It's a family-friendlier trail, much less apt to rattle your eyeballs than the venerable C&O, faster to dry out after a rain and more suited to short rides near fun towns. Among them, in Pennsylvania, Ohiopyle is a vibrant intersection for river lovers, cyclists, hikers and campers deep into fall. Nearby Fallingwater, the mountain retreat built over and as part of a waterfall, gives popular tours of the Frank Lloyd Wright masterwork.
Even so, an end-to-end ride on the GAP requires careful planning.
Skip one lunch opportunity and you may not find another for a long way. Refilling water bottles can be hit and miss. Accommodations are well spaced for doing the whole trail in three or four days but they aren't numerous.
As well, getting to a starting point on the trail, biking to the other end and finding a way back to cars, the train or the airport is a logistical knot that throws many people off.
Here's how we did it this past summer (though the trail makes a fine destination for autumn rides, too):
DAY 1: Homestead to Connellsville, Pa., 50 miles (80 kilometers)
Grouseland Tours, chosen because of its rain-date flexibility and rates ($50 each in groups of four) picked us up in Cumberland, where multiday parking is free by the Amtrak train station, and shuttled us nearly three hours to Homestead.
The trail's early progress goes from rust to rustic, winding through old industrial tracts before suddenly swinging off into pastoral lands of the Youghiogheny (yock-a-gay'-nee) River, your new and glittering companion for many miles to come.
Lunch 25 (40 kilometers) miles later was at the Trailside Cafe in West Newton, one of the few options this day, and a good one. It sits over a bicycle shop, to boot.