I often get asked, “What is the best time of year to be biking on the GAP?” Of course, I think any time is a great time but, I admit, some seasons have more to offer than others.
While I bike year round, I realize that’s not considered “fun” by everyone and biking through a snow-covered GAP in the dead of winter is a bit trying, even for me. And, of course, the are closed during the winter making a complete ride impossible. So taking away winter, what is good and bad about biking the GAP in spring, summer, and fall; is there a “best time of year” to bike the GAP?
After three or four months of grey and cold the spring is a release back outside. Biking on the GAP in the spring is exhilarating: breathing the fresh air, watching the brilliantly green leaves emerge from the trees, hearing the bird calls. This is a fantastic time to ride the GAP, plus, you can be through before the crowds and get your best choice of lodgings, restaurants, etc.
Keep in mind, however, that spring can also be very wet. Rain and a crushed gravel trail don’t always mix well and you can end up with an oozy mess. Your best bet for planning a trip in the spring is to watch weather, try to pick a few days that come after a dry period, and maybe plan for a wider tire.
Also keep in mind that some local businesses along the GAP close seasonally and may not reopen until May 1 or later.
After all winter cooped up inside, spring is a great time to bike.
Summer means time off work, plans with friends and family, and long sunny days on the trail. By this time the trail is, hopefully, pretty dried out. Businesses are open and ready to welcome you. You can avoid the crowded trails around Pittsburgh and Ohiopyle by planning your trip midweek. Even weekend riders, however, will have more than enough time and space to enjoy the trail.
For summer bikers, it is important to keep in mind that you can spend several days cycling through 90 degree heat. Take advantage of the long days here and spend some extra time resting off the bike at midday. Cool down, take a hike, and just relax. You’ll get to where you’re going and still have plenty of evening to spare. Of course, you should always make sure you have plenty of water and fruit to resupply your body.
For me, summer is an almost perfect time for biking on the GAP.
And then comes autumn, when we enjoy the fading temperatures and the changing colors of Western Pennsylvania. Many towns along the GAP hold fall festivals on the weekends in late September/early October; this can be a fun added activity to your bike trip.
If you do plan to spend time on the GAP around the fall holidays (Labor Day, Columbus Day), make sure to reserve your lodgings early. This is the one time of year that really fills up. Midweek rides are a great way to avoid getting shut out of your favorite B&B.
Cooler temperatures mean nice loose clothes for riding, but bring a jacket for the evening and the occasional cool fall day. Rain can become a factor later in the fall, usually after the main season is done however.
Fall means shorter days so be prepared to make sure you can reach your destination each day during daylight; otherwise, be sure to have sufficient lights with you for a late evening arrival.
The great thing about fall bike trips is the chance to grab a little more summer vacation time but also cozy up and prepare for the winter.
So there you have it, my breakdown on the pros and cons about riding the Great Allegheny Passage all year long.