Panhandle Trail

Pennsylvania, West Virginia

At a Glance

Name: Panhandle Trail
Length: 29 Miles
Trail activities: Wheelchair Accessible, Mountain Biking, Walking, Cross Country Skiing
Counties: Allegheny, Brooke, Washington
Surfaces: Asphalt, Crushed Stone
State: Pennsylvania, West Virginia

About this Itinerary

The 29-mile Panhandle Trail links Carnegie on the outskirts of Pittsburgh to the town of Weirton in the panhandle of West Virginia. The trail follows a portion of the corridor that the Pennsylvania Railroad once traveled, connecting Pittsburgh to St. Louis. Today, the trail provides the opportunity for a peaceful ride through a mostly rural landscape passing through several small towns, but with little to no crowds.

The Panhandle Trail is relatively flat and can be ridden out in back in one day, but for this itinerary we are dividing the route into two riding days to allow for a more leisurely pace. The trail is well maintained with the majority of the route covered in crushed limestone, but note that for several miles near the border with West Virginia the trail is packed dirt and loose gravel; it returns to crushed limestone once you cross the border. Along the way, you will find water fountains, picnic tables, and portable toilets every few miles. There is one permanent restroom and water fountain available in Sturgeon at mile 5.75, and convenience stores are available close to the trail in several towns along the route. Volunteers regularly plan fundraising events on the trail, so check here before scheduling your trip to ensure there are no conflicts.

Our recommended base for this itinerary is the Double Tree by Hilton Pittsburgh-Green. The hotel is located 5 miles from the eastern trailhead of the Panhandle Trail and is only 4.5 miles from downtown Pittsburgh. A complimentary shuttle to and from the airport is available; however, to reach the trailhead and access restaurants, shops, and sites in the area we recommend renting a car upon arrival. The location provides the perfect opportunity to enjoy a relaxing bike ride in a rural landscape and then head in to the city afterward for world-class dining and entertainment options. The Double Tree Hotel offers comfortable accommodations, a fitness center, an indoor/outdoor swimming pool, and an onsite restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Bike rentals are available at Golden Triangle Bike Rentals. Located in downtown Pittsburgh about 5 miles from the hotel, this rental shop offers a wide range of bicycles including mountain, hybrid, tandem, and kidsbikes. Call ahead to reserve. They also offer bicycle tours of various Pittsburgh neighborhoods, which is a fun activity to consider for another day during your stay.

Day 1

After a hearty breakfast at the hotel, and with full water bottles, head out to the trailhead. To reach it, turn right on Mansfield Avenue and left onto PA-50W and, after about one mile, a right on Jane Street. Continue on Mansfield Boulevard, which becomes W. Main Street, and then turns in to Noblestown Road. Turn left onto Walkers Road and take a right into the trailhead parking lot.

Today’s route will be 17 miles from the eastern trailhead to the small town of Burgettstown. The Panhandle Trail is popular with locals for biking, walking, and running, and around the trailheads you can potentially see some congestion, but in the more remote sections it should be pretty quiet. Our itinerary will take you through the small towns of Rennerdale, Oakdale, Noblestown, Sturgeon, McDonald, Primrose, Midway, Bulger, and Joffre before arriving in Burgettstown. Despite the number of towns that you pass through, the route is pretty tranquil. There are several convenience stores adjacent to the trail and other small businesses from which to purchase cold drinks and food. As noted, Sturgeon has a restroom and water fountain, and there are portable bathrooms located every few miles. Midway, which is located at about the 10.5 mile mark, is also a good place to stop for a break and has a mini mart located just off the trail (take a left on St. Johns Street).

At roughly 8.5 miles along the route, you will find the turn off for the Montour Trail. This rail-trail follows a portion of the Old Montour Railroad and travels for 46 miles, offering a connection to the Great Allegheny Passage, which travels 150 miles between Pittsburgh and Cumberland, Maryland. From here, it is possible to connect with the C&O Canal Trail to bike to all the way to Washington, DC. Something to consider for a future trip!

In Burgettstown, enjoy lunch at Walden’s at 1709 Main St. Located just off the trail at the intersection with N. Main Street, this bike-friendly restaurant offers a wide variety of dishes, including salads, burgers, sandwiches, and all-day breakfast items. Relax and enjoy a filling lunch before retracing your route on the Panhandle Trail back to the eastern trailhead in Carnegie.

Day 2

Today, drive to the trailhead in Burgettstown to ride 12 miles to the end of the trail in Weirton, W.V., for a 24 mile round-trip. The trailhead on Dinsmore Avenue is located 23 miles from the DoubleTree Hotel. To reach, take I-376 W from Mansfield Avenue to US-22 W to Maple Grove Road in Robinson. Take the exit toward Lavington and follow Steubenville Pike, Bavington Road and PA-18 S. to Dinsmore Avenue. Look for the parking area where the trail intersects the road.

