About this Itinerary
The 51-mile Redbank Valley Rail Trail offers visitors an opportunity to bike through some of the most spectacular scenery in this quiet corner of Pennsylvania. The trail travels from the confluence of the Allegheny River east to the town of Brookville, passing through small towns, following the scenic Redbank Creek, and over several bridges and stone arches. Along the way visitors are immersed in dense woods rich in wildlife and natural beauty.
The Redbank Valley Rail Trail (RVRT) was once the corridor of the Allegheny Valley Railroad. The line came in to use in the early 1870s and was built to service oil wells, coal mines, lumber and other industries in the area, as well as providing passenger service. The last train came through in 2007, after which the tracks were pulled up, and in 2010 the corridor was purchased by the Allegheny Valley Land Trust from the Pittsburg & Shawmut Railroad.
While the RVRT officially opened in 2010, the trail is very much a work in progress and all trail users should be aware of current conditions before setting out. Volunteers have done an amazing amount of work making this 51-mile route accessible from end to end, but maintenance is ongoing and routine closures along the trail are common. All trail users should check with the Redbank Valley Trail Association for the most up-to-date information about trail conditions. Their website is frequently updated and contains a lot of valuable information. Cyclists who can handle riding on ballast, climbing over the occasional fallen tree, and remaining flexible to navigate around closed sections, will enjoy a scenic ride on what is a spectacular route. Get out your mountain bike, bring a pack full of supplies, set off with a positive attitude, and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of this region. The RVRT is sure to become a popular destination for avid cyclists once it is complete, but in the meantime enjoy the tranquility of the surrounding forest with little crowds and few distractions.
Located along Redbank Creek, just across from the RVRT in New Bethlehem, stay at the Hunter’s Moon Lodge and B&B. This Mission-style home is more than a century old and offers four rooms. Situated on 1.25 lovely acres, sightings of bald eagles, turkeys, deer, and numerous bird species are common. Enjoy the magnificent natural surroundings as you relax on the deck, lounge in the hot tub, or wander the grounds. The lodge provides a peaceful refuge and is the ideal spot to return to at the end of a day on the trail.
Given the length of the trail, our itinerary divides the route up in to two days of riding. To take advantage of the Hunter’s Moon Lodge trailside location, we depart each day from the property. One day riding is 16 miles (32 miles round-trip) plus the option of riding the 9-mile spur, and another day includes about 25.5 miles (51 miles round-trip).
With a surface of ballast, crushed limestone, and gravel, a mountain or hybrid bike is necessary. There are no bike shops offering rentals or repair services in the general area. Visitors should be prepared to bring their own mountain bike, or if you are driving from Pittsburgh, we recommend stopping at Golden Triangle Bicycle Rentals in the downtown area. This full service bike shop has a variety of rentals available including hybrid, hybrid performance, mountain, kids’bikes, and tandems. While this is a considerable distance away from the Redbank Valley Trail, at this time it is the best rental option.
Hunting is allowed in areas alongside the trail and all trail users on the route during hunting season should wear brightly colored clothing at all times. There are no restrooms or water fountains along the RVRT and we highly recommend setting out with plenty of water, snacks, a bicycle repair kit and tubes, a cell phone, and anything else needed for the day. The trail does pass through several small towns, but outside of New Bethlehem and Brookville, trailside adjacent businesses are sparse. Many sections of the trail are far from towns and all trail users should come be prepared.
Important notice: Due to trail maintenance and ongoing improvements, be sure to check the Redbank Valley Trail Association’s website for current conditions and closure notices before setting out.
Today we will head west on the trail to ride about 16 miles to its terminus (round-trip 32 miles), with an option to ride an additional 9 miles (one way) on a spur that travels from Lawsonham north to just outside of the town of Sligo. This direction on the trail has sections with rough conditions. The first few miles are in good condition and you will find a crushed limestone surface. Farther along the trail is a work in progress. Great efforts have been taken to keep up at least a minimal amount of maintenance, but it is not uncommon to find downed trees and areas where the banks have given way and created a landslide. Also note that towards the trail’s end there is a gradual ascent. The 9-mile spur has a grade of about 3% and trail conditions along this section can also be spotty. Stay alert.
Before setting out be sure to pack all supplies needed for the day including plenty of water and food as this section of the trail does not pass directly through any towns. In New Bethlehem, stop by Tom’s Riverside Market (630 Broad St.) to pick up all the fixings for a delicious picnic. This full service grocery store has fresh produce, a deli department, bakery, and anything else you might need to enjoy a trailside lunch break.
