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From Rails to Trails

When the steel, coal and iron industries were booming in Pennsylvania, trains were used to transport goods from one town to the next along flat pathways crisscrossing the countryside. Over the years, many of these railroad beds became vacant, and trails were developed in their place to commemorate the historical routes. Today, Happy Travelers can pursue their happiness in Pennsylvania riding, walking, skiing and exploring these well-maintained rail trails while savoring the beauty and history of the Keystone State.

Heritage Rail Trail County Park

Heritage Rail Trail County Park

York County

Length: 21+ miles

Activity Types: hiking, biking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, and snow shoeing

Surface: 10-foot wide compacted stone surface

 

Extending 21 miles through urban and rural landscapes, the Heritage Rail Trail County Park runs south from the City of York to the Mason-Dixon Line. Winding through farmlands, along the bank of Codorus Creek and throughout York City, the rail trail welcomes all ages to run, bike or walk the scenic path. The four historic structures along the way, including the Colonial Courthouse in York City, provide opportunities to learn the area’s rich history.

Great Allegheny Passage

Somerset, Westmoreland, Washington, Fayette and Allegheny counties

Length: 150+ miles

Activity Types: biking, hiking, cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, and certain sections for horseback riding

Surface: packed crushed limestone surface

 
family biking Great Allegheny Passage
Great Allegheny Passage

Considered to be one of the nation’s most popular rail trails, the Great Allegheny Passage begins in Pittsburgh, Pa., and crosses the border into Maryland, eventually ending in the nation’s capital. The 335-mile journey from Pittsburgh to the end of the trail makes it the longest unpaved bike path on the East Coast. Crushed limestone offers a smooth surface for bikers, hikers, runners and cross-country skiers to experience all the natural beauty between Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.

Pine Creek Rail Trail

Lycoming and Tioga counties

Length: 62 miles

Activity Types: hiking, biking, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing

Surface: hard-packed gravel surface

 
Horse riding tours on Pine Creek Rail Trail
Pine Creek Rail Trail

Hop on a bike or lace up those hiking boots and take a trip on the trail hailed as one of the “10 best places to take a bike tour” by USA Today. This historic 62-mile trail, once used to transport freight by train from Wellsboro to Williamsport, is perfect for a relaxing walk or bike ride. Equestrians can also join the fun with a section of the path designed specifically for horses.

Perkiomen Trail

Montgomery County

Length: 20 miles

Activity Types: biking, walking, jogging, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing

Surface: crushed stone and a few paved sections

 
beautiful flowers Perkiomen Trail
Perkiomen Trail

The combination of crushed stone and a few paved surfaces makes the “Perky,” as some call it, a one-of-a-kind trail located amongst the history and beauty of the Philadelphia countryside. The 20-mile Perkiomen Trail connects numerous public parks and historical sites in the region and is open year-round for a variety of outdoor activities. Visitors can start their journey at the Valley Forge National Historical Park and then bike or hike along the picturesque Perkiomen Creek.

Ghost Town Trail

Cambria and Indiana counties

Length: 36 miles

Activity Types: biking, hiking, walking, cross-country skiing

Surface: crushed stone

 
Ghost Town Trail
Ghost Town Trail

Named for the abandoned mining towns that once existed alongside the railroad corridor, the 36-mile Ghost Town Trail is an ideal spot for a hike or relaxing bike ride. The trail, designated as a National Recreation Trail by the U.S. Department of the Interior and named Trail of the Month by the Rails to Trails Conservancy in 2011, is packed with numerous historical sites to check out along the way. Markers educate visitors about the area’s intriguing past, and trail goers can also view the Eliza Furnace, one of Pennsylvania’s best-preserved iron furnaces.

D&H Rail Trail

Lackawanna, Susquehanna and Wayne counties

Length: 38 miles

Activity Types: biking, horseback riding, hiking, and walking

Surface: stone dust surface

 
D and H Trail path
D & H Trail

The varied trail surfaces and beautiful surroundings are what make the unique D&H Rail Trail a treat for any outdoor enthusiast. This 38-mile pathway stands in place of the historic Delaware and Hudson railroad, a small but vital rail line during the 1800s. The multi-use trail runs for several miles along the Lackawanna River and alternates between tree-lined sections and open stretches.

Stony Valley Railroad Grade Trail

Dauphin, Lebanon and Schuylkill counties

Length: 22 miles

Activity Types: biking, horseback riding, walking, hiking, and cross-country skiing

Surface: dirt, gravel

 
Stony Valley RailRoad Grade Trail
Stony Valley Railroad Grade Trail

Located just outside Pennsylvania’s state capital of Harrisburg, the Stony Valley Railroad Grade Trail is a 22-mile nature lover’s paradise. Creating the perfect serene setting to escape the hustle of the city, this trail is open year-round to bikers, hikers and horseback riders, as well as cross-country skiers and snowmobilers in the winter. The trail, located on 44,000 acres of beautiful state game land, is also a very popular spot for hunters.

Allegheny River & Samuel Justus Trail

Clarion and Venango counties

Length: 32 miles

Activity Types: hiking, biking, and horseback riding

Surface: flat, smooth, asphalt surface

 
man looking at beautiful view of lake holding his bike at Samuel Justus Trail
Samuel Justus Trail

With the excitement of railroad tunnels, riverfront scenery and stunning bridges, the 32-mile Allegheny River Trail is situated in the heart of the Oil Heritage Region and has something for everyone to enjoy. Whether riding a horse on the dirt access trail, inline skating, hiking or road biking, visitors will enjoy a smooth, level and paved journey along the gorgeous river.

Tri-Valley Trail

Chester County

Length: 2.3 miles

Activity Types: hiking, biking, and walking

Surface: dirt, gravel

 
Tri valley trail path
Tri-Valley Trail

This historic rail trail follows the path of the Pomeroy and Newark Railroad, which thrived in the late 1800s. The rail line held the nickname “Pumpsie Doodle,” and the trail mimics this non-threatening nickname with easy bike trails for anyone to follow. The area features several trails that interconnect, so bikers may choose from a variety of paths to follow. Visitors can be on the lookout for exciting historic information about the old railroad as they ride.

J. Manley Robbins Trail

Montour County

Length: 2.8 miles

Activity Types: hiking, biking, horseback riding, walking, cross-country skiing

Surface: gravel

 
J Manley Robbins Trail
J. Manley Robbins Trail

Although this trail spans only about three miles in length, its historical significance makes it a worthwhile destination for any biker, walker or runner. Rumored to be the oldest rail trail in the United States, the path leads visitors along a once-existing Reading Railroad line. The Robbins Trail is an ideal route for recreational athletes, providing them with a beautiful getaway high above the Mahoning Creek.

The Great Shamokin Path

Armstrong County

Length: 3.5 miles

Activity Types: hiking, biking, horseback riding, walking, cross-country skiing

Surface: dirt, grass, gravel

 
Greath Shamokin Path Historical Marker
The Great Shamokin Path

Built along the Rural Valley Railroad, the Great Shamokin Path is named after the route that once linked the Allegheny and Susquehanna rivers and ran from Kittanning to Sunbury during Native American times. This mostly grass-covered trail climbs steadily through the Cowanshannock Creek Valley and provides four miles of hiking and bicycle trails between NuMine and Rose Valley.

 

To learn about more rail trails in PA, check out the visitPA website. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagramto stay up-to-date on even more great ideas and places to visit around our state. Don’t forget to never miss an update and sign up for our monthly Happy Thoughts e-newsletter.