Prepare to feel like Indiana Jones as you grind that gravel beneath your bicycle’s wheels this spring! There are plenty of amazing off-road trails to explore across Pennsylvania with an incredible amount of history to absorb along the way. Grab your bike and travel the roads less taken for a more scenic and peaceful ride. Please be sure to practice safe social distancing when you enjoy PA’s greater than great outdoors!
1. Allegheny National Forest
Elk, Forest, McKean, and Warren Counties
The Allegheny National Forest’s hundreds of miles of graveled roads are open for cyclists to enjoy. With scenic vistas, tall trees, and an abundance of wildlife, the multi-use trails are popular with riders of all skill levels. The 3.8 mile Blaisdell-Emery Trail is a relatively easy ride with an improved stone surface and built on an abandoned railroad grade that follows the main branch of the Tunungwant Creek. The trail passes the derrick of a wooden oil drilling rig and has a path leading to the historic Penn-Brad Oil Museum.
2. McClintock Trail
The McClintock Trail is a unique 1.8-mile, graveled share-the-road on Waitz Road in Venango County. Hop on the trail at the McClintock Trailhead at McClintock Well #1, the oldest producing oil well in the world. Adjacent to the trail’s southern portion, you just might spy some slow-moving rail traffic of the Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad, a still active Class Three railroad.
3. Union Canal Trail
The 6.5-mile Union Canal Trail is a wonderful ride along the Tulpehocken Creek, passing by remnants of Pennsylvania’s storied Union Canal. This 82-mile engineering marvel and its 93 locks connected the Schuylkill River in Reading to the Susquehanna River in Middletown creating a means to ship coal and lumber from inland Pennsylvania to Philadelphia. The crushed gravel trail is an easy ride and takes you right past the Berks County Heritage Center where you’ll find the Gruber Wagon Works, a National Historical Landmark, as well as the Red Bridge, the longest single-span covered bridge in Pennsylvania.
4. David S. Ammerman Trail
With scenic views of forests, farmland, and waterways, the 10.5-mile David S. Ammerman Trail offers several opportunities to stop and enjoy the scenic beauty of the area. Built on an abandoned rail corridor and part of the Great Shamokin Path used by the Lenape and Mohican tribes, the crushed stone trail provides a smooth and easy ride, complete with picnic tables at around 2.5 miles, 4 miles and 6.7 miles outside of Grampian.
5. Houtzdale Line Trail
The 10.5-mile, gravel Houtzdale Line Trail abounds with vestiges of the area’s rich coal mining history. Now lined with beautiful hedgerows of multiflora and other deciduous shrubs, the trail traverses wetlands, upland forest, and a stream corridor filled with wildlife and native plants once you get beyond Ramey and Houtzdale. There are nearly eight miles of improved surface with the best access point at the trail center in Houtzdale, but the extreme east and west ends of the trail are in rough condition so may not be appropriate for all riders.
6. Lebanon Valley Rail Trail
The 18-mile Lebanon Valley Rail Trail traces much of the history of millionaire industrialist Robert Coleman who constructed the Cornwall & Lebanon Railroad in the late 1800’s and built a vacation resort at Mount Gretna, the Chautauqua-style arts and education retreat. The crushed-stone trail follows the route of Coleman’s railroad, with a side trail to Mount Gretna for you to explore.
7. Pine Creek Rail Trail
Lycoming and Tioga Counties
Recognized as one of the “10 Best Places to Take a Bike Tour” by USA Today, the Pine Creek Rail Trail is one of the northeast’s premier rail-trails. Located in the “Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania,” a federally designated National Natural Landmark, the 62-mile trail with its hard-packed gravel surface takes you on a journey through land once used to transport freight by train from Wellsboro to Williamsport. The trail has a small grade of around two percent and runs mostly uphill. Even equestrians can join the fun with a section of the trail designed specifically for horses.
8. Lehigh and New England Rail Trail
The 2.7-mile, crushed-stone Lehigh and New England Rail Trail follows a section of the former Lehigh and New England Railroad corridor just south of Tamaqua in eastern PA. Ride through lush greenery where you’ll come upon the remains of the Shellhamer Ice Dam, a former recreation and entertainment complex, about halfway along this peaceful trail.
