Rail trail biking and hiking along the Great Allegheny Passage is ideal for anyone wanting to blend a "take it at your own pace" adventure with breathtaking scenery and, literally, a journey through history. Little wonder, then, that this breathtaking trail that runs through Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania is included in the national Rail-Trail Hall of Fame.
The longest rail trail in PA, The Great Allegheny Passage consists of 150 miles of unpaved converted rail line and is open only to non-motorized vehicles. It stretches south/southeast from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland. There, the Great Allegheny Passage rail trail connects with the C&O Canal towpath, extending all the way to the Georgetown district of Washington, D.C. for a total length of 334.5 miles.
The Big Savage Tunnel, located near the Mason-Dixon Line, is closed for the winter from December 1st to April 10th each year.
**Named on CNN's list of "50 Spots, 50 States for 2014" representing Pennsylvania!
Built in the days when steam was king, this PA rail trail once rumbled with coal trains and heavy freights, and was a key artery of commerce well into the 20th century. Because rail traffic required shallow grades, Great Allegheny Passage biking, hiking or cross-country skiing never faces inclines of more than 2 percent. Recreationists enjoy a smooth, virtually-flat pathway that twists and turns through picturesque peaks, traverses rich, fertile pastures, bridges sparkling streams, spans yawning river gorges, and tunnels beneath tall Pennsylvania mountains. Truly one of the most beautiful rail trails in PA.
Depending on the time of year, Great Allegheny Passage bikers and hikers will be rewarded with gorgeous, sweetly-scented spring wildflowers, towering green forest stands and tufts of wild columbine, a blaze of autumnal red, orange, and gold or the silvery glint of frost and snow on stark winter branches. Always, the air is bracing and clean. Always, the experience is unforgettable.
All along the Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania rail trail, a series of "trail towns" serve as starting and stopping points...as well as destinations themselves. All offer overnight accommodations and places to eat for Great Allegheny Passage bikers and long-distance hikers. Most offer bike rental and repair shops as well. A stop at any of these Laurel Highlands, PA rail trail towns is sure to enhance your Great Allegheny Passage experience.
Immerse yourself in the Class I-IV whitewater fun and adventure at Ohiopyle State Park.
Experienced outfitters like Laurel Highlands River Tours, Ohiopyle Trading Post, Whitewater Adventurers and Wilderness Voyageurs can prepare you for the level and intensity of rafting that matches your desires and experience levels. They can also rent you bikes during your stay. And after you work up an appetite with all this high-energy activity, be sure not to miss the "good eats" at the Firefly Grill, Ohiopyle Bakery & Sandwich Shoppe, and the Ohiopyle House Café.
See charming Victorian homes that have been lovingly restored and transformed into bed-and-breakfasts. Sit on the deck at The Trailside for lunch or a snack and enjoy a beautiful view of both the Passage and the Youghiogheny River.
Experience the Hostel on Main created specifically for trail users. The charming Rockwood Mill Shoppes and Opera House located in a converted feed mill is a fun place to eat a homemade ice cream cone.
See the very picturesque confluence of the Casselman and Youghiogheny Rivers. Bike rentals are available. Many splendid dining and lodging options, including the River's Edge Café and its accompanying gardens, and The Parker House make this a particularly charming stop.
Visit the restored Western Maryland Railway Station just north of the Salisbury Viaduct. Remember, too, that every March, this town becomes "Maple City," hosting the Pennsylvania Maple Festival.
Experience the town's thriving glass industry, and explore La Boheme Gallery, ArtWorks Connellsville, and Connellsville Canteen.
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