Author Topic: Youghiogheny Trail/Great Allegheny Passage  (Read 19863 times)

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Offline leicrao1

Youghiogheny Trail/Great Allegheny Passage
« on: November 19, 2009, 12:22:45 pm »
Hi from the UK

Am cycling LA to NY with my brother in law in summer 2010 and am currently mapping out the route. We plan to cycle the Youghiogheny Trail from West Newton PA to Connelsville PA. However, the web sites I have visited seem unclear about whether you can continue from there to Confluence and then Garrett, Cassellman and Rockwood. We will be on road bikes so cannot deal with particularly rocky or 'demanding' surfaces.

Any advice greatly appreciated.


Offline JHamelman

Re: Youghiogheny Trail/Great Allegheny Passage
« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2009, 08:58:12 am »
Hi Richard,

I don't know the answer to your question about the Youghiogheny Trail but I wondered if you had seen Pennsylvania Route S. It might be helpful to you in planning your tour.


Jennifer Hamelman

Adventure Cycling Association
Inspiring and empowering people to travel by bicycle.
800/755-2453, 406/721-1776 x205

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Offline cdavey

Re: Youghiogheny Trail/Great Allegheny Passage
« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2009, 05:39:03 pm »
Richard --

I rode the GAP two years ago as part of a tour I did. The answer is that the trail is complete from West Newton all the way to its southern terminus at Cumberland MD. That includes the section to Rockwood you mentioned. The surface is crushed limestone for the entire segment you have mentioned. The trail has its own website at It's well maintained and kept up to date. You should be able to answer any questions that you may have there.

Jennifer suggested that you check out PA Bike Route S. While that is a possibility, I would suggest that you evaluate your route through PA with two thoughts in mind since I live in western PA: (1) the Appalachians are more formidable to get across than they appear because their slopes can be steep and secondary road system you would most likely use to cross them was laid before dynamite existed. The roads tend go over the hills not through them. (2) The PA Bike Routes have usually been laid out by an advisory group and their proposed route is then reviewed and approved by the PA Dept of Tranportation (PennDOT). As a result the quality of the route can vary depending upon who laid it out.

While I have never ridden Route S, reading bike journals of people who have used it does suggest it is quite hilly in the west near the Ohio state line and also in the middle where it goes scross the Appalachians. Perhaps you might consider connecting to Route G to go north and then Route V  (US Route 6) to get to New York. I have ridden Route G, and it's a well-thought out route. I have never ridden Route V so I can't offer any advice on it.  The one drawback I see to this routing is that it takes you out of the Appalachians as you go north, but routes you back into them and delays the crossing until later. You can get maps of the various routes at Click for additional links on the left side of the page to get to the bicycle information.

Offline leicrao1

Re: Youghiogheny Trail/Great Allegheny Passage
« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2009, 01:37:13 pm »
Many thanks for the advice.

I have been following route S for the most part of the planning process, with a detour from Somerset to Shanksville as a possibility to see the Flight 93 memorial. I have also had a suggestion to do a section of the abandoned turnpike after Breezewood which, apart from looking great fun in itself, also cuts out a couple of particularly difficult climbs (apparently).

I have to bear in mind that we will be 2500 miles into our journey by this point and will not want unnecessary detours, especially as they may only delay some of the climbs rather than avoid them altogether. I am inclined to stick to route S, with the option of taking busier highways for a more direct route if we are in time trouble or are seriously fed up of climbing. I assume that the same logic applies in the US that the busier routes are contoured more gently given that they are designed for freight to use and cannot have excessively severe gradients, whereas some of the quieter back roads are more likely to have the severe climbs.

Many thanks once again.


Offline aozolins

Re: Youghiogheny Trail/Great Allegheny Passage
« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2009, 02:18:00 pm »
I just want to reinforce that the eastern edge of this continent is really tough cycling. In all the mountain ranges you'll have crossed getting here, you probably won't have dealt with the gradients that not only exist but are common here. You won't have grades longer than a mile or two very often; but they will be steep and frequent. If you are off the main roads, those grades will be very steep -- 12% is quite common. I've never been on any of the Pennsylvania bike routes, only on rides on general roads; so I can't know exact challenges. But I find that people often tend to dismiss our eastern terrain as "not real mountains" and regard the whole area as not very big. This is a mistake unless you choose a route wisely.

I realize you probably have reasons for choosing your route. But, if I were a visitor to North America, having crossed this far, I'd stay on the C&O Canal trail into the nation's capital and take a train to New York City if that's a requirement. This would make an easy conclusion to your cycling while routing you into a historically rich region.

AFAIK, drilling straight through to New York is a chore.

Needless to say, this is just imho. Ymmv.

