Hidden Gems in our Backyard

Close to the central Maryland area are a couple of wonderful places to ride bicycles.
The Great Allegheny Passage, Cumberland to Pittsburgh,  and the North Central Trail, Ashland to York are wonderful trails to enjoy a few hours or a few days on your bicycle.
This summer Pam and I spent three days on the GAP trail and had a great time. The experience of leaving ones car and heading out for a couple of overnights with only those things carried on your bicycle is quite unique.
For either of these trails many types of bicycle will work just fine, the only concern would be if your bicycle has tires that are narrower than 28mm (tire sizes are on the sidewall of the tire). I know that narrower tires can be used, they are simply not as suitable for the trail surface.
The surface is a very well packed finely crushed limestone- looser in the rainy season and quite firm in the summer months.
It is easy to take off for an overnight on either  trail systems. Your bike should have a rear rack to carry either panniers (side mounted bags which attach to the rack) or a generously sized rack top bag. For a warm weather trip ( which i suggest for the first overnight) you need only the clothes for after the ride and the next day. On both trails restaurants, hotels, motels and B and B’s are available for convenient overnights.
The length of the ride is up to you. Not sure you want to ride all day and the next? Ride as far as you want – pick a spot to start that is the distance from your destination that you wish to ride and start there, return the same distance the next day.  Concerned you will see the same trail two days in a row- don’t worry you won’t, any scenery looks quite different traveling the other direction.
Ride Itineraries- North Central Trail- some clarification- Officially the trail is called the Torrey C Brown Trail in Maryland and the York Heritage Trail in Pennsylvania. There exists 20 miles of trail in Maryland from Ashland (near Hunt Valley) to the Maryland line- then continuing approx 21 miles in Pennsylvania to downtown York. By the end of 2018 an additional approx 5 miles of trail will be completed on the northern (Pennsylvania) end. I have only stayed overnight in York, obviously, one could ride from the Pennsylvania end and stay somewhere south of ones starting point. Riding from Ashland one can expect to take 4-6 hours to arrive in York, this assumes a casual pace and stops as necessary. There are many places to stop along the way and have a bite to eat or something to drink. Picnic tables are placed frequently for a lunch that you have carried with you. Once in York, accommodations and dinner choices are many.
The next morning, breakfast and back on the bike and off you go. The North Central Trail is surprisingly rural for the proximity to Baltimore, quite bucolic and scenic, you will have a great time!!!
The Great Allegheny Passage is not quite as close, but it is a wonderful choice for a multi day ride. Cumberland, the southern terminus, is about 2 hours from Baltimore. The trial extends north to Frostburg and then into Pennsylvania and on to Pittsburgh- 150 miles.
There are shuttle services to allow the convenience of leaving ones car and not having to use two cars. Google GAP shuttle service.
In Cumberland one can also ride the C and O Canal, 182 miles to Washington DC- so one can ride about 330 miles from DC to Pittsburgh.
The surface on the C and O can be challenging- it is not as consistent or as smooth as the GAP trail.
A ride on the GAP trial, just like the NCR, can be whatever you wish it to be. One day, out and back, 4 days, 3 nights north to south, whatever you will. It is beautiful and a wonderful place to spend time on your bicycle. Places to stay, eat, picnic are numerous and well spaced. Folks talk about the fact that from Cumberland to Frostburg and a bit beyond to the divide is an uphill. It is indeed, allow for some extra time, select a comfortable pedaling cadence and you will  be at the divide in a while, then downhill to Pittsburgh.
I have included some pictures form Pam and I on the GAP summer 2017.
There is an abundance of information for both these trails available on line- more info than one can possible need or read.
Stop in at any of the Race Pace Bicycles location and talk to us about going for a ride on one of these trial system.
One more thing- both these trails are products of the Rails to Trails Conservancy- I support this organization, you might consider doing the same.

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