Day 3 on the GAP was definitely the easiest ride of the week, but also one of the most exciting. There were more interesting photo ops on this stretch than anywhere else, and we lucked out with the best weather of our trip on this day as well.
I admit, I was panicking about having to ride over this thing, but it’s beautiful and strong, and even though there was a decent wind while we were riding, you couldn’t feel it on the viaduct.
Shortly after departing the viaduct, you arrive in Meyersdale, the Maple City. At the top of Meyersdale is the visitors’ center with a small museum inside, but to reach the town, you need to go off the trail and down a hill.
We didn’t make our way into town on this trip, since it was a ways off the trail (and seriously, the only thing worse than riding uphill for a day and a half was the thought of riding downhill to lunch and having to ride up a really steep road to get back to going uphill), but we did check out some of the sights at the visitors’ center, including this old C&O caboose.
The trail next goes over a series of old bridges, including the recently-refurbished Keystone Viaduct. This was another great spot to stop and take photos, as you go over some lovely streams and creeks.
And after a short Gu break in Deal, we were off to the final stretch of uphill, which brought us to the Eastern Continental Divide. The divide marks a point where the watersheds separate: on one side, all water flows to the Atlantic Ocean, and on the other, all water flows ultimately to the Gulf of Mexico.
And also, the Eastern Continental Divide marks the end of the uphill portion of the GAP Trail, moving west to east. If you’re wondering why we were grouchy coming up to the Divide, here’s your answer. And if you’re wondering ‘should I bike the GAP west to east or east to west?’ this graphic will help you make your choice as well.
This next stretch of trail also features the first tunnels of the trip, with the Big Savage Tunnel. While it’s creepy looking, it’s lit throughout, and still downhill, so you can fly through it and you don’t really *need* a bike lamp.
But if you have one, you can throw a bike lamp rave.
And should you survive the aliens and ghosts, you are greeted with this view upon exiting the tunnel.
And it is. I mean, technically. But it’s a trail town LIKE 900 MILES ABOVE THE TRAIL.
You have to take a series of switchbacks. And then you have to either park your bike and climb a staircase and hope for the best, OR ride up THE STEEPEST STREET IN ALL OF MARYLAND to get to food. And once you get to food… MOST OF THE OPTIONS ARE UPHILL.
(To be fair, the sushi we had – which we’ll detail in a separate post – was AMAZING and just right and totally worth the hike, but DAMN were we hunger-angry prior to the meal!)
Frostburg is also the place where you can, if you don’t want to coast downhill for 20-some miles, catch a sightseeing train into Cumberland. Apparently, you can watch the train turn around on this little platform at the end of the tracks, but to me, this looked like a terrifying busted-up ride at Kennywood from my nightmares.
Pro-tips: the train only runs once a day most days (and some days not at all), leaving Cumberland at 11:30am and returning by 3pm. You can check out the schedule at their website if you’re interested. I imagine this would be much more useful if you were coming east-to-west, as it would save you the long, steeply uphill portion of the ride. You could also do it as a single-afternoon trip if you were staying in Cumberland, which would allow you some scenic views and a chance to stop for lunch in Frostburg.
We opted to stay on our bikes the whole ride, which was perfect. You literally coast from the Divide into Cumberland (if you don’t stop and hike up to Frostburg’s business district, that is). The trail runs right next to the railroad tracks, and aside from a few times when you have to cross the tracks to pick up the trail on the other side, you almost never have to pedal (just uhh, make sure your brakes are in fine condition). It was a blast, and the perfect rest your legs need after the 60+ miles of uphill.
GRATUITOUS ‘YEAH WE MADE IT’ PHOTO TIME!!!!!!!
The GAP connects seamlessly with the next bit of the trail to DC, the C&O Towpath, but we recommend taking a night in Cumberland to relax, unwind, do some laundry, rest those muscles, grab some delicious dinner, and post pictures to social media about your adventure.
Oh, and perhaps enjoy that bottle of bicycle wine you brought all the way from California for this very evening. That too. Because at the end of the GAP, you’ve earned that all, cyclist!