trails within 100 miles of Pittsburgh
A thread for discussion of bike trails within a drive of 2 hours or so of Pittsburgh.
WV Rail-Trail Sojourn April 24-26 2015
An organized ride of 3 days and 2 nights with lodging, and (some) meals for $345, biking from Morgantown to Fairmont, Decker’s Creek Trail, Cheat Lake.
With a bit of road riding, one can go from Morgantown to Parkersburg, mostly on trails.
@fultonco: have you done it? How is the section between Shinnston and the east end of the North Bend Rail Trail?
I haven’t done the whole thing, yet. I have seen the road from Shinnston and have ridden from Clarksburg out to Wolf Summit.
I would recommend WV-20 from Shinnston. Close to town, there will be more traffic. But Shinnston is not a very large town. My wife and I stayed at a B&B there last June. The road is a typical country road. Curvey and not particularly wide but not a lot of traffic either. You will encounter some fast moving cars and pick-up trucks. I wouldn’t recommend taking the lane anywhere in West Virginia, unless you want to ask for trouble. There are also very few leash laws in the Mountaineer State, so take some pepper spray.
When you get down to Wilsonburg Road, it is also a country road but there is a good bit of fracking going on, so expect to see some large trucks and workers in pick-ups. Antero Corporation, I believe. I had one tight encounter as I was slowly cresting a small hill but I can’t say anyone was rude to me. There just wasn’t room for all of us. they did say behind me until the sight lines improved.
My assessment is that I would ride these roads without hesitation. They are nothing you haven’t encountered in other rural areas and the hills are of a routine nature for Pittsburgh riders.
If you see anyone as you get close to Wolf Summit, they will probably be curious as to where you are from. They apparently get riders from all over who come to ride the North Bend. They may be a little disappointed to find out you only came there from Pittsburgh!
I’ve biked, on separate outings, Morgantown to Fairmont (Mon River Trail South – nice), Fairmont to Shinnston (West Fork River Trail – nice), and Wolf Summit to Parkersburg (North Bend Rail Trail – rough gravely surface). The lodge at North Bend State Park is a decent place to stay. The most memorable stop on the NBRT was when I entered the volunteer fire hall in Greenwood, looking for a restroom, and encountered this “wrestling” match:
The “Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition” is an effort to connect Pittsburgh, Erie, Cleveland, Parkersburg WV, Morgantown WV, and nearby areas with a network of bike trails.
Akron Beacon Journal article.
their map of what might be in a decade or two
It would be great for the Panhandle to connect to the city and the GAP, but that would take a lot of work.
The rail line that became the Panhandle is the West Busway closer to town, isn’t it?
Given that, might be worthwhile to run it into Carnegie for the bus hookup, but use Montour either direction to connect by bike to GAP and Downtown…
According to Wikipedia, the Panhandle Route was once the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad (PCC&StL). This map shows the route as:
Monongahela River Bridge (aka Panhandle Bridge), which currently carries the T over the river, downstream along the Ohio, then through Sheridan, Ingram (now the West Busway route), Carnegie, Walker’s Mill, … Burgettstown, Weirton, Steubenville, … There were other rail lines from Pittsburgh to Carnegie via the Ohio River, McKees Rocks, and Chartiers Creek.
I don’t understand why they don’t open some of the busways up to bicyclists.
> I don’t understand why they don’t open some of the busways up to bicyclists.
Parts of the East Busway, and if i recall correctly most of the other two, are less than 30 feet wall to wall. You really want a bus going past you at 50 or 60mph on that?
It’s amazing how fast a mostly empty bus can go…
But honestly no, as I don’t like it when they get way to close to me on Carsen St. as I’m coming off the West End Circle but I’ve learned to live with it as there is no alternative.
Very cool map, but I think it is optimistic. Some of the proposed routes are blocked by rails still in service, so unless that changes…
Speaking of, here’s a useful link for things on my end.
Lawrence Walsh wrote up the Erie-to-Pittsburgh trail-building effort for the PG:
More than 100 miles, but
“Phoenixville Celebrates Opening of Schuylkill River Trail”
The trail surface is mostly good crushed limestone (but if you don’t have a mountain bike or tough wrists you might want to skip miles 2-15 on the trail, this year, as the surface is either ballast or new crushed limestone that will still be soft for another month or two). For Pittsburghers, I’d recommend getting on the trail in New Bethlehem, going downstream to see the Climax Tunnel:
and then upstream to Brookville and back. Map: http://www.redbankvalleytrails.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/RVTA-Map.pdf
The RVTA has done an impressive job of building this trail quickly and inexpensively.
