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Closure Notice: As of March 2021, portions of the northern end of the trail south of Wellsburg are closed due to the construction of a new bridge across the Ohio River; once finished, the bridge will offer a new shared-use path for cyclists and pedestrians to cross into Ohio. The trail will be subject to continuous closures during the project, which is slated for completion in late 2022; check with the trail manager and local news sources for up-to-date information. The southern end of the trail remains open.
The Brooke Pioneer Trail follows the east bank of the Ohio River between Wellsburg and the Brooke–Ohio County line at Short Creek. Here the Brooke Pioneer Trail continues into Ohio County as the Wheeling Heritage Trails. Both trails are paved and provide a total of 18 miles of scenic hiking or biking along the river between the two cities they connect.
You'll find expansive interpretive signs along the way that describe the railroad history—the Panhandle Railroad—of this area. Once called the "Wheeling Secondary Track" between Weirton Junction Tower and Benwood, West Virginia, the line opened in 1878. Serving freight (until 1981) and passengers (until 1951), the tracks were pulled in 1987, and it would be another decade before trail construction began.
In the north, the Brooke Pioneer Trail begins at a connection with the Wellsburg Yankee Trail, another rail-trail open on the same corridor in the community's downtown. Extending south from Wellsburg, the trail crosses Buffalo Creek on a restored railroad trestle paralleling State Route 2. This is how the route continues for its entire journey: wedged between the road and the Ohio River.
That doesn't mean the views are lacking. In fact, the road is often shielded from view by brush likely there since the days of the railroad. Looking to the west, trail users are treated to stunning vistas of the powerful Ohio River and the dramatic climbs and drops of the hills in Ohio just beyond.
Those looking for reminders of the area's industrial past won't be disappointed, either. The trail skirts the edge of a handful of manufacturing properties between Wellsburg and Windsor Heights, and the large cooling tower and smokestack of Ohio’s Cardinal Power Plant interrupt the views of the rolling wooded landscape on the opposite shore.
In Wellsburg, park just south of the trestle off SR 2 south of town, beside a gas station. Limited parking is also available just off the trail in Beech Bottom. In Windsor Heights, park just south of the bridge off SR 2 at Stone Shannon Road. Use caution when crossing the highway to access the trail.
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