Riding Into Pittsburgh on the Great Allegheny Passage
In general, riding from Boston PA into Pittsburgh along the Great Allegheny Passage is like opening a series of gifts, each offering increasing opportunities. Although tremendous progress has been made, there are still some minor navigation transitions that are not intuitive and we hope to make them explicit. Also, we would like to identify the amenities and options available along the various trail segments.
Boston PA trailhead to Riverton Bridge
The Boston, PA trailhead is identified when you pass underneath the blue bridge that connects Boston to Versailles, PA (which is locally pronounced, Ver-sales). You'll see a green railroad car and a small visitor's center. Further along the trail, at the far end of the ballfields, are rest rooms.
You'll ride through Dead Man's Hollow, and then the trail climbs up and over the Durabond Pipe Factory using a bit of trail known as the Durabond Bypass. When you come down the other side, the trail turns into a joint-use-road.
You'll continue on this road for a mile, and then rejoin the trail on the left. The trail crosses the Youghagheny River via the 15th Street bridge; watch out for the expansion joints on either end. When you cross the Yough River you'll be in McKeesport.
In McKeesport you'll turn left onto 13th Street, and make the first right onto Market Street. Turn left on 11th Street, and you'll ride straight into the trail which winds around the McKeesport Marina. There's a restaurant called McKee's Point Marina.
The trail goes under the bridge, then turns right along the parking lot and goes uphill. It passes between the municipal building and the steel plant. At Locust Street, the trail turns left and crosses acive train tracks. You'll see markings for where the paved trail resumes, and it joins the (southern) bank of the Monongahela River until it crosses at the Riverton Bridge.
Riverton Bridge to Pump House
From the Riverton Bridge to the Pump House, navigation is very straightforward: follow the trail. When you come off the bridge, you'll be in Duquesne PA. You will encounter a bit of climbing as two crossover bridges move the trail around the railroad tracks, and along the hills. You may also see where the Steel Phantom roller coaster at Kennywood amusement park descends over the cliff and down to the trail.
After you cross the second flyover bridge, in Whittaker PA, you'll descend and the trail merges with the road into a major shopping center called the Waterfront. The trail uses a designated bike lane, marked by reflective wands. As you come out of the grassy trail area and into the shopping area, you'll see the painted, designated bike lanes.
The bike lanes go around the Marcegaglia Steel Mill. Halfway around the mill, watch for railroad tracks crossing the road. At the end of the mill, you'll see a few low, brick buildings on the right and probably some bike activity: this is the Pump House, with rest rooms and a water fountain.
The Pump House is the scene of the historic Battle of Homestead and there are numerous panels describing the activity that took place. A little further along the site is a contemplative labyrinth.
Pump House to Hot Metal Bridge
There are at least two primary methods of proceeding on the GAP from the Pump House to the Sandcastle segment of the trail. The first is, continue along the road's designated bike lane until the bike lane ends and turns into a trail along the river (which can be boggy in heavy rain). The second is, when the bike lane ends, take the sidewalk along the roadway through the shopping center (which has a lot of intersections).
With either route, you'll end up at the sidewalk where a green footbridge crosses over the main roadway. You do not need to cross this bridge, except that there are public restrooms and a Starbucks on the other side of it.
Continue along the sidewalks. The local trail council and the local police department are very concerned about trail users and crossing car traffic at the next few intersections, particularly at the hotels and along the Costco property. Caution is advised for fast-moving, distracted drivers.
The trail uses the sidewalk around Costco, and then joins a fenced-in path along railroad tracks. This fenced-in section is known as the Sandcastle trail.
At the end of the Sandcastle Trail, there is a street with stop signs and there are double gates that encourage the cyclist to dismount and walk across the street. On the other side, you'll use a fence-and-wall trail next to the Keystone Metals recycling yard. The Sandcastle and Keystone Metals segments are very recent acquisitions to the Pittsburgh trail network.
At the far end of the Keystone trail segment, there is a vantage point to observe an eagle's nest. From Keystone Metals, you're 7.5 miles to Point State Park. The trail continues quietly for several miles until you reach the Hot Metal Bridge and South Side Pittsburgh.
