Though it memorializes a sad occasion, the Path of the Flood Trail is a beautiful, tranquil trail. In the Johnstown Flood of 1889, the South Fork Dam failed and more than 2,200 townspeople lost their lives.
The first 2 miles of the trail opened in 2007, extending from the historic Staple Bend Tunnel, believed to be America's oldest railroad tunnel, and continuing on-road to a wooded hillside. This section ends at the Franklin Ball Field in Johnstown, where it connects to the Allegheny Portage Railroad & Incline Trail
. It is part of the Mainline Canal greenway, and there are plans to extend the trail to the town of Ehrenfeld, southeast to Alleghany Portage National Park to Cresson. This extension would be part of the Mainline Trail, a rail-trail that was part of the Old Portage Railroad and the South Cambria Trolley Line.
The 2-mile Path of the Flood Trail is hilly in some sections, as it follows a portion of the Little Conemaugh River. Mostly ballast, with asphalt near the tunnel, the trail is used mainly by joggers, walkers and cross-country skiers.
A few memorial markers relating to the flood are posted along the trail. While in the area, you may want to poke around the Johnstown and Cambria County area, where several 1860s-era buildings from the area's steel industry are being restored to their former glory.
During the summer months, the trail is heavily canopied with large trees, and native wildflowers flourish throughout the section leading from the tunnel to Franklin Ball Field. Benches along the trail overlook an active rail-line and a lush green valley.
To access the tunnel trailhead from the Johnstown National Memorial, follow US 219 North to State Route 53 North, Railroad Street. Exit toward South Fork and Portage, and turn right on State Route 53 to Summerhill. Turn left on Main Street then turn right on Madison Street; turn left on Jackson Street. Go approximately 1 mile on Jackson Street, which becomes Swigle Mountain Road (State Route 3043). Bear left onto Mineral Point Road. Use caution on the steep hill.
Turn left on Beech Hill Road and proceed over the bridge to the railroad underpass. Drive under the underpass and up the short hill. The trailhead is on the right, marked by a large sign and nicely landscaped with an informational kiosk at the far end of the asphalt parking lot.