9. Schuylkill Valley Heritage Trail
Spanning more than seven miles, the Schuylkill Valley Heritage Trail passes through the rolling green hills of the Schuylkill River Valley from just outside Tamaqua to Middleport. Start your journey in historic Tamaqua, a former mining town, and end your way in Middleport, where the route there is a bit more on the challenging side with hills and tricky trails due to dirt and a sand base requiring a bit of caution as you bike through.
10. D&H Rail Trail
Lackawanna, Susquehanna, and Wayne Counties
The 38-mile D&H Rail Trail offers some wonderful scenic views of the Lackawanna River and several small lakes. The trail provides some challenging sections with steep inclines, including a few where you just may have to walk your bike. With a trail bed comprised of cinder, original ballast, and hard-packed dirt, a hybrid or mountain bike is recommended to ride this intermittently rugged trail, where once lumber and anthracite coal were transported to the coast and to Canada.
11. Redbank Valley Rail Trail
Clarion, and Jefferson Counties
The 51-mile Redbank Valley Trail was named Pennsylvania’s first ever Trail of the Year and it’s easy to see why. With its packed crushed limestone surface and 1% grade in most sections, the trail promises a smooth ride brimming with beautiful scenery. The trail boasts 27 bridges, numerous stone arches, and three former railroad tunnels (check for any tunnel closures), with 41 miles of the trail winding along Redbank Creek. A flash flood in July 2019 destroyed the historic arch bridge over Long Run at mile 19, so please use caution in this area and consider making a donation so the association maintaining this beautiful trail can fix the major gap in this section of trail.
12. Butler-Freeport Community Rail Trail
Enjoyed by people of all ages for walking, jogging, hiking, bicycling, birdwatching, and even cross-country skiing when conditions are right, the 21-mile Butler-Freeport Community Trail passes through beautiful forestland, by bucolic farms, and along the scenic Buffalo and Little Buffalo Creeks. The trail’s surface has 15 miles of level, crushed limestone that promises a smooth ride, with an additional five miles of unfinished trail – perfect for mountain biking.
13. Ghost Town Trail
Cambria and Indiana Counties
As Pennsylvania's 2020 Trail of the Year and a federally designated National Recreation Trail, the 46-mile Ghost Town Trail is simply spectacular, brimming with beautiful scenery and history. The trail has an abundance of mountain streams, stands of rhododendrons, dozens of wildflower species, and riparian woodlands, along with numerous remnants of the coal mining and now abandoned coal-mining towns that attesting to the area’s rich industrial history. Comprised of hard-packed limestone, the trail has an easy grade, promising a wonderful ride.
14. Hoodlebug Trail
The delightfully named Hoodlebug Trail pays tribute to the self-propelled passenger coach that ran here until 1940. A federally designated Natural Recreation Trail, the 10.5-mile Hoodlebug Trail runs from Blacklick to the county seat of Indiana with plenty of beautiful scenery along the way. Following or passing over Stony Run, Two Lick Creek, Yellow Creek, and Black Lick Creek, the trail largely is comprised of a tar and chip surface made from recycled asphalt millings with just a slight grade making for an easy, pleasurable ride.
15. Great Allegheny Passage
Allegheny, Fayette, Somerset and Westmoreland Counties
Soaring over valleys, snaking around mountains, and skirting alongside three rivers, the 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage offers an unforgettable ride between Cumberland, Maryland and Pittsburgh’s Point State Park. Along the way, you’ll experience almost countless historic locations, monumental bridges, and spectacular scenery. Built on the remains of abandoned rail lines, the trail is essentially level with an average grade of less than 1%. Its packed crushed limestone surface guarantees a smooth, easy ride.
16. Path of the Flood Trail
The 11-mile Path of the Flood Trail follows the fateful path of the devastating Great Johnstown Flood of 1889. The trail extends from just below the site of the breached South Fork Dam to the Johnstown Flood Museum. Historical interpretive signs along the trail relate the story of the rushing waters and the terrible aftermath that led to the loss of 2,200 lives. The trail features beautiful scenery, steep inclines, a variety of surfaces including crushed stone and asphalt, and a fun ride through the Staple Bend Tunnel that at one time carried barge traffic over the mountains via rail.
17. Jim Mayer Riverswalk Trail
The three-mile Jim Mayer Riverswalk Trail is a little gem of a trail. Located between Johnstown’s Riverside and Hornerstown neighborhoods, the trail offers beautiful views of Stonycreek River, abundant bird-life and wildflowers, historic turn-of-the-century homes, and best yet, views of the stunningly beautiful, 50-foot Buttermilk Falls located about mid-trail. A federally designated National Recreation Trail, the trail is nearly level and its surface groomed for an easy ride.
