The Great Allegheny Passage

The Ohio-Erie Canal Towpath Trails were beautiful and fun to ride, but it was time to move on. We had scoped out the Great Allegheny Passage, a rails-to-trails path that runs 134 miles from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland. It hooks up with the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath and you can ride to Washington DC. The whole trip is about 235 miles, minus side trips. We planned on just riding some sections. Jim found a the Outflow Campground, so we GPSed the address (and iPad mapped it) and headed out for the banks of the Youghiogheny River. The what? How the heck do you pronounce that?

First the roads were fairly straightforward highways while I was driving but soon we got into the mountains. With Jim at the wheel, the bus was routinely pulling(and descending) 8 and 10% grades. Jim drove like a champ. Thanks to Captain Ted, and our own experience and education, the key is to go SLOW. If that doesn’t work, go SLOWER. We went up and down several hills in first gear. Thank God for jake brakes too. As Jim said later, “That terrain really increases your pucker factor.”

We came to what we thought was our final turn to head a very steep downhill into where would land in the campground. Just as we crested the hill, a guy going the other direction waved us down and said, “You don’t want to take that down there.” Jim asked about the campground and it turned out it wasn’t at that address. Thank goodness our guardian angel showed up when he did. Trust the loving universe, as my friend Connie would say. And she is right.

So we had to back it up into the roadway. At least we were right at the top of the hill. I asked a passing driver and he told me how to find the Outflow Camping. Then he blocked traffic for us, not that there was hardly any, and we got turned around. More hills ahead and we weren’t sure now where we were going. We don’t like to have to turn around or back up if we don’t have to.

We made it to the campground and got to choose between two remaining sites. I don’t know what we would have done if they were full. We got set up and all plugged in and settled in for a few days of riding. Oh and my birthday. I put out my hummingbird feeder and they came right away.

Confluence is at the confluence of the Youghiogheny and Casselman Rivers and Laurel Hill Creek. They call it the Turkeyfoot Region because of how the waters converge. It is a town of about 800 people, very bike oriented with bike racks at all the businesses around the town square.


The trail runs along the Youghiogheny River with the train tracks on the other side of the river.

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The Pinkerton Tunnel above was closed and they are soliciting funds to re-open it. Of course. But here’s the deal: for every dollar you donate, they will chip in $17! I am sending them some money. You can too.

Somerset County Rails to Trails
P.O. Box 413
Somerset, PA 15501

or online at:

The tunnel didn’t look that bad inside so hopefully it won’t take much. They had a bypass and we went on to Markleton before we turned back.

We rode about 25-30 miles a day. We don’t get up that early, take our time in the morning and hit the bikes about noon for four hours or so. That includes lunch, either homemade or not. In Confluence, we found the River’s Edge Cafe and it was excellent. The view from our table on the porch.
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Sitting on the porch sipping wine, having lunch and traveling around by bike… I told Jim I felt like I was on vacation every day. This (semi) retirement is growing on me. We went to River’s Edge again for my birthday celebration, which was lovely. We sat at the same table by the river and the flowers and toasted our good fortune.

Jim took a rest day from the bike the day after we went to Fallingwater and I rode about 20 miles scoping out the best places to take pictures of the trains and the rolling art they display. I know it’s vandalism but my artistic hat is off to those guys. They work fast, have great use of color and sense of design and are really creative. I found a couple of good spots to have close access to the trains without obstructions, one in Harnedsville and one in Confluence right on the square.

Some examples:
This is the train approaching in Harnedsville. I waved when he went by and he tooted two sharp blasts on the whistle at me. I’m not sure why but I was thrilled.


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More photos on Flickr.

Next: Fallingwater and The Kindness of Strangers.


2 comments on “The Great Allegheny Passage

  1. Wendy (and Jim) Thanks again for sharing your adventures. We are becoming vicarious bicycle pros! Ralph and Betsy

  2. Haven’t posted lately, but am reading and enjoying your adventures…you seem to not miss a beat…take care and keep living the life…BYW, I’ve been on the road about a week , should reach the Tetons this Monday…Cheers Horst sends

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