A friend and I took advantage of great spring biking weather and rode a short segment of the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP). This was my first ride of the season, so I kept it short, just 10 miles all told. This was my first foray to the GAP, so I wasn't sure what to expect of the trail or the scenery, but it seemed appropriate that I'd introduce myself to the GAP with the "bridge-to-bridge" ride, between two soaring viaducts, just five miles apart.
The access point for this ride is Meyersdale, a few scenic miles away from the Maryland border. We parked at the historic Meyersdale train station, which is also a museum devoted to the Western Maryland Rail Road; there is also a gift shop that sells bike jerseys and t-shirts with the Great Allegheny Passage logo and maps. Once we explored the Meyersville Train Station museum, used the rest rooms and changed into our biking clothes, we were finally ready to start our ride.
Two years later, the first train crossed the Salisbury Viaduct -- one of the main attractions of this short 10-mile ride and our next destination on the ride. The Salisbury Viaduct is also one of the signature attraction for the GAP itself, appearing in multiple photo essays of the rail trail and appearing on its logo as well.
When we reached the station, we kept going past it. If we'd started by turning left out of the parking lot (and as it turns out, the recommendation I'd read suggested going left first), our first segment would have been a breezy ride downhill -- often coasting -- two miles to the almost 2000-foot long Salisbury Viaduct, which lofts a breath-taking 100 feet above the Casselman River, farmland, and the highway below.
The three-mile ride back to the train station was harder than the first leg from the train station to the Keystone Viaduct, but easily doable, and I believe this is the right order to do this ride: breaking up the uphill portions made it a little more pleasant, especially for those who aren't at their peak fitness. :)
Throughout the ride, we enjoyed the sounds of the countryside -- roosters crowing, the call of a hawk piercing the air, the train whistle as it encountered road crossings. It's very peaceful and a lovely setting for a bikeride. The path itself is packed fine gravel and it there was little debris on the railtrail itself, although property owners adjacent to the trail seem to throw their garbage down the slopes from their properties, making some sections of the trail unsightly. Although we went on a week day, it's my guess that the trail doesn't become as crowded as more urban trails (such as the NCR or C&O Canal Towpath in Maryland).
Know Before You Go 1: There is ample parking at the Meyersdale Train Station, which offers rest rooms, and a small gift shop that also has good trail snacks. You can also pick up a free GAP trail guide and other materials there.
Know Before You Go 2: To sum up the order of the ride, from the Meyersdale Train Station, turn right out of the parking lot, heading south on the trail two miles to the Keystone Viaduct. Turn around after crossing it, heading back toward the train station. Keep going past the train station another three miles to the Salisbury Viaduct. Check out the cemetery on the opposite side before heading back toward the train station. Of course, you can lengthen your ride by going further beyond either viaduct.
Getting there: 527 Main Street, Meyersdale, PA.
Hours: Dawn through dusk.
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