11 PA Rail Trails Anyone Can Enjoy

10 of the best rail trails in Pennsylvania.

If you’re looking for some of the best PA rail trails, you’re in the right place!

A mileage marker at the Deal Trail Head of the Great Allegheny Passage.
A mileage marker at the Deal Trail Head of the Great Allegheny Passage in Somerset County.

During my travels throughout Pennsylvania, I’ve had a chance to ride many exceptional PA rail trails, and I’m going to share a few of my favorites with you here.

The Knox and Kane Rail Trail Head at Kinzua Bridge State Park.
The Knox and Kane Rail Trail Head at Kinzua Bridge State Park in McKean County.

Pennsylvania is home to more than 2,100 miles of rail trails, the third-most miles of rail trail in any state (behind only Michigan and Minnesota), encompassing nearly 200 different rail trails.

Staple Bend Tunnel trailhead in Cambria County Pennsylvania.
Staple Bend Tunnel rail trail in Cambria County.

Because these rail trails were originally cleared for train tracks, they’re typically quite flat and wide, making them ideal for beginners as well as advanced level cyclists.

Big Savage Overlook along the Great Allegheny Passage, just north of the Mason and Dixon Park in Somerset County.
Big Savage Overlook along the Great Allegheny Passage rail trail, originally cleared for the Western Maryland Railway.

When viewing this list of 11 of my favorite PA rail trails, click on the blue text links in the descriptions to visit the official website of each trail for the most updated maps, trailhead locations, and trail conditions before venturing out to explore them.

The Pine Creek Rail Trail heading north towards Pine Island Run Falls.
The Pine Creek Rail Trail in Tioga County.

1. The Great Allegheny Passage

The Great Allegheny Passage is a 150-mile trail running from Cumberland, Maryland to Pittsburgh, PA, making it the longest of the completed rail trails in Pennsylvania.

The Greenwood Bridge between Connellsville and Hippie Shower Falls.
The Greenwood Bridge near Connellsville along the Great Allegheny Passage.

Along the way the the trail passes through and over dozens of bridges, tunnels, and trail towns as it winds it’s way through the PA Laurel Highlands.

A man on a recumbent bicycle prepares to travel the 3,294 foot Big Savage Tunnel along the Great Allegheny Passage.
A man on a recumbent bicycle prepares to travel the 3,294 foot Big Savage Tunnel along the Great Allegheny Passage, one of the most popular PA rail trails.

2. The Pine Creek Rail Trail

The Pine Creek Rail Trail runs 65 miles through the heart of the PA Grand Canyon, from from Wellsboro Junction in Tioga County to Jersey Shore in Lycoming County.

The Blackwell trailhead of the Pine Creek Rail Trail in Tioga County.
The Blackwell trailhead of the Pine Creek Rail Trail in Tioga County.

The Pine Creek Rail Trail follows the abandoned railroad corridor of the Jersey Shore, Pine Creek, and Buffalo Railroad along the banks of Pine Creek.

The Pine Creek Rail Trail, facing south towards Blackwell.
The Pine Creek Rail Trail, facing south towards Blackwell.

3. Lehigh Gorge Rail Trail

The Lehigh Gorge Rail Trail runs parallel to the Lehigh River and the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway from White Haven to Jim Thorpe in Carbon County.

The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway passing bikers along the Lehigh Gorge rail trail.
The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway passing bikers along the Lehigh Gorge Rail Trail, one of the most popular PA rail trails in the eastern part of the state.

This 26-mile stretch of trail passes by numerous waterfalls, including Luke’s Falls and Buttermilk Falls, as it winds its way through Lehigh Gorge State Park.

Buttermilk Falls along the Lehigh Gorge Rail Trail at Lehigh Gorge State Park.
Buttermilk Falls along the Lehigh Gorge Rail Trail.

4. The Allegheny River/Samuel Justus Trail

The Allegheny River/Samuel Justus Trail is comprised of 32 miles of asphalt surface from Oil City to Emlenton in Venango County.

Entrance to the Rockland Tunnel along the Allegheny River Rail Trail.
Entrance to the Rockland Tunnel along the Allegheny River/Samuel Justus Trail.

This trail passes through two former railroad tunnels and within walking distance of Freedom Falls near Emlenton.

Freedom Falls on Shull Run in Venango County.
Freedom Falls on Shull Run in Venango County, near the Allegheny River/Samuel Justus Trail.

5. The Knox & Kane Rail Trail

The Knox & Kane Rail Trail stretches 7.8 miles between Kinzua Bridge State Park and Mount Jewett.

The Knox and Kane Rail Trail access at Kinzua Bridge State Park in McKean County Pennsylvania.
The Knox and Kane Rail Trail access at Kinzua Bridge State Park in McKean County.

The Kinzua Bridge Skywalk near the northern trailhead is a remnant of what was once the longest and tallest railway bridge in the entire world – the Kinzua Viaduct.

Kinzua Bridge skywalk as viewed from one of the viewing platforms.
The Kinzua Bridge Skywalk.

6. Penn’s Creek Path

Penns Creek Path is a 2.7-mile trail crossing over Penns Creek and through the 6,000-acre Penns Creek Wild Area, near Poe Paddy State Park.

Bridge over Penns Creek near Poe Paddy Tunnel.
Bridge over Penns Creek along the Penns Creek Path rail trail.

A renovated former railroad tunnel is one of the highlights this trail, which doubles as a section of the 328-mile Mid State Trail.

Cyclists entering Poe Paddy Tunnel through the northwestern portal.
Cyclists entering Poe Paddy Tunnel along Penns Creek Path.