18. Bloomsburg Rail-Trail
Given its relatively short length, you probably would not want to make a special trip to ride this 1.5-mile rail trail. However, if you are in the area and looking for a scenic, short distance ride, then the Bloomsburg Rail-Trail fits the bill. Running along a former rail bed on the northwest side of town, the trail follows the east bank of Fishing Creek and is enjoyed by walkers and bikers alike. Some sections are paved with asphalt, while other sections are comprised of gravel.
19. Lower Trail
Blair and Huntingdon Counties
The 17-mile Lower Trail with its mostly crushed-stone surface offers a peaceful, relatively remote ride complete with wildlife, scenic rivers, and mountains. There is even one 11-mile segment without a single road crossing! The trail passes through an area where you can still see canal locks and channels from the 1800’s, as well as remnants of the lock tenders’ houses. The trail also passes through the remains of Carlim, an old limestone-mining town, for a bit more of the area’s industrial history. (Hint: “Lower” is pronounced like “flower” and named in memory of trail benefactor, R. Dean Lower.)
20. Susquehanna Warrior Trail
Columbia and Luzerne Counties
Nestled in the beautiful Susquehanna River Valley, the 12.5-mile Susquehanna Warrior Trail is lush with green meadows, surrounding mountain peaks, and wildlife. Biking along you have a decent chance of spotting bald eagles, otters, heron, and a multitude of other animals. The trail is built along the corridor of the old Delaware, Lehigh and Western railroad beds and is still a work in progress, with some sections right along U.S. Route 11.
21. Buffalo Valley Rail Trail
The 9.5-mile Buffalo Valley Rail Trail is built on rail lines that were a key part of the valley's transportation network for well over 125 years until 1982 when the last train rumbled through. Largely paved at both ends with the middle section comprised of gravel, today the scenic trail is now a key part of the area’s outdoor recreation system with thousands of visitors walking, running, and biking along the trail.
22. J. Manley Robbins Trail (Old Reading Line Trail)
The 2.5-mile J. Manley Robbins Trail, also referred to as the Danville Bicycle Path and the Old Reading Line Trail, is a relatively short trail built along a former narrow-gage railroad that once carried iron ore to furnaces for smelting. The rustic loop trail of hard-packed gravel is tucked among the trees north of downtown Danville and generally recommended for mountain bikers. Riders can go into the solitude of the woods to encounter a delightful covered wooden bridge over Mahoning Creek, a crossing once used by the Reading Railroad.
23. Bald Eagle State Forest
Centre, Clinton, Mifflin, Snyder, and Union Counties
Not for the faint of heart, the ridges and valleys in Bald Eagle State Forest are a mountain biker’s paradise and the site of more than a few competitive races over the past several years. At close to 200,000 acres, the forest’s numerous trails offer challenges for mountain bikers of all skill levels, along with beautiful scenery, stunning old-growth forests, and miles of pristine mountain streams. Most of trails are open to mountain bikers with the exception of designated natural areas and the Mid State Trail. For information on trail conditions, ride recommendations, maps and upcoming events, be sure to check out the Bald Eagle Mountain Bike Association.
24. Spillway Trail
The 2.5-mile Spillway Trail in the northeastern section of Pymatuning State Park is an easy trail enjoyed by hikers and bikers alike. Photography enthusiasts will find that the sunsets on this path are breathtaking, while bird watchers can spy numerous duck species, swans, grebes, and even the occasional eagle. Biking enthusiasts can also enjoy a 4.7-mile loop trail at the southern end of the lake by the Ackerman Picnic Pavilion #9 with its own scenic views.
25. Stony Valley Rail-Trail
Dauphin, Lebanon, and Schuylkill Counties
Tucked into the Appalachian Ridge and Valley region, the 19.5-mile Stony Valley Rail-Trail travels through State Game Lands No. 211, past vanished coal boomtowns, a deteriorating stone tower, and the well-hidden remnants of a former 200-room tourist resort where visitors once soaked in cold spring waters until a fire swept through in 1900. The dirt and gravel trail surfaces make for an easy ride, along with the slight grade as the trail follows the lines laid by the old Schuylkill & Susquehanna Railroad and its successors dating back to the 1850’s. Note: For safety’s sake, the trail should not be ridden during hunting season.
