Route: Great Allegheny Passage Trail from Ohiopyle to Cumberland (GAP mile markers 72 to 0)

Submitted by mmtobin on Wed, 06/22/2022 - 04:13pm
Pennsylvania, US
Maryland, US
72 mi
Vertical Gain
6,711 ft

Gorgeous & interesting point to point on extremely well maintained rail trail. This route begins at GAP Mile Marker 72 on a footbridge over the Youghiogheny River in Ohiopyle, PA, a popular hiking and rafting destination. It then follows the river along the historic rail route cut through the wooded and rocky Allegheny Mountain Range area. At the town of Confluence, PA, the path leaves the Yough at a major dam and begins to meander alongside & over the winding Casselman River. There are too many charming old trestles & river views to count during the middle 35 miles. Even more fascinating and fun are the 4 railroad tunnels which await. The longest of these, at nearly 3300', cuts through Big Savage Mountain, on which wind turbines can be seen beckoning, as one slowly climbs to the Eastern Continental Divide. Making it to this high point of 2393' feels like a victory in itself, until one remembers there are 23.5 more miles to go. Not to worry though, because it is gently downhill the entire way. Sorely needed distractions in the last third of the day include beautiful vistas & three huge, rustic railroad tunnels built in the early 1900's. In the middle of the Big Savage Tunnel, an alert runner will find the magic 50 mile marker. Soon after that, one crosses the historic the Mason Dixon Line, and then will begin zig zagging over the tracks of the Scenic Western MD Railroad as it snakes down the mountain. To put spring in the step toward the end, it is possible to spy the welcome sight of Cumberland MD below, and the grade helps one along. At last, In front of a historic train depot, an arch and a huge medallion in the path mark the end of the journey. That is unless you want to keep going down the 184 mile C&O Canal Towpath, which begins where the Great Allegheny Passage Trail ends.

The GPS stats from my planning maps (and actual run) repeatedly show a total elevation gain of 6700 - 7000'. But, being a rail bed, any changes are gradual and actually help keep the mind and legs a bit fresher. It never felt to me like I was gaining or loosing much, until the constant climbing & descending around the Divide were happening. The net gain from Ohiopyle to the Divide is ~1180', the net loss to Cumberland is ~1750. There are water fountains at 28, 35.5, 40, 56.5 to allow an unsupported run in moderate temps. There are many port-a-potties and vault toilets along the way and several readily accessible town centers. If conducting a self supported, or supported run, there are innumerable road intersections and more than a dozen trailhead parking areas. The route is predominantly shady, but, the most exposed parts are during the ascent to the Divide and could be dangerously sunny & hot during summer. In winter, the route's biggest tunnel is closed and status of water fountains is unknown to me. 

I got the idea to run this route after bike packing the GAP over 2 days in May 2021. This section of the trail is by far the most jam packed full of interesting sights of the entire GAP/C&O combo. On this past Sunday, I successfully completed the planned route unsupported & will submit my documentation as soon as the route is approved. I highly recommend it for every ultra runner who wants to log a fairly fast & very fun FKT. I am sure my time will be broken very easily, as soon as people discover this wonderful section.

Here is a link to learn more:

Thanks for reading ! 

Mo Tobin


GPS Track