From Rails to Trails: 21 Paths to Explore in PA

In days past, Pennsylvania’s storied railroads crisscrossed the state, connecting the many communities that sprang up along the rail lines and serving as vital conduits for the goods produced by the state’s burgeoning steel, coal, and iron industries that fueled the growth of our rapidly growing nation. As the years passed and transportation needs shifted, all but the most heavily used routes were abandoned. The result: hundreds upon hundreds of miles of beautiful flat pathways through some of the most scenic areas in the state just waiting for you to discover and enjoy. Hike, bike, ski, and explore these well-maintained rail trails while savoring the beauty and history of the Keystone State. We have scouted out the best “Instagramable” views you can reach via the power of the pedal.

1. 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

Considered to be one of the nation’s most popular rail trails, the Great Allegheny Passage begins in Pittsburgh, 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.

2. 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

family biking
Heritage Rail Trail County Park

Spanning 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.

3. 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

a metal bridge on 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. The historic 62-mile Pine Creek Rail 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.

4. 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

colorful flowers on 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.

5. Ghost Town Trail

Cambria and Indiana counties

Length: 51 miles

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

Surface: crushed stone

A family biking on trail
Ghost Town Trail | Credit: Miss Kriss

Named for the abandoned mining towns that once existed alongside the railroad corridor, the 51-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 part of the Trans-Allegheny Trails network, 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. Stumble upon another must-try rail trail as the GTT connects to the Hoodlebug Trail, which continues from Saylor Park to downtown Indiana, including Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP)’s campus.

6. D&H Rail Trail

Lackawanna, Susquehanna and Wayne counties

Length: 38 miles

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

Surface: stone dust

Trail path way
D&H Rail Trail

The varied trail surfaces and beautiful surroundings 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. This trail was voted Pennsylvania's 2021 Trail of the Year, so it is a must-go for visitors.

7. Stony Valley Rail Trail

Dauphin, Lebanon and Schuylkill counties

Length: 22 miles

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

Surface: dirt and gravel

gravel trail in the woods
Stony Valley Rail Trail

Located just outside Pennsylvania’s state capital of Harrisburg, the Stony Valley Rail Trail is a nearly 20-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.

8. Allegheny River & Samuel Justus Trails

Clarion and Venango counties

Length: 32 miles

Activity Types: hiking, biking, and horseback riding

Surface: flat, smooth, asphalt

A person standing ne
Samuel Justus Trails

With the excitement of railroad tunnels, riverfront scenery and stunning bridges the 32-mile Allegheny River & Samuel Justus Trails are located 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.

9. Chester Valley Trail

Chester and Montgomery Counties

Length: 18.6 miles

Activity Types: hiking, biking, and walking

Surface: asphalt

This historic rail trail follows the path of the Chester Valley Branch of the Reading Railroad, which thrived as a freight line from the 1850s well into the late 20th century. With a few relatively small hills and gentle grade, the Chester Valley Trail promises an easy ride from King of Prussia to Exton. A recently completed 3.8-mile eastward extension to Norristown connects the trail to the 71.7-mile Schuylkill River Trail, so hardy and intrepid bikers may enjoy an even longer ride.

10. J. Manley Robbins Trail

Montour County

Length: 2.6 miles

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

Surface: grass and gravel

trail road
J. Manley Robbins Trail

Although this trail is less than 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 J. Manley Robbins Trail is an ideal route for recreational athletes, providing them with a beautiful getaway high above Mahoning Creek.

11. The Great Shamokin Path

Armstrong County

Length: 3.5 miles

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

Surface: dirt, grass, and gravel

Great 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 biking trails between NuMine and Rose Valley.

12. Sandy Creek Trail

Venango County

Length: 12 miles

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

Surface: asphalt

Paved Trail Sandy Creek Trail
Sandy Creek Trail

Get started in the village of Van on the 12-mile Sandy Creek Trail and enjoy downhill cruising for the first eight miles of this paved trail. Then pedal the final four miles along the western bank of the Allegheny River to Fisherman’s Cove. Along the way, you’ll cross the 1,385-foot Belmar Bridge, go through the Sandy Creek Tunnel, and cross numerous railroad trestles with far-reaching views of the surrounding forests and hillsides. For a more challenging ride, start at Fisherman’s Cove and get ready to feel the burn as you pedal those last eight miles uphill!

13. Butler – Freeport Community Trail

Butler County

Length: 21 miles

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

Surface: asphalt, crushed stone, and dirt

creek under bridge
Butler – Freeport Community Trail

Outdoor fun abounds along the 21-mile Butler – Freeport Community Trail. Soak in the scent of wildflowers, do a little bird watching, enjoy a passport-oriented historic geocache adventure, cast your fishing line, or simply enjoy the scenery as you bike along this fairly flat trail nestled in the scenic wooded valley, linking the two communities. History abounds too — look closely and you’ll see the remains of old stone quarries, brick kilns, and other late-1800s developments still visible along the trail, including the Saxon City Hotel built in 1871.

14. Oil Creek State Park Trail

Crawford County

Length: 9.5 miles

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

Surface: asphalt

old metal bridge over creek
Oil Creek State Park

Looking for a bike trail the whole family can enjoy? The 9.5-mile Oil Creek State Park Trail has a flat and easy surface suitable for bike riders of every skill level, complete with restrooms and picnic areas strategically located along the trail, as well as a visitor center, bicycle rental stand, and playground at the Petroleum Centre at the trail’s southern end. Looking for a slightly longer ride? The trail connects to the three-mile (round-trip) Queen City Trail into downtown Titusville at the northern end.