The GAP Route: Jail Trail to Point State Park
When you arrive at Hot Metal Street, you've arrived in Pittsburgh! Congratulations. A few points before moving on. If you were to turn away from the river on Hot Metal Street for 2 blocks, and then turn left for two blocks, you'd come to a Get-Go convenience store with rest rooms. OR, from that position at Hot Metal Bridge, you can go straight for three blocks and be at REI, which has a bike shop and rest rooms. This is also the edge of Pittsburgh's SouthSide neighborhood, filled with restaurants, coffee shops, and bars. Four blocks in, we recommend BigDogCoffee as a coffee shop with bike parking, and OverTheBars as a bike-themed restaurant-bar with a bike corral outside.
This section describes the official, intended route to enter Pittsburgh and Point State Park, which is not yet complete. Since it is incomplete, other alternatives are presented below.
Use the switchback ramp and bike lane to cross the Hot Metal Bridge. Stop on the bridge and take obligatory photos with the downtown skyline in the background. At the end of the bridge, turn left and take the Eliza Furnace Trail (aka Jail Trail) inbound to downtown (northwest).
The Jail Trail stops at Grant Street. At the terminus, wait at the light and cross one road to the shared sidewalk. (there are multiple roads in this intersection). The shared use sidewalk will convey you to Smithfield Street.
At Smithfield Street, there is no official route to Point State Park. We recommend: turn right onto Smithfield Street. Obey the lights. Turn left onto Blvd of the Allies. Turn right onto Commonwealth Place. Turn left into Point State Park, which is bifurcated by the highway. Go through the underpass, and then ride to the Fountain at the Point on the other side. Find the GAP terminus marker in the stone floor at the Point. Mandatory Photo Opportunity. Restrooms in adjacent building.
Alternative Route: SouthSide Trail to Ft. Pitt Bridge and Point State Park
This is an alternative route between the GAP at the Hot Metal Bridge and Point State Park. As you approach the Hot Metal Bridge, pass between the river and the American Eagle Outfitters corporate headquarters to stay on the trail. This is the SouthSide Trail.
The trail continues northwest through RiverfrontPark. Inside the park, it shares the road with cars for about a half-mile, then resumes as a separate trail.
At South 9th Street, the trail ends. The detour consists of a left turn, to go one block away from the river onto Bingham Street. Turn right onto South 4th Street, and rejoin the trail to your left.
In one-half mile, you'll ride through a shared-use plaza at Station Square. Most of the tourists in the plaza will not realize they are on a shared-use bike path. Continue north-west, and continue past the soccer stadium.
You will pass under the Fort Pitt bridge, and then the trail will end. Cross the street and the trail resumes on the other side, on the sidewalk. The sidewalk teardrops to the left and returns up to the walkway on the Fort Pitt bridge, and you descend into Point State Park.
The advantage of this route is you avoid riding on downtown streets. The disadvantage of this route is you still have to detour onto streets, you have to ride in the joint-use plaza, and you have you climb up the Fort Pitt bridge (which is a pretty big hill at the end of the day).
Beyond Point State Park
From Point State Park, several cycling exits are available.
Fort Pitt Bridge. At the Museum building, find the Fort Pitt walkway ramp and cross the Mon River. On the other side, you can take the trail to SouthSide works or the GAP Southeast bound. You can take the T (PAT public transit) into the South Hills).
Fort Duquesne Bridge A ramp from Point State Park leads to the walkway for the Fort Duquesne Bridge which crosses the Allegheny River to the North Side, the stadiums and the casino. From there, the Chateau Trail goes three miles northwest along the Ohio River and the NorthSide Trail goes seven miles northeast along the north bank of the Allegheny River, out to Millvale.
Strip District Trail Another ramp from Point State Park leads to the Strip District Trail, which runs northeast along the south bank of the Allegheny River, past the Convention Center and out to 24th Street at the Cork Factory Building.
Blvd of the Allies - Jail Trail Coming out of the Park, turn right on Commonwealth Place and turn left on Blvd of the Allies. At Grant Street, which is a very complex intersection, turn right. Get on the curb at PNC Bank, and join the Jail Trail (Eliza Furnace Trail) behind the bank building).