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Keep your eyes open for wildlife when you visit the Allegheny River Trail. This segment of the Allegheny River—once a canoe route for local tribes and French trappers—was designated a national wild and scenic river, and the forests teem with animals. Everything from chipmunks to wild turkeys to deer are frequently spotted along the trail, while eagles rule the sky overhead.
The trail follows the route used by the Allegheny Valley Railroad, later the Allegheny Division of Pennsylvania Railroad, to haul oil. The Scrubgrass Generating Company subsequently acquired it in 1984 and donated it to the nonprofit Allegheny Valley Trails Association.
The trail runs on asphalt between Franklin and Emlenton for 27.5 miles and on an isolated section between Foxburg and Parker for 2.5 miles. It meets the Samuel Justus Recreation Trail in Franklin, crosses beneath the Sandy Creek Trail in East Sandy, and passes through two old railroad tunnels. It is part of the 270-mile Erie to Pittsburgh Trail that one day will link Presque Isle on Lake Erie with Pittsburgh, where it will join the Great Allegheny Passage; it’s also part of the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition’s developing 1,500-mile trail network through Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and New York.
Starting just south of the US 322 bridge into downtown Franklin—also the western endpoint for the Samuel Justus Recreation Trail—you’ll pass a couple of riverfront camping sites in the first 4 miles. At 5.2 miles, you’ll cross East Sandy Creek and then catch sight of the picturesque Belmar Bridge that carries the Sandy Creek Trail across the Allegheny River. You’ll pass beneath the bridge that soars 80 feet overhead, or you can ascend using a stairway.
About 3.2 miles past the bridge, you’ll find Indian God Rock, a large boulder at the water’s edge with numerous inscriptions, including American Indian petroglyphs, carved in the soft sandstone. A viewing platform offers a nice panorama, though vandals have destroyed most of the figures on the rock.
Four miles past the viewing platform, the trail veers onto gravelly North Kent Road for 0.75 mile through the Sunny Slopes community. Back on the asphalt trail, you’ll pass through the 3,300-foot-long Kennerdell Tunnel and, in another 6 miles, the Rockland Tunnel (2,868 feet long). Both of these tunnels have doglegs and are dark, so you’ll need a flashlight.
Emerging from the second tunnel, you’ll arrive in Emlenton in 6 miles, the end of this section of trail. You can catch a bite here and soak in the local history at the Pumping Jack Museum with its collection of oil-drilling relics.
A 4.5-mile trail gap exists between Emlenton and Foxburg. Part of the route, a dirt-surfaced pathway that accommodates mountain bikes, travels through private property and is not passable as of 2019.
The trail resumes 4.5 miles downstream in Foxburg, a tourist destination known for its riverfront dining, wine cellars, and historical RiverStone Estate located just uphill from the trail 1 mile south of town. You’ll cross the Clarion River in another 0.5 mile and reach the path’s end at the PA 368 bridge to Parker.
To reach the northern trailhead in Franklin from I-80, take Exit 29 to PA 8/Pittsburgh Road. Head north on PA 8, and go 16.4 miles. Turn right onto Liberty St. Go 0.4 mile, and curve right to stay on Liberty St., and then go 0.7 mile, and turn left onto US 322/Eighth St. Go 0.5 mile, and turn right at the sign for Samuel Justus Recreation Trail. Turn right into the parking lot. Access the Allegheny River Trail at the south end of the parking lot.
To reach the trailhead in Emlenton from I-80, take Exit 42 to PA 38/Oneida Valley Road. Head north on PA 38, go 0.3 mile, and turn right onto PA 208/Emlenton Clintonville Road. Go 1.6 miles, and turn left to stay on PA 208/Fifth St., crossing the bridge. Go 0.2 mile, and turn left onto Main St., and then go 0.2 mile to enter the bike-share lane for parking about 0.1 mile ahead. Access the trail at the northern end of the parking lot to head toward Franklin.
To reach the trailhead in Foxburg, follow the directions above to PA 208/Emlenton Clintonville Road. Go 2.2 miles, and continue onto PA 268 S. Go 2.8 miles, and turn left onto PA¿58/Foxburg Bridge. Go 0.2 mile, and turn right onto Main St., and then go 300 feet, and look for parking on the right. Access the trailhead at the southern end of the parking lot, on the left side of River Road.
To reach the trailhead in Parker, follow the directions above to PA 268 S. Go 5.5 miles, and turn left onto PA 368. Go 0.3 mile, crossing the bridge, and turn left onto Perryville Road. Go 0.1 mile (heading in a circular direction toward the water), and look for parking on the right.
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