After leaving the lodge, cross the river and take a left on the RVRT. As you bike west, the trail runs parallel to the Redbank Creek, which is always an option for cooling off on a hot summer’s day. At the end of the trail, enthusiasts can continue riding by connecting to the Armstrong Trail. This 36-mile route meets the RVRT at the confluence of the Allegheny River, and follows the river before connecting to other trails that can take you north to Erie or south to Pittsburgh and onward all the way to Washington, DC. If that is more than you intend for today, retrace your route and return to the comforts of your lodging.
After a hearty breakfast and with full supplies, head out for 51 miles of round-trip biking. Climax Tunnel is located immediately to the east along the RVRT. As of 2015, the tunnel is closed as work is being done to repair and support the ceiling. Under no circumstances should anyone enter the tunnel while work is being undertaken. Unfortunately, on-road routes around the tunnel take you far out of the way, so at this time it does not appear that a quick diversion is possible. Discuss with your hosts any local access routes to the trail from the property. Otherwise, drive the short distance to New Bethlehem and find on-street parking as there is no official trailhead in town.
This direction of the trail does pass through a few small towns, but food and water options are still rather limited. In New Bethlehem, pick up snacks and water at Tom’s Riverside Market to sustain you to the end of the route. Once in Brockville, you will find plenty of options for lunch, as well as for stocking up for the return trip.
From downtown, head east on the trail, which travels right through the center of New Bethlehem and is easily accessible. Conditions heading east are generally pretty good.
An obstacle to note along this section is the closure of the Brookville Tunnel at the very end of the route. This will not affect your ride, but keep it in mind and do not enter the tunnel if construction is still underway while you are there. As you approach Brockville, shortly after crossing over Redbank Creek, veer north on Maple Street to avoid the tunnel closure, which is just ahead. This is at the very end of the route. At the end of Maple Street, take a right on Race Street and a left on S. White Street to re-cross Redbank Creek to reach the downtown area. Here you will find several dining options including the Giant Eagle Deli (on your right immediately after crossing the bridge), and Breezeway Cafe and Courthouse Grill & Pub (both two blocks further up and to the right on Main Street).
Before leaving town, stop by Buff’s Ice Cream for a cold treat. This old fashioned ice cream parlor offers a variety of tempting flavors and is the perfect boost to get you ready for the return trip to New Bethlehem.
For dinner, New Bethlehem has a few casual eateries offering comfort foods in a relaxed atmosphere. For pizza, sandwiches, and other simple fare, try Evermoore’s, which is located along the trail in the heart of town. Along Broad Street, find Joe’s Pizza & Italian Restaurant serving pizza and an array of Italian dishes, as well as The Shepherd’s Inn, which serves a variety of diner foods in a comfortable environment. Just north of the downtown along PA-66, stop by Sweet Delights for an evening ice cream or other sweet treat.
In Brookville, find several other dining options including the Courthouse Grill & Pub, which if you didn’t try for lunch is worth a stop. Locals and visitors rave about the varied menu which includes American diner foods as well a variety of Greek dishes inspired by the owner’s homeland. Also find the Gold Eagle Inn. This unique space was built in 1962 from parts of three antique barns and now houses a motel as well as a restaurant (this is another lodging option if the Hunter’s Moon Lodge is not available). Considered to be one of the top restaurants in the area, enjoy dishes such as stuffed banana peppers, pork chops, lobster, and offers a variety of steaks options. Enjoy fine dining in a cozy and intimate atmosphere.
If you have an extra day, Pennsylvania’s only national forest, Allegheny National Forest, located about an hour and a half north of New Bethlehem, is worth exploring. With about 520,000 acres, the forest offers a variety of outdoor activities including miles of hiking and biking trails, horseback riding, swimming, tubing, and camping. Immerse yourself in the national beauty of the Allegheny Plateau, known for black cherry, maples, and other hardwood trees and experience a natural setting different than what you encountered along the RVRT, but equally spectacular.
Approximately two and a half hours northwest, find Presque Isle State Park. While a bit far away, this spectacular state park has a little bit of everything. Located on Lake Erie, the park offers visitors a stunning setting from which to bike for miles on scenic on- and off-road routes, explore historical sites related to the War of 1812, learn about and experience the fascinating natural history of the peninsula, visit a lighthouse, and participate in a variety of water activities.
About 40 minutes southeast of New Bethlehem lies Punxsutawney, the town made famous by its resident groundhog, Phil. Located a couple of miles outside of town in a clearing at the top of a wooded hill, is Gobbler’s Knob, site of the stage that Phil ascends every February 2. While there is not much going on here other times of year, all of the accoutrements from Phil’s big day are left in place including the stage, the ‘Punxsy Phil’sign, and the simulated tree stump. The park features a half mile long trail where you can learn about the history of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Day and the legend of Phil. This quirky site is probably not worth the drive alone, but if you find yourself nearby, it’s worth a quick stop for amusement value.