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Ride Report- Circling the GAP

This topic contains 12 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  reddan 3 mos, 2 weeks.

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jlfunder

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Apr 12 2014 at 9:32pm #

I don’t like driving to a place and riding on a trail for a few miles and then riding back. I like to try to make loops- where I can come back to where I started.

This is a ride report of a grand loop- starting on the GAP trail (at the Hotmetal Bridge) going East, connecting to the Montour trail and following that to return on the West end of Pittsburgh. “Circling the GAP”

The new section of the GAP connecting PGH south side with McKeesport is an ideal run, scenic, paved and not crowded at 7 am. The “Glassport connector’ is well signed, well meaning but a little ridiculous in trying to keep cycles off of 5th street which is wide and not crowded. It has you running down back alleys, the wrong way on one-way streets and over amazing potholes. It gets the job done. Getting through Clairton and onto the very South end of the Montour trail works even though the sign for the trailhead is small and on the wrong side of a 4-lane road. The eastern-most stretch of the Montour trail is amazing. I thought I was in Colorado. It dumps you onto highway 51 however with an admonition that the safest way to traverse the next section is to “Walk Bikes on the Grass” (i.e., through peoples yards). The next section, taking you to South Park township is also scenic- with a really rural feeling including a couple of cool tunnels. This ends with a sign saying it is 1.9 miles to the third section of the trail but you get no help beyond that. The longest section of the Montour trail starts at Library Road in South Bethel Park. This was really difficult first-time navigation. In spite of GPS, Google maps, and map my ride, I looked for that trailhead for 30 mins. It is not signed and not visible! (Duh). Library Road is no piece of cake either. Having attained the long-sought trail, it was a little slow due to a washboard packed dirt surface and well stocked with dog walkers but gave a nice continuous 20 mile run. After an amazing bridge I dropped down to the Panhandle trail in a reasonably well signed transition. This winds along a river through the quaint town of McDonald. Actually It parallels the road, which I think would be more enjoyable- better surface, better turns, few cars. After maybe 10 miles the trail ends abruptly and I relied on MapMyRide to close the gap to the Heritage Trail system on the Allegheny. This 7 mile transition consisted of several miles of Noblestown Road- narrow with no shoulder but not busy, followed by Carnegie- with its delightful old-fashioned downtown well supplied with food and drink. Finally, a few miles of highway 60 (narrow, no shoulder but no traffic) takes you to that unnerving unavoidable crunch required to get onto the West End Bridge. The heavy Saturday trail traffic made going slow back to the car at the Elisa Furnace parking lot off of 2nd street in Hazelwood.
Conclusion: 75 miles, 4000 ft climb. I took 7 hr but I’m old and fat. Is this a viable day route ? Certainly. It is really the shortest way to do a one-way round trip that gets a good portion of the Montour trail. Is this a ‘trail ride’ ? Nope. You need to have the mindset that you are going to be on roads with cars for a reasonable portion of this. Except for the little West End Bridge trick (some of which can be done on sidewalks) the road cycling did not seem scary but there were sections with barriers where you cant escape traffic. Would I do it again-absolutely. Do I think you should ? yeah, and tell me about it.

I posted this route on MapMyRide as a public route- check it out.


Steven

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Apr 13 2014 at 1:13am #

Great trip report, thanks! A few notes:

the safest way to traverse the next section is to “Walk Bikes on the Grass” (i.e., through peoples yards).

To be fair, it’s really just one yard (for a business) plus a parking lot you can ride through. But it sure would be nice if they could eliminate that bit someday.

This ends with a sign saying it is 1.9 miles to the third section of the trail but you get no help beyond that.

There’s supposed to be a box on the sign with some paper maps you can take with you (and deposit in the similar box at the other end of the detour). Two of the three significant on-road detours that remain on the trail have such maps, or should.

That particular detour should be easier once they extend the trail over the Library trestle, getting it completely off Library Road. They’re hoping to start construction on that this year.


Ahlir

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Apr 13 2014 at 12:28pm #

That’s an impressive circuit; metric century+

The business at 51 is a funeral parlor. I ride the grass but it always feels a bit weird. I’m not sure that walking would make it any less weird for me…

A path, plus maybe a hedge, would fix it.


jlfunder

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Apr 13 2014 at 5:05pm #

the safest way to traverse the next section is to “Walk Bikes on the Grass” (i.e., through peoples yards).

I have been on parts of 51 where I would have sold some body part for a helicopter rescue but that section seemed pretty benign. It’s really only half a block. I was just amused by the sign- they might have said “Safest way is to dig a tunnel”.

This ends with a sign saying it is 1.9 miles to the third section of the trail but you get no help beyond that.

There’s supposed to be a box on the sign with some paper maps you can take with you (and deposit in the similar box at the other end of the detour). Two of the three significant on-road detours that remain on the trail have such maps, or should.

That particular detour should be easier once they extend the trail over the Library trestle, getting it completely off Library Road. They’re hoping to start construction on that this year.

