Great Allegheny Passage: Cumberland to Pittsburgh
Imagine you have spent a day wandering historic Cumberland, Maryland, and you find yourself pondering a walk west, toward the Ohio Valley. Over the entire region, the way west is limited to few routes. In fact, if your map was dreadfully out of date—say a hundred and fifty years—it would look oddly familiar to today's map. Now there is the interstate highway through Cumberland, making it possible to travel the old route at higher speeds. But, except for the first few miles west of Cumberland, the new route is essentially the same as the old one.
On the map, the rail lines snaking north and south, as well as the couple running east and west, look the same today as they did generations ago. The coal, minerals and timber extracted from the mountains made their way into Cumberland on narrow-gauge railroads. The abundant natural resources helped make Cumberland into one of America's early industrial centers. The wares made there were shipped east along the railroad and canal. Then, as now, all traffic west goes along the steep hillside above Braddock Run.
Looking at the maps, you quickly understand the entire story of the Potomac River, America's westward expansion, and the significance of the PHT network. You can see how typography shapes transportation, and how transportation shapes a region.
The highland views from Big Savage Mountain, the riverside trail in the lower elevations, and the varied countryside are attracting increasing numbers of visitors. But the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) between Cumberland and Pittsburgh is also a great conservation story--a triumph of many people working together to preserve rail corridors for trail use, raise public and private funds for trail design and construction, and promote what is becoming one the Nation's exceptional multi-use trails. Known collectively as the Allegheny Trail Alliance, the group has published guidebooks, maps and interpretive pamphlets. The 73-mile section between Cumberland and Ohiopyle are recognized as part of the PHT network.
For hikers seeking solitude, the best timing is is early mornings and late afternoons or, better still, the cooler months. And Ohiopyle State Park is also a trailhead for the southern terminus of the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, a 70-mile scenic footpath following Laurel Ridge.
Last updated: May 3, 2018