Serene year-round, the Bellefonte Central Rail Trail (BCRT) in central Pennsylvania runs along 1.3 miles of the old Buffalo Run, Bellefonte and Bald Eagle Railroad corridor. The original 19-mile line connecting the towns of Bellefonte and State College, home to Pennsylvania State University, was built in the mid-1880s to move iron ore. It changed hands in 1892 to become the Bellefonte Railroad and transported passengers, including many students and freight, until it ceased operation in the 1980s. In 1953 President Dwight Eisenhower and First Lady Mamie Eisenhower traveled on the Bellefonte Central to visit Dwight's brother, then-president of Penn State.
The Bellefonte Central Rail Trail is part of the master plan for the Arboretum at Penn State, where it will be a major artery through the site. Visitors and staff will use it to reach the botanical gardens, wetlands and research facilities, andcloser to the trailwoodlands that are being restored to the oak and hickory forest that dominated the area before invasive, nonnative plants appeared.
The trail sets out a 0.25 mile west of Sunset Park along the McKee Street and Clinton Avenue Bike Path. The southern end of the trail is less than 1 mile from Pennsylvania State University, making the trail a popular route for commuting students. For most of the way it is tree lined, with open fields beyond the shade-lending serene pastoral views, until it ends after passing over a culvert and shortly before reaching the Mt. Nittany Expressway overpass.
An informal trail extends nearly 2 more miles to Toftrees Resort and Golf Course, residential areas and beyond, ending at Montauk Circle in the town of Port Matilda. At its far reaches, the trail becomes rugged and is best suited for pedestrians or mountain bikes. A feasibility study is looking into extending the developed trail to Toftrees and another 13 miles to Bellefonte in the future.
Parking and Trail Access
To McKee Street trailhead: From I-80 west, take exit 161, turn left and follow US-220 South 11 miles toward Bellefonte. Take exit 74 toward Penn State University on E Park Ave. At 2.3 miles turn right at McKee Street. At the end of McKee Street (about seven blocks) are Sunset Park (with parking and restroom facilities) on the left and McKee Street/Clinton Avenue Bike Path straight ahead. Follow the bike path downhill less than a quarter mile to the flat where the Bellefonte Central Rail Trail begins.
Longer than advertised
Just to clarify, the distance of this trail is 4.2 miles from McKee St to Montauk Circle, not 1.3 as listed. I was visiting from out of town and was happily surprised that it was longer than listed here. I rode the entire length and enjoyed it quite a ...
The start of a nice trail
I use this trail very often to bike commute between my house in Port Matilda and State College. I ride the whole existing length from the McKee Street/Clinton Avenue Bike Path to Montauk Circle, which includes both the improved and unimproved sections.
Rocky start at Toftrees
I rode this trail last week (Sun., Aug. 3, 2008). From the entrance on Cricklewood Drive near Waddle Road, the trail has been filled with large jagged stones that make for deep, rough going on that downhill slope (not to mention having to walk back up). ...