Have others tried this trail?
I did some work for Venture Outdoors this summer in which I got to look at the various programs they use trails for. One that came up was the Ghost Town Trail in Indiana County. 36 mile trail, very quiet, historic, and with only a slight grade.
Also thinking around the Indiana area, there is the Hoodlebug Trail, which goes from the Ghost Town Trail to Indiana. Haven’t ridden it, but it seems to be in good shape.
I mapped out a route for a 3 or 4 day bike trip from Cleveland to Pittsburgh employing the new Amtrak Capitol Limited roll on/roll off.
Take train to Cleveland (departs Pgh at midnight, arrives Cleveland at 3am – ugh!). Get hotel in Cleve immediately & sleep! Could be a 3 day ride back to Pittsburgh (sleep also in Massillon & Steubenville) at 70 mi/day, or 4 day (sleep in Akron, Zoar, Weirton) at 52 mi/day.
90 miles trail (Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath, Cleveland-Zoar), then 70 miles mostly road (Zoar-Weirton), then 30 mi Panhandle Trail, then mix of roads and trails to Pittsburgh.
I haven’t tried this route in totality, but I’d like to. In pieces, I’ve biked everything but miles 90-116, and 127-154.
Here’s a nice 29 mile loop ride, mostly on easy crushed limestone trails, but with some hills on roads. It starts in Walker’s Mill at the Panhandle Trail trailhead, west 2 miles on that trail, then north through Settler’s Cabin Park (300 foot climb, nice new paved trail, steep in places, wooded), then 3 miles of moderate-traffic roads past Bayer, mostly downhill and quick, to the Montour Trail, which you take 12 miles west and south to McDonald, where you get on the Panhandle Trail, and bike 9 miles east to the starting point.
If this isn’t enough distance, you could add spurs: north on the Montour Trail to Coraopolis, to the airport, or south on the Montour Trail toward Cecil.
I rode parts of the Allegheny River Trail and the Sandy Creek Trail a few weeks back, I would highly recommend both, especially for road bikes, since they are both paved asphalt. The Allegheny River Trail is paved from Franklin south to Kent Rd. near Kennerdell, where it becomes a gravelish dirt road. Not sure how long the break in pavement is–I was on a road bike and rode for half a mile to see if I could get to the Kennerdell tunnel, but it was rough and I gave up to head back toward my car in Franklin.
There is also a stairway (with a wooden ramp next to it for pushing your bike) that connects to the Sandy Creek trail. Unlike most rail-trails, this one goes sort of along the top of a ridge instead of through a valley, so the views are great. It has a couple short tunnels and several really high bridges, including one over the Allegheny.
I didn’t ride north of Franklin, but apparently the Justus trail is also a paved trail at least up to Oil City.
Well if you can get as far as Oil City on trail, the Oil Creek trail going north from there is very nice, paved, I rode it a couple of weeks ago. Seems like it would be a nice one to ride in hot weather, I was eyeing up opportunities for future pants-free creek-dipping.
@alleghanian – You were almost to the end of the 1/2 mile non-asphalt section of the River Trail when you turned around. I am pretty sure I know where you turned around just from riding it. They did not do a very good job when they put ion the connector from the trail to the township road. The river camp community is Sunny Slope. Once you get back on the asphalt trail the Kennerdell Tunnel is another 1/2 mile or so south on the trail. Take a good light for the tunnel. It and the Rockland Tunnel further south are both 1/2 mile long and curved. 100′ inside them and its pitch black. Going south the curves prevent any light from coming through to help guide you. Going north once you are around the bends you have some backlighting from the open end that gets some light on the reflectors in the asphalt and its easier.
I agree with about the Sandy Creek Trail. It is one of the most scenic trails in Western PA. Well worth the trip up there to ride it. Since the scenic part is the part going east across the bridge and up the creek and its only about 7 1/2 miles one way, it makes a lot of sense to do as you did and ride some on the River Trail.
John Filicky and I rode from Morgantown to Clarksburg today. We started at Waterfront Place and ended at the Harrison County Recreational Trailhead, at Williams and N 25th in Clarksburg.
A brief synopsis – The Mon River Trail was a good trail, made up mostly of cinders and crushed limestone, and maintaining its firmness, despite recent rains.