There are no opportunities to purchase lunch on the trail until you return to Burgettstown at the end of the ride. If you would like to bring a lunch with you to enjoy at one of the scenic picnic tables along the way, stop at the County Line Pizza and Deli for a fresh-made sandwich, snack, and cold drinks. You will pass the business as you are driving to the trailhead just before entering downtown Burgettstown along PA-18.

Head west on the trail (N. Main Street, where the itinerary stopped yesterday, is located a half mile to the east). Today’s route is also very rural, including crossing over several streams, but you will not be passing through as many towns. This section of the trail can also be a little rougher since the surface is packed dirt and loose gravel between the Dinsmore Avenue trailhead and the Pennsylvania/West Virginia border. Just before mile marker 25, look for the white marker indicating the state line. The trail ends in Weirton at a dead-end next to a large pile of gravel and little else. The trailhead is actually just before the end of the trail, although there is nothing here except the parking lot and a picnic table.

On your return, enjoy a trailside picnic lunch or wait until arriving in Burgettstown to eat. In addition to Waldens at 1709 Main St., in town find T-N-T Pizza located at 1513 Main St. (You should have passed it on the way to the Dinsmore Avenue trailhead.) This restaurant offers pizza as well as a wide variety of hoagies, burgers, salads, wings, and more. They are open for lunch beginning at 11 a.m., but are closed Sunday and Monday.

Before returning to your hotel, consider taking a side trip to Meadowcroft Rockshelter, the oldest site of human habitation in North America. Located about 13 miles southeast of Burgettstown in Avella, PA, this National Historic Landmark offers a unique glimpse into the lives of prehistoric hunters and gathers. See a massive rock overhang used more than 16,000 years ago for shelter and learn what life was like then. Also onsite, visit several interpretive villages for a glimpse into rural life over the past 500 years including a 16th-century eastern woodland Native American village, an 18th-century log cabin and trading post, and a 19th-century village that includes a church, schoolhouse, and blacksmith shop. To reach Meadowcroft, head south on Main Street/PA-18. Take a right on to Langeloth Road and Eldersville Road. Take a right on to Cedar Grove Road in Jefferson and keep right to turn onto Bethel Ridge Road and follow to Meadowcroft Road.

For dinner, close to the hotel you can find many reliable chain restaurants and more casual dining. If after a long day of biking you just want to enjoy a good meal close by, try Scoglio. This Italian restaurant is located just up the hill from the Double Tree Hotel in a rather unglamorous business park, but don’t let that dissuade you. The menu features a wide range of dishes including such favorites as eggplant parmigianino, chicken Milanese, and shrimp scampi, and has an extensive wine list. Enjoy the casually elegant atmosphere and don’t worry about driving anywhere afterward!

In the nearby town of Carnegie, try the popular One Thirty One East. This Mediterranean and European fusion restaurant serves a diverse array of items. Try the fried oysters, flatbreads, paella, or pork chops, all presented with an innovative approach. Enjoy a glass of ice wine as you linger over one of their delectable desserts—the perfect way to end a day of biking.

Day 3

Pittsburgh has a nearly endless number of museums, historical sites, parks, and public spaces to explore. Just a few of the many options include: Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Mattress Factory - A Museum of Contemporary Art, National Aviary, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, and the Andy Warhol Museum. Or, take a trip on one of the last remaining inclines in the country at the Duquesne Incline or Monongahela Incline. Both are located near downtown Pittsburgh and climb to the top of Mt. Washington. Enjoy spectacular views and learn about significant events in the city’s history at the upper station museum at the Duquesne. If they are in town during your visit, catch a ballgame at PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Conveniently located close to downtown and situated on the Allegheny River, the ballpark features spectacular views.

For pure architectural drama, visit the Grand Concourse. Located along the waterfront in Pittsburgh in a restored Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad Station, this restaurant features stunning stained glass mosaics, soaring ceilings, and amazing woodwork with a sophisticated and timeless ambiance. The menu matches the decor in that it offers classics such as filet mignon, salmon Rockefeller, bouillabaisse, and Maine lobster, but with a contemporary spin. Dining in this space is truly memorable and visitors to Pittsburgh should try to stop in for lunch or dinner during their stay simply to experience the stunning building.

For history buffs, slightly farther afield visit Bushy Run Battlefield. This is the only registered Native American battlefield in Pennsylvania and was the site of a battle between several allied Native American troops led by Pontiac, who were trying to repel British and colonial advances into the frontier, and Col. Henry Bouquet. Tour the battlefield and stroll more than three miles of walking trails on more than 230 acres in this rural landscape about 30 minutes outside of Pittsburgh. Also visit Fort Ligonier, a full-scale reconstruction of a 17th-century fort. This was the British fortification during the French and Indian War and served as a garrison for eight years. Tour the fort, located on a commanding hilltop, visit the museum, and see various exhibits and archaeological collections.

Attractions and Amenities

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