There are three detours between Pittsburgh and Washington: Nine miles remain unfinished between Pittsburgh and McKeesport. From November to April, Big Savage Tunnel is closed, requiring a detour. Driving directions for these detours are here. We do not recommend biking on the Great Allegheny Passage detour.
On a self-contained trip, bikers carry all their own gear and ride to the campsite or lodging. No vehicle accompanies the trip. That means that your only transportation problem during the trip is getting people and gear around the detours. If you start or end in McKeesport and go when Big Savage Tunnel is open, you should be ok.
On a lightly-supported trip, you need a vehicle to carry baggage from one night’s lodging to the next. This vehicle can probably carry some (but not all) people and bikes to and from the trailheads. You need a driver for this vehicle. You may be fortunate enough to have a volunteer – perhaps a friend or family member who doesn’t want to bike all day. People on the trip can drop out for half a day at a time to drive. Or you can hire a driver. For detours around trail gaps, you can make multiple trips, or pre-position one of your own cars nearby, or hire a local shuttle service, or let some bikers ride the roads (carefully!). If you’re camping, note that the many hiker-biker campgrounds are intended for groups of six or fewer through-bikers, and they're deliberately located far away from car access. There are some campgrounds with car access, but they're farther apart.
On a fully-supported trip, you need enough vehicles and drivers to carry all the people, baggage, and bikes back and forth between the trail and your lodging (B&B, motel or commercial campground). This could be a large van with trailer or several cars. You’ll also be able to drive everyone to and from the trailheads and on the detours around trail gaps. The advantage is that you can avoid riding on roads, and you get many more options for lodging and dining. The disadvantage is that you may spend a lot of time organizing, waiting for people, loading, unloading, and driving. This extra complexity seems to us to detract from the trail experience, especially the sense of riding a continuous trail.
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