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Spurred by the success of New York’s revolutionary Erie Canal, Pennsylvania started constructing its own canal system in 1826 to link Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. But the Allegheny Mountains complicated Pennsylvania’s task.
In the years it took to establish Pennsylvania’s canal system on either side of the Alleghenies, trains were coming into use. Forward-thinking engineers looked to these machines to traverse the final 40 miles of rugged terrain, but the primitive locomotives couldn’t manage the mountain slopes. Pennsylvania’s solution was the Allegheny Portage Railroad, a complex system that saw entire canalboats transferred from canals onto trains that, much like the canals themselves, ran over more or less level ground before coming to an elevation change. At each steep incline, the locomotive would be disconnected and its line of cars hoisted up the slope by a stationary steam engine at the top. The train cars would be connected to a new locomotive and transported to the next incline, where the process would be repeated. On the downhill side, the same machinery controlled the train cars’ descent.
Ten such inclines brought canalboats and other cargo up and over the Alleghenies between Johnstown and Hollidaysburg—five each on the eastern and western slopes of the range. Once the barges had been portaged across the mountains, they were returned to canals to finish their journeys. It was a massive undertaking that reduced travel time between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh from about 23 days to just under 4. Officially opening in 1834, the system would run only for a little more than two decades before more powerful locomotives rendered it obsolete.
Today, the 10.3-mile route between inclines 6 and 10 has been converted into a rail-trail featuring both hiking and biking sections, with historical culverts (drainage structures) visible along the hiking-only route. The trail makes up a small part of the September 11th National Memorial Trail that connects the 9/11, Flight 93, and Pentagon Memorials.
Start your visit at the top of the mountain, where the National Park Service maintains a visitor center at the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site dedicated to the history of the railway, as well as restrooms, drinking fountains, and picnic areas. At the summit is a reproduction of an engine that lifted the train cars and a re-creation of the steep tracks of incline 6, as well as a tavern restored to its 1840s appearance. These buildings are open daily (9 a.m.–5 p.m.) in spring, summer, and fall, and weekends only in winter. This area also provides access to a hiking-only trail heading westward, the Summit Level Trail.
From the visitor center, hikers can tackle the 6 to 10 Trail as it heads east and downhill along the path of the Allegheny Portage Railroad; this twisting section is a steep and tricky descent recommended for capable hikers. Loops and spurs offer opportunities to extend the mileage a bit and to see additional historical artifacts. Bicycles are not allowed on this portion of the trail, so bikers will start about 3.3 miles farther along the route at the Muleshoe trailhead and follow the path of the railroad that supplanted the portage system.
From the Muleshoe trailhead, you’ll roll about 4.2 miles downhill on limestone dust to the Dry Run Road trailhead, where restrooms and water fountains are available. Look for wildlife such as white-tailed deer, turkeys, pheasants, and chipmunks, as well as snakes and the occasional black bear. About halfway along this segment, you’ll also come to another 1.2-mile hiking-only segment that extends past two historical culverts and then reconnects with the trail just southeast of Valley Forge Road and a third historical culvert.
As you near the southeast trailhead at Dry Run Road, the trail connects with the 1.6-mile Foot of Ten Trail, a hiking-only, somewhat triangular loop that extends northeast toward the former site of an engine house and another historical culvert, after which it heads south (on a partially overgrown path) toward the Dry Run Road trailhead. The last 0.25 mile of the 6 to 10 Trail, leading to the trailhead, shares the same path as the southwest side of the Foot of Ten Trail loop.
Be aware that the biking portion of the trail contains steep grades and poor sight lines, and while it is wheelchair accessible, the Valley Forge Road crossing is not. State game land surrounds much of the trail (both hiking and biking sections), and users are advised to wear bright colors to alert hunters year-round, but particularly in the fall. The trail and parking areas are open sunrise–sunset.
To reach the endpoint at the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site visitor center from I-99, take Exit 28 to merge onto US 22 W. In about 7 miles, take the Gallitzin exit, and turn right onto Tunnelhill St. Go 0.7 mile south, following signs for the Allegheny Portage Railroad. The road terminates at the visitor center parking lot.
To reach the Muleshoe trailhead from the visitor center parking lot, take US 22 W 1.7 miles to the exit for Old US 22, following signs for Cresson/Summit. Turn left onto Old US 22/Admiral Peary Hwy. In 3.0 miles, you’ll find a parking area on the right, immediately before the curved stone archway of the Muleshoe Bridge; if that lot is full, another option is just 700 feet farther down the road on the left.