Near Prickets Fort, it becomes the Marion County Trail and goes onto Morgantown Avenue, in Fairmont. There are newer Trail Link signs, along the road to help lead to the West Fork River trail. We ran into a local cyclist, who told us that the signage becomes more difficult to follow in the center of Fairmont. He offered to lead us to the WFR Trailhead. I asked and he told us that cyclists have the right to use the roads and take lanes.
The West Fork River Trail is paved nearly all the way to the Harrison County Line, 2-3 miles before reaching Shinnston. The unimproved trail is a little soft but very ridable. The WFR eventually ends at Route 19. We rode 19 South and continued on it as it joined with/became WV Route 20. The road does have some traffic and inconsistent shoulders. Most of the traffic gave us a good berth but as is always the case, there were a few who made it interesting.
We had hoped to pick up the Harrison County Recreational Trail, about 5-6 miles South of Shinnston, but it appears that the trail is on private property, fenced off, and with stern warnings about trespassing, prosecution, and the like.
We stayed on 20 and eventually got back to our vehicle. Near where it goes under US 50, WV 20 does intersect with Limestone Road, which is on the right. That road will take you to Wilsonburg Road, Wolf Summit, and the Eastern Terminus of North Bend Trail.
This is a very nice ride and quite doable, even with approximately 8-9 miles on WV 20.
The former Harrison County Trail from Spelter to Clarksburg is now closed, at least at the Spelter end, because of arsenic, lead, and cadmium pollution from a former DuPont zinc plant located in Spelter. Yum. Here’s an article about DuPont’s legal settlement for $70 million http://www.wvgazettemail.com/News/201011231162
I biked from Fairmont to Clarksburg this summer following a similar route, but we tried to get off Route 19 where possible. http://ridewithgps.com/routes/8122908?privacy_code=YHn9WttdT5SfynN9 . Lambert Run Rd (route 19/7) is pretty and low-traffic. And route 19/10, though hilly, has some nice raspberry bushes. Clarksburg has a statue of confederate general Stonewall Jackson in the center of town.
@paulheckbert – Good Stuff.
I wasn’t sure why the trail had been blocked off. I hope they use the monies to clean up the area and re-open it. I believe ol’ Stonewall was from Clarksburg. The town was named for George Rogers Clark.
Your route looks good and avoids most of Route 19/20. I mapped out an alternative route from Shinnston to the Bridgeport/Clarksburg border area, where many services for a traveler are located, including indoor lodging, should the need arise.
Also revised another route from Shinnston to Wolf Summit. Suppose I’m going to have to make another trip! Darn!
I’ll share the routes, once I am sure of their appropriateness.
As you know, there are some beautiful spots along the river as the trail follows its every bend. It was supposed to have been the last day of bear, buck, and doe seasons but we only heard shots once, as we were approaching the lower end of the WFR. They were coming from a big bluff to our left (east) and did not seem to be directed toward the river. Did see a few hikers and runners, maybe one or two cyclists, but essentially had the place to ourselves. It’s really worth the trip, if anyone is contemplating.
A related ride that I did on 6/7/14 –
A story in the Dominion Post newspaper promotes the idea of a continuous bike trail Pittsburgh-Connellsville-Morgantown-Fairmont-Clarksburg-Parkersburg. Many of the pieces are there: http://thedpost.com/Trail-links-touted-to-boost-bicy.aspx
The Rails-To-Trails West Virginia Sojourn will be a 4 day group bike ride on the North Bend Trail, from Parkersburg to near Clarksburg and back, starting 2016 June 19. $500.
The Redbank Valley Trail, a one hour car drive northeast of Pittsburgh, now has crushed limestone along 24 of its 41 miles. So you can drive one hour from Pittsburgh to New Bethlehem, park, and bike to Brookville and back in the upstream direction, plus Climax Tunnel and back in the downstream direction, for 48 miles total. There’s one section 1/4 mile long of rougher surface (gravel) in there.
http://www.redbankvalleytrails.org/news/ – click on Status Report for details.
I had the pleasure of riding my mountain bike at West Branch State Park near Ravenna, Ohio over the weekend. This is a collection of MTB-specific trails in the woods near a lake, and is comparable to Moraine State Park, but better in most or all respects. The trails at West Branch were some of the best I have ridden, with a nice selection of easy stuff, intermediate terrain and highly technical rock riding, with almost no climbing. The place had a lot of the traits that make the county parks and Raystown Lake fun, but there was also some great rock riding for those who are into that sort of thing. The newly refurbished business district of Kent, Ohio is not far away and has a litany of restaurants for post-ride food and drinks. If anyone wants to take a day trip and do some great mountain biking, you could do a lot worse than this.