It’s an amazing trail, and I will be back but it better signage would help the navigation-impaired. The maps were probably there- but according to my wife I am pretty unobservant once I get rolling. (I did climb the wrong mountain in the Alps once. Or maybe more than once.) (-: jf


edmonds59

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Apr 14 2014 at 5:26am #

I can’t find your route on Map My Ride, a link would be really helpful.
Do I have to join just to look at a route? Because I don’t use MMR.


Mikhail

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Apr 14 2014 at 7:57am #

jlfunder wrote:After an amazing bridge I dropped down to the Panhandle trail in a reasonably well signed transition.

I would advise to stay on Montour another 17 miles and chose one of the options I provided in another thread — total of about 30 miles to downtown. If you are interested in getting to Carnegie through West End Bridge — this is another weekend PMTCC route http://ridewithgps.com/routes/3073350.


jlfunder

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Apr 14 2014 at 9:11am #

Sorry about the Route confusion. I apparently classified the route as private on Map My Ride . Is should be visible now. Here is the link- http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/388802502
The street nomenclature is inconsistent between google maps and MMR. I completely agree that the route both to Carnegie and from Carnegie to West End Bridge was a very enjoyable road ride without any traffic. The lack of shoulders and curvy nature of the roads made me feel a little vulnerable. jf


jlfunder

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Apr 14 2014 at 9:20am #

One more thing. Looking at the map I just remembered the “bike path” that is an extension of Chartiers Ave in East Carnegie is an abandoned overgrown dirt road. It is not practical unless you have a fat tired bike. Go on the residential roads to the the west.


jlfunder

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Apr 14 2014 at 9:27am #

Mikhail wrote:

jlfunder wrote:After an amazing bridge I dropped down to the Panhandle trail in a reasonably well signed transition.

I would advise to stay on Montour another 17 miles and chose one of the options I provided in another thread — total of about 30 miles to downtown. If you are interested in getting to Carnegie through West End Bridge — this is another weekend PMTCC route http://ridewithgps.com/routes/3073350.

Thanks Mikhail, that is a very attractive looking route. I will give it a try. It uses Hwy 50 out of Carnegie which seem to me to have fairly fast traffic.


edmonds59

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Apr 14 2014 at 11:42am #

Yes, 50 northbound out of Carnegie not advisable for the most part. Drivers use it as a Parkway/Greentree shortcut.


paulheckbert

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Apr 17 2014 at 11:23pm #

Something I posted to Montour-Trail@yahoogroups.com on 2011/7/11:

I biked the entire Montour Trail on Saturday, and my high level comments are:

Trail maintenance is good.

Signage is good. Compared to many trails, the Montour trail has good and fairly frequent signs. The addition of detour signs & maps (with printed maps) e.g. at Library, is a big improvement compared to a few years ago. At the north/west end of the trail (the first half), there were often printed maps available.

The east end of the trail (McMurray to Clairton) needs some work, however: no printed Montour Trail maps available there, that I noticed, and the biggest problem for me was that there was no water along that section that I saw. How about a drinking fountain at Triphammer, Snowden, or Clairton?

Trail users were well-behaved.

The Corvette tunnel on Piney Fork that flooded last week was open. Although the Clairton bridge is currently closed to cars, it’s open to bicycles & pedestrians.

Positives about the east end of the trail: the restroom near Snowden Rd was helpful. The Steel Valley Trail maps on the bulletin board at Clairton were also great to see (since I’m a member of SVTC). Who put those up?

My two friends and I did a big loop: Squirrel Hill (Pittsburgh’s east end) – Southside trail – the Point – Northside trail – McKees Rocks Bridge – Route 51 – Neville Island (formerly Montour Island) – Montour Trail from Coraopolis to Clairton including side trips to Bethel Branch & Sleepy Hollow in South Park – McKeesport – new GAP/SVT past Kennywood – Schenley Park – Squirrel Hill. A nice 105 mile day. One of our party, who felt like doing only 75 miles, cut the day short by taking the T from Library to Pittsburgh mid-afternoon with her bicycle.

For anyone else who wants to bike from Pittsburgh to Coraopolis, I’d recommend the route we followed.


jlfunder

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Apr 18 2014 at 1:02pm #

paulheckbert wrote:McKees Rocks Bridge – Route 51 – Neville Island

I have been looking at that route but was not sure how to get from the Northside trail to McKees Rocks bridge. Does California Ave work? How about Rt 51 to Neville Is., any traffic issues? Also my maps spec that loop out at 85 miles. How did you get the extra 20?

JF


reddan

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Apr 18 2014 at 1:12pm #

have been looking at that route but was not sure how to get from the Northside trail to McKees Rocks bridge. Does California Ave work? How about Rt 51 to Neville Is., any traffic issues?

California works, but the easiest way I know of is to take the trail to the end by the state pen, then Eckert->McClure->left on Davis->right on California->left at light toward 65 to cross the McKees Rocks Bridge.

Rt 51 to Neville Island is fine…decent shoulder most of the way, and traffic there is rarely terribly troublesome in my experience.

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