To reach the Dry Run Road trailhead from I-99, take Exit 28 for US 22 E. Keep right to immediately exit onto US 22 E, and go 1.5 miles. Turn right onto Old US 22 in Duncansville. Go 0.2 mile, and turn left onto Foot of Ten Road. Go 0.5 mile, and turn left onto Mill Road. Go 0.3 mile, and turn right onto Dry Run Road. Go 0.6 mile, and turn right into the trailhead parking lot.
Always see wildlife. My favorite trail for biking. Short and fun
close to altoona. lots of wildlife. snakes. turtles. bears. love the gradual downhill.
It was Monday, May 4th, 1964, mid-morning. My dad and I were making our second of thirteen annual trips from Latrobe to Harrisburg on a Pennsylvania Railroad passenger train, probably the Duquesne or the Juniata, both of which I remember riding over those years. I was 7 year old. East of Johnstown, my dad asked the conductor to advise us of when we would be approaching the "world famous Horseshoe Curve." The conductor replied, "We won't be going down around the Curve today, sir... There has been a derailment down there, so today we will be going down around the Muleshoe." "What the heck is the Muleshoe?", dad replied. It's a smaller version of the Horseshoe. So, knowing nothing about this route, we broke away from the Pennsy mainline at the east portal of the mountain tunnels, and began our descent. Woods, lots of woods, and slow... Very slow. My dad had recently purchased a little, used 8mm Kodak Brownie movie camera. I was the cameraman. I shot movie footage going down the mountain. Yesterday, fifty years and one month later, I was back on wheels descending a 4.0-mile segment of our circuitous Gallitzin-Duncansville-Altoona May 1964 detour route. The trail begins Mile 0 four miles below the US-22 stone underpass. The most convenient and easy access point to this trail is from old US-22, about two miles east of that (dead center of Muleshoe Curve) stone underpass. Take Valley Forge Road south from Old-22 for about 1/2-mile, and you will come to a parking lot on your right where an overpass once took the railroad overhead. East and down the hill for 1.8 miles to Trail Milepost 0. From trail's end, pedal up the hill to the smooth secondary road to view the cut where the railroad once passed through, and the obvious right of way you can ride the road on to parallel and cross the old grade for another 0.3 miles to where it disappears into private property. Now, back up the hill from Mile 0, and it's a pretty tough climb the whole way up to the Muleshoe. It's at least a near steady 2% grade, downhill coasting at 9 to 10mph coming down. And it's a wide right-of-way too. I know this was a double-tracked line the whole way down the mountain, but at most places, there is room for 3 or even 4 tracks. The historical significance of this route can't be overstated. I had no idea of what we had the rare opportunity to ride on in a passenger train 50 years ago. This was the railroad between Hollidaysburg and Johnstown which replaced the inclined plane system for conveying the canal boats over the Allegheny Mountains, hence "New Portage" Railroad. Canal boats from the East were pulled out of the water at Hollidaysburg, carried over the mountain for a few short years on this pre-Pennsylvania Railroad line, and put back in the water at Johnstown for the remainder of the journey west to Pittsburgh. This route was totally abandoned by the "Pennsy" in 1854 when the PRR completed iits Horseshoe Curve (main line) route. The New Portage line was re-activated around 1900 as a freight bypass connecting the the Gallitzin tunnels to Duncansville, and from there, Altoona to the north (our 1964 route) from there, and then eastward to Hollidaysburg Yard and east as Pennsy's "Hollidaysburg and Petersburg" [H&P] Secondary", eventually back to the PRR mainline at Petersburg, 8 miles west of Huntingdon (today's Lower Trail, more outstanding former railroad beside this same canal system). Conrail abandoned most of all of this trackage in 1982. Curious about the construction, I shimmied down an obvious sag at Trail Mile 0.6. They are reconstructing a failed stone culvert below this large fill, and it is of obvious Portage Canal era stone contruction! Very neat stonework! I remember the wheels of our train squealing as we descended the route, and I imagine those brakes were smoking, too, as I said this is a quite steep and windy grade, but not too shabby for a railroad barely a decade into the railroad era! They are rebuilding the water supply reservoir just east of the Muleshoe, and that looks like a mess, but the trail is rerouted around this work. I was hopeful to be able to proceed west of the Muleshoe, but as soon as one enters the cut on its north side, you can see that this is not bicycling territory. There is a mass of fallen trees blocking wheeled passage. Someday soon, we will certainly need to walk the three or four miles up the mountain to the point where new US-22 has sliced off the remaining mile of this route up to the railroad tunnels. The view of this route's shelf sliced into the side of the mountain, as seen from today's Amtrak Pennsylvanian trains on Norfolk Southern's ex-Pennsy mainline to the north, is certainly an inspiring one. The view has got to be fantastic from up there, where Dad and I rode down our unknown canal era route 50 years ago. Oh, and that movie film I shot?... Dad forgot it and left it on the window sill of our train!... Sigh!... For Dad's remaining 26 years, this was always one of our favorite but melancholy stories. He always told me that he tried to retrieve it, but no one on the railroad found that little reel of what would be priceless footage of our then very undesired and certainly unappreciated passage down the eastern slope on the route of the New Portage Railroad! -Rich Ballash, Latrobe, PA 6-7-2014.
