Most of the time it’s easy to follow the route on these trails – for example, on the C&O Towpath, keep the Potomac River on your left if you’re headed to Cumberland, on your right if you’re headed to Washington. However, one quirk of this route is that it’s a little tricky to find the ends of the trail in Pittsburgh and Washington and to stay on the trail for the first mile or two (or to stay on the trail all the way to the end). Here are some hints.
The Pittsburgh trailhead is at the fountain at the junction of the three rivers in Point State Park .
To drive there, go to Pittsburgh downtown and head west. toward Point State Park. Find a place to park. Enter Point Park and head west, crossing under the interstate on the pedestrian bridge. Turn left or right and head toward the river. Follow the river west to the point. There is a brass marker in the sidewalk marking the beginning of the trail.
To follow the Great Allegheny Passage, stand at the marker looking east, away from the point. Turn right and head east on esplanade along side the Monongahela River. Pass under one interstate and follow a sidewalk between the interstate and the river, head down hill to the Monongahela wharf. Exit the wharf on the road way. Note the traffic is reversed and the left side of the road is the one to use. Cross Fort Pitt Blvd and turn right onto the side walk. One one block and cross back across Fort Pitt Blvd and some parkway ramps. Do not cross the bridge, but cross Smithfield Street as it comes off the bridge. Continue upriver/east on the sidewalk, towards the PNC building. (one that is brick on the first floor and glass above that).You are ow on the trail, and should be able to follow it.
The Washington trailhead is on the south (downstream) side of Thompson’s Boat House at the mouth of Rock Creek.
To drive there, find your way to Thompson Boat Center (directions at http://boatingindc.com/boathouses/thompson-boat-center/). From the parking lot, follow the road to the boathouse, then go around the boathouse to the mouth of Rock Creek.
To get onto the C&O Canal Towpath from Thompson Boat Center, go around the boathouse to the parking lot. Turn left on the sidewalk next to the road. Follow the sidewalk across two roads and a bridge across Rock Creek. Immediately after crossing the creek, turn left down a short hill on the brick towpath.
To find Thompson Boat Center from the trail, follow the trail along the canal until the brick towpath climbs to a sidewalk. Turn right, follow the sidewalk to Thompson Boat Center, and go around the boathouse to the mouth of Rock Creek.
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