This answer is focused to a bike and canoe combination. This answer began as a an internet search, but I have completed all of the legs by bike and/or canoe. No Warranty on the information is implied here, it represents my findings at the time each piece was written. The bike trail is generally rails to trails, the trail generally well above the river (flooding concerns in narrow areas) or is separated from the river by private property. Access points listed are public, a few private access points are available, but the causal traveler should assume only those listed are viable. While you can often see one from the other, the trail and river are generally not physically accessible to the other by the causal travler.
Navigation considerations on the Monongahela and Youghiogheny Rivers between Ohiopyle State Park (PA) and Pittsburgh PA.
The entire course of this journey has bike paths paralleling or in very near proximity to the river. The section of trail at Ohiopyle is the Great Allegheny Passage http://www.atatrail.org/
Legs for day journeys: bike up (5 mph), canoe down (2 mph).
- Ohiopyle to Connelllsville ~ 17 miles - Water is impractical/unsafe for a bike & canoe
- Connelllsville to Layton ~ 13 Miles
- Layton to West Newton ~ 13 Miles
- Alternate: Round Bottom to Cedar Creek Park ~ 10 Miles
- West Newton to Buena Vista ~ 7 Miles
- Alternate: Cedar Creek Park to Buena Vista ~ 11 miles
- Buena Vista to Boston/Elizabeth ~ 8 Miles
- Boston/Elizabeth to Port View ~4 miles
- Port View (McKeesport) to Southside ~14 Miles (includes Braddock Locks & Dam)
- Southside to Westhall (Pittsburgh) ~6.5 miles
Ohiopyle to Connelllsville ~ 17 miles - Water is impractical/unsafe for a bike & canoe
The Ohiopyle Falls (with observation area in the city of Ohiopyle) is the beginning of a 7 mile stretch known as the ‘Lower Yough’ it has numerous class III and IV rapids. Open Canoes are prohibited on this stretch. There is a beach launch near the observation area.
About 1.5 river miles down from the falls or half a bike path mile from the city of Ohiopyle is the Kentuck Campground (PA state) there is path connecting the campground to the bike trail.
Source: Kentuck Campground (map)
Ohiopyle State Park with Camping at Kentuck Campground has about 200 campsites and is open from April to mid-December: flush toilets, warm showers, some electric hook-ups
P.O. Box 105
Ohiopyle, PA 15470-0105
GPS DD: Lat. 39.88783 Long. -79.49427
Seven miles down from the falls is the Bruner Run Take-out
Source: Lower Yough Ohiopyle Falls to Bruner Run Take-out
The river between Bruner Run Take-out and Connellsville, is 12 miles from the takeout to where the path crosses W Craford Ave. This section has class II-III white water. A pass is needed at Bruner Run takeout/in and the South Connellsville Rod & Gun Club take out is for members only (No other public launches are on this stretch), as you come down into Connellsville there are a three empty bridge supports, followed by a railroad bridge. 300 feet farther is the extremely hazardous South Connellsville Dam. Casual boating on this stretch seems impractical.
Connelllsville to Layton ~ 13 Miles
Connellsville is 44 miles from the Monongahela, The Yough River Park is a popular put-in and trailhead for the Great Allegheny Passage. The remainder of the river is class 1.
3 miles down from Connellsville is Broadford island, in another 3 miles Dawson is on the right bank. The hwy 819 bridge crosses the river here. On the left bank under the bridge is public parking with trail access and beach used by locals for canoe launching.
5 miles down from Dawson on the left bank is the primitive camp ground Roundbottom, it is only accessible by river or trail. Room for over 100 tents it is free site with SST toilet and well with pump. It is on the left bank as the river curves to the right, you will have just passed an island about 800ft long. It is very visible from the trail, moderately visible as grassy beach from the river.
Layton to West Newton ~ 13 Miles -
There are no public launches in Layton, but there are two launches on private property that are options. A canoe rental (open seasonally) with launch and honor system pay box ($3 in 2015) right bank (accessible to the trail by a single lane auto bridge). About a mile down river on the left bank, is a private low bank access (short carry) that is open for public fishing. It is nearly parallel with end of the island (179 River Rd, Perryopolis, PA 15473)
2 Miles past Roundbottom is Layton on the right bank, followed 2 miles later by Whitsett, In another 2 miles you pass under the Banning Trestle it is 160 feet high. You are now 27 miles from the Monongahela.