This page for the trail listing it as the Six to Ten Trail "system" is somewhat misleading, as the trails being described are actually three seperate trails. Most people posting reviews here are actually reviewing the Staple Bend Tunnel Trail in Mineral Point PA. That trail is the section from Mineral Point to the Staple Bend Tunnel. There's also another trail in Mineral Point called the Path Of The Flood Trail that runs from Mineral Point along the river and goes to the town South Fork. The reason they call it the Path Of The Flood Trail is because it follows along the river route from the Johnstown Flood in 1889.
The REAL "Six To Ten Trail" is a seperate trail system that runs from Foot Of Ten near Duncansville PA, up to the Skew Arch Bridge just below the Allegheny Portage Railroad site along Old Route 22 near Cresson PA. You can access the actual Six To Ten Trail at the trailhead parking lot on Dry Run Road near Duncansville, or at the Muleshoe Bridge parking area on Old Route 22, and at either the Skew Arch Bridge parking area on Old Route 22 or at the Allegheny Portage Railroad museum site.
The actual Six To Ten Trail starts out at the trailhead parking area on Dry Run Road, and it follows the path of the New Portage Railroad bed that was created after original Allegheny Portage Railroad went out of business. It's a typical crushed limestome rail trail type of surface until it crosses over the Muleshoe Bridge over Old Route 22. There's a paved parking area at the Dry Run Road trailhead, as well as a bathroom facility. This section of the trail between Dry Run Road and the Muleshoe Bridge contains sevral of the inclined planes that the APRR used to haul the cars up on, as well as a few stone bridges off on side trails that were part of the original APRR. The trail also passes along two reservoirs just below the Muleshoe Bridge. Once the trail gets to the Muleshoe Bridge over Old Route 22 the crushed limestone Rail Trail ends, and it turns into two seperate trails (the 6-10, and the New Portage Railroad bed).
The Six To Ten Trail turns left at the Muleshoe Bridge and turns into a steep dirt hiking trail not suitable for bikes that continues up along the hillside parallel to Old Route 22 and on up to the Skew Arch Bridge. You can see the remnants of an old inclined plane engine house foundation area along this section, as well as the old stone sleepers from the APRR, and the trail winds through some pretty woods with ferns near the windmills along the mountain.
The New Portage Railroad bed crosses over the Muleshoe Bridge and continues along for several miles through State Game Lands areas near Carson Valley, and it eventually stops where New Route 22 cuts across the old railroad bed in the area of Sugar Run Road below the town of Tunnelhill. This section of the New Portage Railroad bed is all original cinders, gravel, dirt, and grass, and is open to vehicular driving during hunting season, but closed to bicycles from Carson Valley to the northern end near New Route 22. This section has some great views to the north of Carson Valley where it looks down on New Route 22, and across the valley towards the railroad trains traveling between Horseshoe Curve and Tunnelhill along the Bennington Curve.
There's no way to access the northern end of the New Portage Railroad bed near New Route 22 and Tunnelhill, the only access areas on this section of the NPRR are at either the Muleshoe Bridge, or at the State Game lands parking area on Bear Wallow Road near Carson Valley in Duncansville.
