretch of Dead Man’s Hollow leading up to Boston, PA.
Boston is a small trail town with a couple of shops and a bar/restaurant. It’s a good stopping point to fuel up or have a round before continuing on to lunch.
We were at just after 20 miles in Boston. 314 to go until DC!
6 miles out from Boston is the Dravo Cemetery, which is a strange little spot you can stop at along the path. There are also bathrooms and drinking water at this stop.
Every time we pass these vending machines, I really, REALLY start craving a Fruitopia.
But we always manage to hold out for our favorite little convenience store, the Trail View, which carries one of my top 2 favorite raspberry iced teas!!!!
This is the sign that means you’re about to eat lunch. YAY! West Newton is a full trail town with several food options, including our favorite, The Trailside. (More info on the Trailside will be coming in a later post.)
The next major attraction moving east from West Newton is Cedar Creek Park. There is camping and boating here, as you travel alongside the Youghiogheny River.
This stretch of trail marked the farthest east we had ridden so far!!
There’s very little to see past Cedar Creek Park until you hit Connellsville, besides lovely scenic views, and the Round Bottom Campground. (Come on, you know you giggled!)
We stopped for another short snack, and Pooh Bear got another photo taken.
The scenery was just beautiful, and we picked a perfect week for it!
Finally, after a very LONG stretch of 12 miles with no sign of civilization, we turned a corner and wound up here: Connellsville!! It’s a nice downhill slope right into the town, and that was much appreciated as well.
At the end of Day 1, we had traveled 60 miles, covering over 6 hours of riding time. Thankfully, there was a great dinner at the Italian Oven and a soft bed at the Connellsville B&B waiting for us. One day down, five more to go!