Promoting long distance unsupported cycling in the Pittsburgh region
For 2023, we’re dusting off one of our oldest routes…the AMCUP (Allegheny Mountains Cruel and Unusual Punishment) 400.
It starts and finishes in Washington, PA, and includes some of the more exciting climbs in the Laurel Highlands. It also includes a mind-boggling FIVE Sheetz controles, although we do reuse them on occasion.
Let me start by being very clear: this is the hardest ride we have in our catalog. It includes climbs of Chestnut Ridge and Mt Davis, and is, frankly, unrelentingly non-flat until Meyersdale at mile 150. It has 18000′ of climbing, of which more than 2/3rds is in the first 150 miles.
That said: it’s also a beautiful route, featuring gorgeous views, remote farm roads, and all the Sheetz that anyone could ask for.
We’ll leave Washington PA bright and early, escaping town as quickly as possible via 136. At this hour, it’ll be very low traffic, rolling road all the way to the bank of the Monongahela River and the first Sheetz controle. From there, we’ll cross the Mon and head upriver for a few miles until climbing the ridge and heading through Perryopolis and Vanderbilt on the way to Dunbar.
In Dunbar, the first major climb of the route begins…8 miles of Furnace Hill Rd, before cresting Chestnut Ridge. It’s shaded and pleasant for most of the climb, with only a couple of particularly steep spots…but it is a very long, steady climb, so be prepared.
Once atop the ridge, we’ll narrowly miss visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s Kentuck Knob (as the road betwixt there and Ohiopyle is too hazardous for official routing), and work our way around some undulating ridge top roads before plummeting to Ohiopyle State Park, the next controle at Falls Market, and a brief respite from climbing on the GAP trail to Confluence. (Note that no services are available on-route after Ohiopyle for nearly 50 miles, although some are available off-route in Confluence.)
In Confluence, we’ll bid farewell to the GAP for a while, and head to our second major climb on Mt Davis Rd. While we won’t go all the way to the highest point in PA, we’ll certainly get within yelling distance thereof. Much like Furnace Hill Rd out of Dunbar, this is a very long, steady climb with a couple of steeper parts; however, it’s more open country, so the views will be significantly more expansive, and shade will be less.
After the main climb up Mt Davis, the route bends south into Maryland and a long drop through Frostburg (and another Sheetz controle) into the outskirts of Cumberland. Rather than fight traffic on the way back up the hill, we’ll pick up the GAP at the Cash Valley Trailhead and take it back to Frostburg in relative ease and comfort.
From Frostburg (see the note of caution and suggestion of alternate route below), another 20ish hilly miles remain before the Meyersdale Sheetz controle. Of particular note: on Sand Springs Rd, we pass directly through a wind farm with a couple of windmills immediately off route to left and right; depending on your affinity for windmills, this may make the poor road surface of Sand Springs Rd worthwhile. Alternatively, those who do not relish potholed gravel roads (or potentially riding them in the dark) should consider the alternative routing for safety purposes.
After Meyersdale, we finally have a real reprieve from climbing…it’s 55 miles of gentle flat riding on hard packed limestone trail from here until Connellsville, with the only real concerns being lack of places to resupply, and (potentially cranky) Ohiopyle park rangers who don’t want to deal with cyclists at night.
Out of Connellsville, it’s a brief grunt over the hill back to Vanderbilt, then following rolling Rt 201 to the bank of the Mon River, and a return to the Sheetz in Monongahela for the last controle. From there, in order to avoid potential boozy post-bar traffic, we take back roads mostly paralleling I-70 all the way to the finish in Washington.
Registration closes: Thursday May 11th 2023
Inspection opens: Saturday May 13th 3:30 AM
Requirements: current RUSA membership, signed waiver, headlight/taillight/reflective gear
Ride start: Saturday May 13th 4:00 AM (27:00 time limit)