Here's the National Park Service's website to the actual Six To Ten Trail, with a map of the trail linked on the page http://www.nps.gov/alpo/planyourvisit/six-to-ten-inclines.htm
was here,was really relaxing and fun,great scenary
We accessed the “Six to Ten” trail at its south end in Franklin Borough. It connects to the “Path of the Flood” trail. (Note that according to Google maps the “Path of the Flood” trail starts in Mineral Point and heads upstream toward South Fork.) Nevertheless, this trail follows the Conemaugh River upstream from Johnstown, PA. The most convenient access to this trail is near Mineral Point, PA where there is a nice parking area and even restrooms. What is more interesting about this trail is that along the way I ran into a local resident, Steve Coy, who is the owner of Steve's Auto Body, in East Conemaugh, PA. When I Googled his name I found a Tribune-Democrat Article with a photo of Mr. Coy. The reason Mr. Coy was on the trail was because he was working on completing a ¾ mile section on the south end of the Staple Bend tunnel. This short section of semi-finished trail was quite interesting and unlike most Rails-to-Trails paths. It had a number of turns and rolling landscape, not to mention loose gravel, some muddy areas and a couple small ditches which made it more than interesting. When it is completed, (maybe by October 2012) it will be very nice and a welcome change to the typical rail path. However, the only reason that it is being completed is because of Mr. Coy. We stopped to talk to him on our return trip to our car and thank him for his efforts. We even offered him some money to help pay for fuel for his equipment, which he flatly refused. He proceeded to tell us that the two mile trail on the north end of the tunnel was completed using federal funds because of the Portage railroad and tunnel. Likewise, funds were available to build the short section of path to the south of where he was working. However, no funds were available for the unfinished section just south of the tunnel. Mr. Coy discovered from the local authorities that an engineering company had performed a study of the proposed trail route. The results of the study, which cost in excess of $60,000, was that the hillside would be prone to landslides. (Even I could have come to that conclusion just looking at it.) When this same company was approached by Mr. Coy to donate time to actually “engineer” the trail including drainage pipes, etc.; they refused. However, when the local engineer for East Conemaugh Borough was asked, they gladly volunteered their services. Afterwards Mr. Coy proceeded to get a local company to donate 1000 tons of slag for the trail surface as well as others to provide drain pipe and other materials free of charge. He even found a local excavation contractor to donate their time and equipment to help him install the few remaining drain pipes needed to divert water from a natural springs along the hillside. This is where I found Steve on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon in August, spreading slag over the trail with a Bobcat. Volunteering his own time and resources. As he explained to me and my wife, “I’ve lived in East Conemaugh all my life. I wanted to see the trail completed in my lifetime”. So he has taken it upon himself to do just that. He is the perfect example of what makes America great. I am going back, and I recommend that others do the same. Don’t forget to thank Steve when you do.
my cousin and I rode this trail today sept 16, 2009, it's a short trail but impressive. But what blew us away was the Staple Tunnel. The face of the tunnel is done in sandstone and looks like something you would see in Greece 2000 years ago. we have been on a lot of trails but this tunnel was the best. we spent so much time just looking at it and wondering how something so beautiful could be sitting out in the middle of no where. The funny thing is this railroad went out of business in 1850 something, so this tunnel sat for over 200 years. Can you imagine the hunters or hikers that just came upon this thing! It would be like seeing an Inca ruin only it's still like new. The people who built this were special people. I hope everyone sees this, we felt of all the trails we have ridden this was the most exciting thing we have seen.
"This review is for the Staple Bend Tunnel Trail. How to get there.....take Route 22 to Mundys Corner exit, and turn South onto Route 271. Turn left onto Mineral Point Road, and follow the road into Mineral Point, there's a Brown sign pointing to the right for the Staple Bend Tunnel Trail at the intersection in town. The road goes goes through an underpass under the railroad tracks then up the hill, the parking lot is a short distance up the hill on the right, and marked by a large Park Service sign.
The parking lot has a permanent restroom facility; and there are several interpretive signs for the trail here, and along the trail's length. The trail itself is around 2 miles long to the tunnel, and runs parallel along the hillside above the Norfolk Southern mainline tracks. You get a good view of the trains near the parking lot, and in the late Fall/Winter/early Spring when the leaves are off the trees, you can look down on the trains while walking on parts of the trail.
The trail surface is the typical crushed stone of most PA rail trails, and is smooth and level for it's length. Along the trail you can still see the stone ""sleepers"" that the Portage Railroad used to hold the rails down.
The tunnel has been renovated by the Park Service, and you'll want to bring a flashlight with you to view the inside. Both ends of the tunnel are finished inside with stonework, but the center of the tunnel is the original bare rock. You can see a coal seam inside to your left near ground level where the rock below the seam fell away, and they shored up that wall with metal support struts. The entrance to the tunnel is a horseshoe-shaped natural type stonework, but the opposite end has a classical facade around the entrance. If you look closely at the graffiti carved into the lower stones of the face of the far end of the tunnel you can see dates from the late 1800's-early 1900's.
All in all it's a short but very nice trail, and especially pretty in the Fall since the trail runs through mountain woodlands. If you're visiting the nearby Ghost Town Trail in Nanty Glo, make sure you stop by and see this trail too."
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