When the steel, coal and iron industry was 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, a visit to Pennsylvania allows guests to ride, walk, ski and explore these well-maintained rail trails that highlight the beauty and history of the Keystone State.
Great Allegheny Passage - Pittsburgh and its Countryside/Laurel Highlands
Somerset, Westmoreland, Washington, Fayette and Allegheny counties
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 320-mile journey from Pittsburgh to the end of the trail makes it the longest unpaved bike path in 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 - Pennsylvania Wilds
Lycoming and Tioga counties
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 - Philadelphia and the Countryside
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 different outdoor activities. Visitors can start their journey at the Valley Forge National Historic Park and then bike or hike along the picturesque Perkiomen Creek.
D&H Rail Trail - Upstate PA
Lackawanna, Susquehanna and Wayne counties
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.
Ghost Town Trail - The Alleghenies
Cambria and Indiana counties
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 trailgoers can also view the Eliza Furnace, one of Pennsylvania’s best preserved iron furnaces.
Stony Valley Railroad Grade Trail - Dutch Country Roads
Dauphin, Lebanon and Schuylkill counties
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 crosscountry 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 - Pennsylvania’s Great Lakes Region
Clarion and Venango counties
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 - Philadelphia and the Countryside
This historic 37-mile 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 - Valleys of the Susquehanna
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 - Pittsburgh and its Countryside
Built at 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. The path provides four miles of hiking and bicycle trails between NuMine and Rose Valley.
Heritage Rail Trail County Park - Dutch Country Roads
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.