The Lewisburg, Centre and Spruce Creek Railroad left behind the railroad grade and tunnel that the Penns Creek Path rail trail now follows.

The unlit interior of Poe Paddy Tunnel.
The unlit interior of Poe Paddy Tunnel along Penns Creek Path.

7. The Armstrong Trail

The Armstrong Trail is a 35.5-mile rail trail that follows the eastern bank of the Allegheny River through Armstrong County.

The Armstrong Trail Mosgrove Trailhead near Buttermilk Falls in Armstrong County Pennsylvania.
The Armstrong Trail Mosgrove Trailhead.

A short one-mile spur trail near Kittanning leads you to one of the many Buttermilk Falls in Pennsylvania.

Buttermilk Falls along the Cowanshannock Trail in Armstrong County Pennsylvania.
Buttermilk Falls along the Cowanshannock Trail (a spur of the Armstrong Trail) near Kittanning.

8. The Lower Trail

The Lower Trail runs for almost 17 miles, from near Canoe Creek State Park in Blair County northeastward to near Alexandria in Huntingdon County.

The Lower Trail Head near Canoe Creek State Park in Blair County Pennsylvania.
The Lower Trail Head near Canoe Creek State Park in Blair County.

Much of the Lower Trail was part of the original towpath of the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal.

Much of the Lower Trail was part of the original towpath of the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal
Much of the Lower Trail was part of the original towpath of the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal.

The trail has a crushed limestone surface, except for a 2 mile asphalt section in the vicinity of Williamsburg.

The Lower Trail runs for almost 17 miles from near Canoe Creek State Park in Blair County northeastward to near Alexandria in Huntingdon County.
The Lower Trail is one of the most popular PA rail trails in the central part of the state.

9. The Staple Bend Tunnel Trail

The Staple Bend Tunnel Trail is a 2.5 mile-long (one-way) crushed limestone trail in Cambria County leading to the first railroad tunnel built in the United States!

The ornate western portal of the Staple Bend Tunnel.
The ornate western portal of the Staple Bend Tunnel.

Constructed as part of the Allegheny Portage Railroad, this 901 foot-long tunnel was built between November 1831 and June 1833, progressing 18 inches each day, with crews working simultaneously on both sides eventually meeting in the center. 

The hand-hewn center portion of the Staple Bend Tunnel in Cambria County.
The hand-hewn center portion of the Staple Bend Tunnel.

Today, the trail and tunnel is operated by the National Park Service as a unit of the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site.

Mile marker 1.5 along the Staple Bend Tunnel Trail in Cambria County Pennsylvania.
Mile marker 1.5 along the Staple Bend Tunnel Trail in Cambria County.

10. The Abandoned PA Turnpike Trail

The Abandoned PA Turnpike Trail is a 13 mile (one-way) asphalt trail that follows a route first cleared for the South Penn Railroad in the late 1800s.

Image of Andrew Carnegie standing next to the Rays Hill Tunnel during initial construction.
Image of Andrew Carnegie standing next to the Rays Hill Tunnel during initial construction of the South Penn Railroad.

While the South Penn was never completed, the railroad right-of-way was repurposed for construction of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in the 1940s.

Souvenir brochure for the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Souvenir brochure for the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

In the 1960s, two tunnels and a 12 mile stretch of the Turnpike was bypassed, and that portion of the world’s first superhighway now makes up one of PA’s most interesting bike paths.

Bicycling the Abandoned PA Turnpike in September 2020.
Bicycling the Abandoned PA Turnpike.

Commonly referred to as the Abandoned PA Turnpike, the highlights of the trail are two tunnels, one near each end/trailhead.

Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike Rail Trail at Rays Hill Tunnel.
Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike Rail Trail at Rays Hill Tunnel.

Like the other rail trails mentioned in this article, the Abandoned PA Turnpike is essentially flat, and a good light source is necessary to safely navigate the tunnels.

Bicycling the Sideling Hill Tunnel in September 2020.
Bicycling the Sideling Hill Tunnel in September 2020.

11. The Clarion-Little Toby Rail Trail

The 18 mile-long Clarion-Little Toby Trail is a rail trail that extends from Ridgway in Elk County to Brockway in Jefferson County.

The Clarion-Little Toby Trailhead in Brockway Pennsylvania.
The Clarion-Little Toby Trailhead in Brockway.

The Clarion-Little Toby Trail follows the banks of the Clarion River and Little Toby Creek on the former railbed of the Ridgway and Clearfield branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

The Clarion-Little Toby Trail follows a former railbed along the banks of the Clarion River and Little Toby Creek.
The Clarion-Little Toby Trail follows a former railbed along the banks of the Clarion River and Little Toby Creek.

One of the highlights along t trail is the Blue Rock Swinging Bridge, a 40 foot-long suspension stretched hanging 12 feet above Little Toby Creek, on State Game Lands 44 in Elk County.

The Blue Rock Swinging Bridge is sometimes referred to as the Little Toby Swinging Bridge.
The Blue Rock Swinging Bridge is sometimes referred to as the Little Toby Swinging Bridge.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it – 10 PA rail trails I’ve enjoyed that I think you might enjoy too!

Fall foliage around the High Bridge at Ohiopyle State Park.
Fall foliage around the Great Allegheny Passage at Ohiopyle State Park.

If you didn’t see your favorite rail trail on this list, feel free to email me your suggestions, as I plan to continually update and expand this list of great PA rail trails!

The Lehigh Gorge Rail Trail at Lehigh Gorge State Park in Carbon County Pennsylvania.
The Lehigh Gorge Rail Trail at Lehigh Gorge State Park.

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Rusty Glessner is a professional photographer, lifelong Pennsylvanian, and creator of the PA Bucket List travel blog.