“A scenic climb up the Allegheny Mountains on a traditional rail trail.”
— Cheryl Ladota
Open sunrise to sunset.
The GAP, whose first 20 miles are in Maryland and connect to the C&O Canal Towpath in Cumberland, runs 150 miles and was the first Rail Trail inducted into the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Hall of Fame.
The trail surface is a combination of crushed limestone and asphalt that runs over valleys, through mountains, and alongside rivers, while also navigating tunnels, bridges and viaducts. You'll cross the Cumberland Narrows, the Mason-Dixon Line, and the Eastern Continental Divide.
The ride through Maryland is a gradual climb up the mountain, so if you are only going one-way, catch the scenic railroad so you can either ride uphill or down.
Need to Know
Both Cumberland (mile 1) and Frostburg (mile 16) have great little towns that are perfect for a meal, a snack, or some shopping.
This ride is the Maryland segment of the GAP, which runs 150 miles from Cumberland, MD to Pittsburgh, PA. The Cumberland trailhead also connects to the 184.5-mile C&O Canal Towpath.
Leaving from Cumberland, you'll climb up the mountains to the Mason-Dixon Line. It is a slow, steady climb, but it can test your endurance, particularly early on during the ride. The scenery is fantastic any time of year and the trail is well maintained. It is very popular on the weekends from spring to fall, so you are likely to see bikers, walkers, runners, dog walkers, thru-hikers, and thru-bikers.
Some of the major points of interest include:
Mile 0: Canal Place - site of the visitor center, bike shop, and plenty of eateries.
Miles 0-2: Paved trail that cross the rail lines numerous times. Keep an eye out for Lovers Leap as you ride through the Narrows.
Mile 2: The Route 40 Bridge - the trail surface switches to gravel and you begin the steady climb to Mile 4.
Mile 4: Bone Cave - bones of a Pleistocene cave bear and a saber-tooth tiger were found here.
Mile 5: Helmstetters Curve - a sweeping 180-degree horseshoe curve.
Mile 6: Brush Tunnel - a short concrete tunnel that riders share with the Scenic Railroad.
Mile 7-8: In springtime, the mountainside is abloom with forsythia and rhododendron.
Mile 14: The train tracks branch off and up into the mountains.
Mile 15: Frostburg - another trailhead with a great trail town. You can ride a switchback up the hill to the train depot and watch the cool turntable.
Mile 17.5: Borden Tunnel - this is a 957-foot unlighted tunnel. Don't be fooled, it gets pitch black once you reach the center, so be careful, especially on a crowded day.
Mile 20.5: Mason-Dixon Line - the end of the Maryland segment. If you have it in you, continue on to the next two stops.
Mile 22: Big Savage Tunnel - this tunnel cuts 3,300 feet through the mountain (closed in winter).
Mile 23.5: Eastern Continental Divide - this site is 2,392 feet above sea level and offers fantastic views.
History & Background
This Rail Trail is built on the site of the Western Maryland Railroad, which was a small passenger railroad that ran west out of Baltimore in the late 1800's. The train ran until 1975 and you can still ride it from Cumberland to Frostburg from May to December, making it easy to complete this trip one-way. There is interesting interpretive signage along the route telling the history connected to the trail.