Ithaca, NY

Offline cdavey

Re: Youghiogheny Trail/Great Allegheny Passage
« Reply #5 on: December 13, 2009, 02:54:23 pm »
I saw your response dated Dec 5, and this caught my eye:

"I assume that the same logic applies in the US that the busier routes are contoured more gently given that they are designed for freight to use and cannot have excessively severe gradients, whereas some of the quieter back roads are more likely to have the severe climbs."

Well, maybe. If I were you, I would assume nothing about the roads here in the East that I might be using until I had researched them.
(1) Here's an example. I have not biked this but have driven it. I-68 runs east-west across WV and MD. It also carries the designation of US 40. I-68 replaced Old US 40. Old US 40 stills exists and in many places parallels I-68 just a few hundred feet away. US 40 is the old National Road route that in various incarnations goes back to about the 1820s. Old US 40 was THE main route through this area before I-68 replaced it. I-68 has the 3% gradients you are talking about. Old US 40 is a roller-coaster of endless up-and-down rollers. Riding rollers like these all day is more demanding than you might think. And this is a main road of its day.
(2) Many of these main roads would be state or US highways. However, many of them have a shoulder no wider than 2 feet or less, or no shoulder at all. Here in PA, PennDOT is gradually putting shoulders on state roads as it does major reconstruction on them, but the majority of the roads haven't been done. If you want your bike trip to be a memorable adventure, just wait till you have 18-wheel semis with trailers and their accompaning wind drafts go by you at 50-60 mph 2 or 3 feet from you -- I guarantee it will be.

I would suggest you consider some combination of the following:
(1) Get online and at some topographical map sites and study the maps covering your routes. Some sites charge, some don't. From the maps you can get the elevation gain and from the map scale some idea of the distance of the climb, and roughly calculate the gradient of the hills.
(2)Also for state highways, most states through their DOT website have traffic volume maps of state highways so you can get some idea of how much traffic is on a given road.
(3)You might consider buying a topo mapping program like DeLorme's Topo 8.0. It will allow you to experiment laying out your own routes. It will also give an elevation profile for the mapped route. You drag the mouse over the profile and it will give you a running gradient. Some of these gradient numbers will seem fanciful in the course of running the mouse over the slope, but you can still calculate an average gradient based on the distance and elevation gain.

I hope you will see this and consider aozolins and my advice to plan this part of your ride carefully. Good planning lets you know in advance about issues like this one, so you aren't surprised. Bad planning does not. You've got two people who live and bike in the region telling you that this ain't easy, dude. A word to the wise...

Offline leicrao1

Re: Youghiogheny Trail/Great Allegheny Passage
« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2009, 03:11:36 pm »
Thanks for all the help. And I can assure you I am taking it very seriously.

I am in no doubt how tough it is going to be. My original temptation was to take a more southerly route through Louisville, and then Charleston WV onto Washington, and then up to New York. However, it seems the Appallachians are even more severe further south. (However, I will look at this C and O trail as it is not too late to head to Washington). Therefore, the current route is to head through Indiana and Ohio to hook up with route S at Wheeling. Would you guys suggest going even further north into PA, and taking route V through Clarion, Jefferson, Clearfield, Centre, Union etc. counties? I calculate this will add around 100 miles compared to taking route S. This will be a price worth paying if it substantially reduces the climbs (number and/or severity), but if we do the extra 100 miles and the climbs are almost as bad as on route S, then is it worth it?

I will try and get hold of the software you suggest, although I am not hugely confident in my skills in that area. And there is a limit to how finely tuned our planning can be from 3000 miles away. I would love to drive down there to take a look at some routes, but can't!. It strikes me it will be impossible to avoid significant climbs, so to bite the bullett, adjust our chainset and head across on route S is the best compromise.

Welcome your thoughts on taking route V in its entirety though.

Best wishes



  • Guest
Re: Youghiogheny Trail/Great Allegheny Passage
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2009, 12:19:27 pm »
A couple of things:

1.  U.S. 6 is PA Route Y, not V.  And of all the ways to get across, it's probably the easiest.

2.  Route S is difficult in western and central PA.  It calms down the farther east you go.

3.  If you don't have luck with software, you should at least try  You can "draw" routes and it will give you a basic profile that includes climbing ft.  Make a separate map for each day so the profile doesn't become too compressed.  This would allow you to compare something like Route V and Route S.

4.  I have a really fun 100 mile route to NYC that starts in New Hope, not too far north of the eastern terminus of Route S.  Our club does it every Sunday before Labor Day.  It takes you into Hoboken, NJ (birthplace of baseball and Frank Sinatra) and then utilizes a ferry across the Hudson River to Manhattan. The only catch is that if you were to ride it during the week you would probably not survive.  That's because it goes through the Port of Elizabeth and Newark and you would likely be squashed by a truck.  However, there are several places prior to the section through the port where you can get a train.  Send me a private message if you would like the cue sheet for the route.  The only way to actually bicycle into NYC from NJ is via the George Washington Bridge.