It’s a bit out of the range of this discussion, but I spent the day toodling around Columbus Ohio. It was fabulous. Rode the Olentangy River Trail and parts of the Scioto Greenway Trail, parts you would never know that you are within miles of a major urban area. There are numerous others. They are working on their urban infrastructure and are making good progress. The food scene is unbelievable, for people who aren’t necessarily into sleeping on sticks and cooking stew over a fire. Downtown there is a public spray park that was possibly the greatest thin evar. Recommended. , , ,
Ribbon cutting planned for 9/11 bike trail segment :
Here’s a map of a ride we did in September, from Cumberland to Friendsville, Maryland. It followed the GAP Trail from Cumberland to Frostburg. I saw “Vannevar Bush” leading a group of cyclists that morning and said hello. At Frostburg, we left the trail and followed the National Road (US 40) to Keyser’s Ridge. There, we turned left and followed some backroads to Friendsville. There was quite a bit of climbing that was rewarded with some long and thrilling descents into Friendsville. Most notable are Devils Half Acre Road and Old Morgantown Road East. We arrived in Friendsville in time to watch the water release from the Yough Dam and all the rafters and kayakers coming through. Stayed at the Riverside Hotel and grabbed a bite at a local diner in town. It was a good day.
We often read about the dangerous sections of PA Bicycle Route A that are close to Pittsburgh and not so much about other portions of the route. I recently took a trip on the route in Washington County, between Glyde and Ten Mile. This is a very pleasant ride that reminded me of what portions of Washington County, closer to Allegheny County, were like before all the development that has occurred in the past 20 years. The traffic volume is low to very low to non-existent. It’s quiet! The grass alongside the roads is high and there are wildflowers. You can see and hear small animals running through the weeds. Birds are singing and occasional moo of a cow or bray of a donkey come from off in the distance. The terrain is rolling but there are no tough climbs. There is a lot of farmland and very scenic countryside. Saw some of the damage from the tornado that touched down in Amwell Township, last Friday. Spoke with a fellow and his son, who were cleaning up the remaining damage from the storm. I recommend this ride before some more farms are sold off, developments ensue, and it becomes like the townships further to the North.
On the outer limits of 100 miles from Pittsburgh is the 6 to 10 Trail, beginning east of Duncansville, PA. From Old 22, I turned left on Foot of Ten Road and followed the signs to the trailhead. The trail itself has a crushed limestone surface and heading west, a slight upgrade all the way to where only hikers are allowed to go further.
It is part of the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site (which has a beautiful Visitors Center) and follows the same route up the mountain the original railroad used to traverse. The rideable portion of the trail is only about 4 miles long but there are other options (on roads) for a longer ride to take in a bit of history. If you’re looking for hills, a ride to the summit of Cresson Ridge should do the trick.
Admiral Peary’s hometown was Cresson and there is a little park and a commemorative statue just off Old Route 22.
This is more than 100 miles away but do-able in a day trip.
We biked this weekend between Niagara on the lake and Niagara falls. Most of it is on a trail that runs along the Niagara River and the Niagara parkway. The NOTL side has cute shops, fruit stands, some small museums, and wineries. The NF side has NF and the junkiness of that side of the falls. In between is the hydro plant, the flower clock, the botanic gardens, and Queenston.
It is 15 miles each way. Large, long hill going from Niagara on the Lake to Queenston Heights. But you gotta get from lake Ontario height to lake Erie height somehow.
If I was doing it as a day trip I’d take the Peace Bridge, park in NF, bike to notl, eat there, and bike back.
I’ve done that bike ride on the Canadian side of the Niagara River, also. I parked in Buffalo, near downtown, biked across the Peace Bridge, showed my passport to cross into Canada (no waiting), then biked downstream approaching Niagara Falls. Approaching those falls by bicycle from upstream is a nice way to build anticipation. Driving and parking near Niagara Falls will typically suck you into 30+ minutes of stop-and-go traffic. With a bicycle, you can cruise past all that, and laugh at all the silly people with their cars. We went through Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL), stayed overnight near St Catharines, and biked up the Merritt Trail and Welland Canal Trail for the return to Buffalo. If you like museums, I recommend the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre. This area is very good for multi-day bike trips.
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