Web searches yielded great reviews for the Great Allegheny Passage. The goal of my search was to plan a self-supported bicycle trip that would be over a reasonably level track. The GAP has a grade, but it is a mild one that averages less than 1% uphill from Pittsburgh to the Eastern Continental Divide and less than 1.5% downhill from the Divide to Cumberland. I decided to start in Pittsburgh and finish in Cumberland at the trailhead there.
There is a good Great Allegheny Passage web site where there are adequate maps and other information. After studying everything that I could find, I found that there were significant distances where there were no stores, restaurants, or hotels. It was necessary to plan ahead for sleeping and eating. During the day I needed to be prepared to eat where there were opportunities.
I carried about 50 pounds of gear on front and rear panniers. My bicycle is a Surly Long Haul Trucker with 700mm x 35 tires. I use Tubus racks, which carry the load as low as possible. That is an advantage because the bike is much more stable with the lower center of gravity. All of the gear was selected during planning for previous bicycle tours. There were no surprises. I had everything that I needed.
I rented a car to get from my home town in Massachusetts to Pittsburgh. I would have a rental car waiting for me in Cumberland for the trip home. One-way rentals are the most convenient modes of transit on these types of trips for me personally. I’ve looked into trains and busses and found limitations that I wasn’t willing to tolerate. There may be shuttles, but the constraint of a shuttle is that I would need to drive to Cumberland and shuttle to Pittsburgh. That would make a long trip to Pittsburgh. It is very straightforward to drive from home straight to Pittsburgh. To me the one-way rentals are not that expensive and have the advantage of being on my schedule and to my destinations.
Starting the bicycle tour in Pittsburgh was important to me because I wanted to see the three rivers: the Monongahela, the Allegheny, and Ohio Rivers. The maps showed the park where all three come together and I wanted to experience that park. There were also maps that showed the GAP originating at the park. That turned out to be misleading, but not a big problem.
My mistake was arriving on the evening of a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game. The traffic was horrendous and I quickly determined that I would not make it to the rental car return before it closed. Stranded in traffic, I did some research and planned an alternative drop-off at a hotel rental agency. That was not as convenient and I needed to negotiate a ride back to the hotel where I was staying.
I stayed at the Wyndham right across from Point State Park. I got the AAA rate, which was still a little high. It was worth it for the convenience of being able to roll out the front door in the morning and into the park to start the trip. They also had a good dinner and breakfast. After dinner, I walked the park to try to determine where the GAP started. It was dark, but I spotted a potential trail along the Monongahela.