15. Redbank Valley Rail Trail

Armstrong, Clarion, and Jefferson counties

Length: 51 miles

Activity Types: mountain biking, walking, and cross-country skiing

Surface: ballast and crushed stone

wooden bridge walk
Redbank Valley Rail Trail

The Redbank Valley Rail Trail beckons the more fearless among us with some sections best suited for experienced mountain bikers due to rough terrain, while others are perfect for more casual recreational riders. And what a trail! It’s 51 miles long and traverses three counties through some of the most spectacular scenery in western PA. With 27 bridges, numerous stone arches, three former railroad tunnels (check for any tunnel closures), and 41 miles of the trail winding along Redbank Creek, it’s easy to see why it was the first trail ever designated the state’s Trail of the Year in 2020.

16. Rothrock State Forest

Huntingdon County

Length: 40+ miles

Activity Types: mountain biking, walking, and cross-country skiing

Surface: asphalt, rock-strewn, and dirt

paved trail path rothrock state forest
Rothrock State Forest

State College’s Rothrock State Forest is Pennsylvania’s premier destination for advanced adventure riders. The forest is home to two International Mountain Biking Association Epic Rides — the 36-mile Rothrock Trail Mix and the 27-mile Cooper’s Gap Epic — and hosts several of Pennsylvania’s premier trail races throughout the year. Riders can expect sizable rock gardens, ridgetop runs, exhilarating descents, and demanding singletrack — all amid some of the forest’s most spectacular scenery. Not into extreme adventure biking? No worries. The forest’s access roads are ideal for mountain bike newbies and families looking for a non-technical, off-road experience and some beautiful scenery.

17. Forbidden Drive

Philadelphia County

Length: 8.5 miles

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

Surface: asphalt and gravel

stone arch ruins forbidden drive
Forbidden Drive

Don’t let the name fool you, Pennsylvania’s 2018 Trail of the Year is just waiting for you to visit. Forbidden Drive, also known as Wissahickon Valley Park Trail, in Wissahickon Valley Park, stretches nearly nine miles, following its namesake creek and passing by the Thomas Mill Covered Bridge, Valley Green Inn, and numerous other landmarks. The park has 57 miles of trails in total, many of which offer ideal mountain biking terrain with plenty of up-and-down hill sections guaranteed to get your heart pumping!

Note: permits from Philadelphia Parks & Recreation may be required to use the upper trails for off-road biking.

18. Bartram’s Mile Trail

Philadelphia County

Length: 1.55 miles

Activity Types: biking and walking

Surface: asphalt

Monument Bartrams Mile
Bartram’s Mile Trail

The nearly 1.6-mile Bartram’s Mile Trail in Philadelphia, completed in 2017, offers Instagram-worthy skyline views as you pedal along the banks of the Schuylkill River, as well as public art installations, outlook areas, and flowers that will brighten any day. Stay tuned: construction is underway for a new, fully operating swing bridge just south of the Grays Ferry Bridge, connecting the trail to the Schuylkill River Trail’s Grays Ferry Crescent for an even longer ride.

19. Mount Jewett to Kinzua Bridge Trail

McKean County

Length: 7.8 miles

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

Surface: crushed stone

Gravel Trail Path
Knox and Kane Rail Trail | Credit: Nachu

The 7.8-mile Mount Jewett to Kinzua Bridge Trail, aka the MJ2KB trail, is a favorite of locals and non-residents alike. It’s only fitting this well-maintained trail has been named Pennsylvania’s 2023 Trail of the Year! Bikers will enjoy a relatively easy level ride along the former Knox and Kane rail line that connects to Kinzua Bridge State Park with interpretive signs along the trail highlighting the environmental and historical aspects of the area. Looking for a longer ride?! The trail is part of the 47.6-mile Knox and Kane Rail Trail that spans Clarion, Elk, Forest & McKean counties and will stretch to 74 miles in length when completed.

20. Saucon Rail Trail

Lehigh Valley 

Length: 7.5 miles 

Activity Types: walking, biking, runnin 

Surface: asphalt, crushed stone 

A group of Cycling enthusiasts biking on trail
Saucon Rail Trail

Experience the history and beauty of the Saucon Rail Trail, a 7.5-mile path with roots dating back to its early railway origins as the North Pennsylvania Railroad (NPRR). Today, it offers the perfect scenic setting for organized bike rides, leisurely walks, and invigorating runs with charming homes along the way and tall wooden posts that mark NPRR’s original mileage designations, providing a glimpse into the area's transportation history. After a day of exercise and exploring, you can recharge and refresh at miler marker #52 ½ to grab some coffee and a pastry to-go at Hello Joe, or dine in at sister restaurant PA House for pizzas and sandwiches.

21. Warwick-Ephrata Rail Trail

Lancaster County

Length: 7.2 miles

Activity Types: walking, biking, running

Surface: asphalt, stone

a person biking on trail
Warwick-Ephrata Rail Trail

Discover the scenic wonders of on the 7.2-mile Warwick-Ephrata Rail Trail! This converted rail trail offers a delightful mix of gravel and paved paths, perfect for various outdoor adventures. Enjoy a mostly flat route with gentle elevation changes as you explore picturesque countryside, passing through farms and woods. The trail conveniently connects two charming small towns, Lititz and Ephrata, where visitors can enjoy local food, drinks, and retail therapy.

To learn about more rail trails in PA, check out the VISIT PA website. Follow us on Facebook, X (Twitter), YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram to stay up-to-date on even more great ideas and places to visit around our state. Don’t forget to sign up for our monthly PA travel e-newsletter so you never miss an update.

You might also like: Pennsylvania's Trails of History

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