2.5 miles Downriver is a the Smithton Beach and trail access. The Beach would be fine for launch or landing, it is moderately visible from the river if you are expecting, other wise it looks like a private access.
A bit farther you pass under I-70, 1.75 miles Farther on the left bank is Cedar Creek County Park, it has free camping, SST toilet, water and ramp launch. It is very visible from the river and the trail. 3.3 miles down from here is West Newton there are two access launches and at least one bicycle shop in town.
West Newton to Buena Vista ~ 7 Miles
One public launch is about 3,000 feet down river from the bridge, behind Giant Eagle. The other is just up river from the bridge. I used the up river launch; from the trail, cross the bridge and take the first right. Just pass the VFW is a blue house, then an unmarked brick drive going to the launch. It is really easy to miss as it looks like a private driveway. I biked passed it twice before I located it, even after getting directions from the local police. From the river on the right bank (image below) you can see the concrete barrier that is part of the landing, the ramp is a muddy, rutted path that is okay for hand launch but I can't imagine using a car and boat trailer.
Buena Vista to Boston/Elizabeth ~ 8 Miles
7 miles down from West Newton is Buena Vista, there is a public boat launch on the left bank, it is easy to find from land or water. Another 2 miles takes you to Dravo Cemetery (left bank), which has 25-30 tent sites. SST toilet, well with pump. Very visible from the bike trail, not visible from the river there is a marked canoe launch (sign) from the campground but there is no signage or clues from the river.
The Draco Cemetery Canoe Launch from the River, minutes after a dragging a 17 foot canoe through the foliage and and launching.
Source: Youghiogheny River Water Trail, Northern Section Connellsville to McKeesport
Boston/Elizabeth to Port View ~4 miles
6 miles from Dravo Cemetery is Boston (left bank), there is a ramp launch (highly visible from the river and the trail). You are 4 miles from the Monongahela. As you approach the Monongahela, The bike trail splits for part of this journey traveling both sides of the river, the right bank (McKeesport) side is an easier journey with a canoe.
Port View (McKeesport) to Southside ~14 Miles (includes Braddock Locks & Dam
Port Vue Launch on Atlantic Avenue has a ramp on the left bank. (40.3523˚N, -79.8714˚W) easily viable from the river, and the fifth avenue bridge. The launch is across the river from the trail, taking a canoe across the bridge on the crosswalk is possible. The next down stream launch accessible by a bike towing a canoe is Pittsburgh South Side Riverfront park (left bank) 14 miles away.
Down river is to the right, 4 miles on the Monongahela takes you to the
Braddock Locks & Dam (Lock on Right bank)
Braddock, PA 15104-1704
Braddock Dam has two locks, one for large commercial tugs and barges, the smaller for pleasure boats. Tugs use the lock on the bank side, while small boats use the one closer to the dam. They are only separated by a few feet of concrete. There is a sign directing small boats to pull the cord for access, there is a stop light to provide stop/go direction. This is a twelve foot elevation change, 50 feet of rope is required to tie off during lock operation.
There is a Ramp Launch just down from the dam right river (bike trail is left river), there are 10 miles of river before arriving at the Point of Pittsburgh (right bank) and the Ohio River. There are 7 Takeout’s along this stretch of river, but most are right river. The Three Rivers Heritage Trail continues bike access into Pittsburgh along the river.
Source Three Rivers Guide
CAUTION If biking with a canoe on the trail, between Pittsburgh and Port Vue, there is a pair of gates at Sandcastle; Haysglen St (image below), that will be problematic (as of August 2015) I was able to cart the canoe through one of the gates, but the other gate had to be portage over. All the rest of the trail in this section is okay to tow a 17 foot canoe on.
Southside to Westhall (Pittsburgh) ~6.5 miles
The south side launch is near the Birmingham Bridge, it is very visible from the river and the road. The "Three Rivers Guide" suggests there are two left river (trail side) launches between here and the point of Pittsburgh neither is practical for the causal travel. The Bike trail cross to the Point of Pittsburgh over the Fort Pitt bridge. This is tight crossing, but I have crossed with a 17 foot canoe, at the point the "Mon Wharf Launch" is feasible. The trail crosses the the Allegheny river (just up from the Ohio junction) on the "Fort Duquesne Bridge", river/trail access is available. The bike trail continues (right river on the Ohio) to the "Westhall Steet Launch" (beach). It is moderately visible from river and road if you are planning on finding it. This is the last bike trail to river access for many miles.