26. Swatara State Park
Lebanon and Schuylkill Counties
The 3,520-acre Swatara State Park provides nearly 15 miles of biking bliss for riders of all skill levels. Surrounded by forests and wetlands, the scenic Swatara Creek meanders the length of the park and supports a diversity of wildlife. No better way to ride than to do it through the lush greenery in PA’s greater-than-great outdoors!
27. Cumberland Valley Rail Trail
Riders of all skill levels can enjoy the 13.7-mile Cumberland Valley Trail that stretches from Shippensburg to Newville and offers a scenic sampling of Cumberland Valley’s countryside and woodlands. A federally designated National Recreation Trail, interpretative way-point signs illustrate the area’s rich agricultural and Civil War heritage along the trail.
28. Delaware Canal Towpath
Bucks and Northampton Counties
You can just imagine mules pulling cargo-laden boats while exploring any of the 60 miles of the Delaware Canal Towpath at Delaware Canal State Park. The crushed stone towpath begins in Easton at the D&L Trail and continues to Jefferson Avenue in Bristol. Bikers, walkers, runners, and cross-country skiers are all welcome on the trail. Please be aware that this route does contain some bumpy terrain and is prone to flood damage.
29. Angelica Creek Trail
While the Angelica Creek Trail at just under two miles in length does not take much time to bike, it is part of the much longer (118 miles longer when completed!) Schuylkill River Trail for those who want to extend their ride. For most of its length, the trail parallels Anjelica Creek in Reading’s 90-acre Angelica Creek Park, a great spot for birdwatching and wildlife viewing, and connects the park to the KenGrill Recreation Center.
30. Capital Area Greenbelt
Grab your bike and head on over to the Capital Area Greenbelt, a 20-mile, multi-surface recreational trail that loops in and around the city of Harrisburg. The surface varies from on-road, paved paths to gravel sections for bikers, walkers, and other non-motorized activities. The entire loop connects several points of interest including Reservoir Park and the National Civil War Museum, Wildwood Park, Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex & Expo Center, City Island, and Riverfront Park which runs along the Susquehanna River. Featured stops include the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Pennsylvania Holocaust Memorial, and the Five Senses Garden.
31. Exeter Scenic River Trail
Winding along the north bank of the Schuylkill River, the 2.3-mile Exeter Scenic River Trail more than lives up to its name as it passes through lush, shady forests filled with birdsong and small and not-so-small animals. The trail is lined with numerous benches for you to stop and enjoy the peaceful serenity.
32. D&L Trail (Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor)
Bucks, Carbon, Lehigh, Luzerne, and Northampton Counties
Much of the Lehigh Valley’s mighty industrial heritage can be seen and explored biking along the 142-mile D&L Trail in the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor that celebrates the people, cities and towns, and industries that built this nation. The trail runs from the hills just outside of Wilkes-Barre to the canal town of Bristol in Bucks County, following old rail beds and canal towpaths on alternating sides of the Lehigh and Delaware Rivers. A 26-mile section of the trail runs through Lehigh Gorge State Park, while the entire Bucks County section lies within Delaware Canal State Park.
33. Clarion-Little Toby Trail
Elk and Jefferson Counties
Venture on the wild side biking the 18-mile Clarion-Little Toby Trail connecting Ridgway and Brockway, two towns with historic districts that grew out of the early 19th-century logging industry. Spy majestic deer and other wildlife as you follow the Clarion River, a federally designated National Wild and Scenic River, and Little Toby Creek and traverse remote State Game Lands No. 44 and No. 54. Consisting of well-packed, fine gravel, the trail is flat, with the exception of a short hill near Ridgway, with ghost towns and an off-trail swinging bridge along the way.
34. Perkiomen Trail
Wending its way along Perkiomen Creek, the 20.6-mile Perkiomen Trail passes through beautiful natural landscapes, quaint villages and towns, and numerous historical sites. Using much of the rail bed of the Perkiomen Line of the Reading Railroad, the trail’s mostly flat, crushed stone and paved surfaces are perfect for riders of all skill levels. Historic sites along the trail include the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove and Pennypacker Mills , the 1720 mansion and eventual home of Governor Samuel W. Pennypacker in Schwenksville.
To learn about additional biking spots in Pennsylvania, check out the visitPA website. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more PA inspiration. Don’t forget to sign up for our monthly Happy Thoughts e-newsletter so you never miss an update.