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Update: Please also note that the trail head at Simpson is closed owing to gas pipe line digging and construction until the beginning of 2018. Thereafter, verify that the trail may actually be accessed at Simpson on the official website.
The Delaware & Hudson (D&H) Gravity Railroad conducted a 3-mile test of the first steam locomotive in the U.S. in August 1829, which ran from the towns of Honesdale to Seeleyville, Pennsylvania, and discovered that the train was too heavy for the track. By 1830, the D&H Railroad's 17 miles of track constituted the vast majority of total railroad tracks in the U.S. at the time—just 23 miles!
From these small beginnings, the D&H became a successful mining and railroad company, shipping anthracite coal and lumber from the Lackawanna Valley in northeastern Pennsylvania to the East Coast of the U.S. and to Canada. As the supply of coal and lumber were depleted from the area, the need for the railroad diminished, and the rail-trail came into being.
As the trail is comprised of cinder, original ballast and hard-packed dirt, you need a hybrid or mountain bike to comfortably ride this intermittently rugged trail. There are a few short sections with large chunks of ballast and steep inclines where you may need to walk your bike.
The trail parallels the Lackawanna River for several miles, offering scenic vistas of the river and several small lakes. Some areas of the trail are tree lined, but some are out in the open—wear sunscreen. The first 8 miles of the southern end of the D&H Rail Trail parallels the O&W Trail (Simpson to Stillwater dam area). Due to right-of-way issues and unimproved bridges, the first 2 miles of the D&H are actually closed; trail users will need to start in Simpson on the O&W Trail instead. When you reach a sign indicating that you can cross over to the D&H, do so (to the west).
From Simpson to Ararat, you'll be pedaling constantly because of the slight incline in the trail. But from Ararat to Stevens Point, you'll have a much easier ride because the trail's grade is at a slight decline. In Thompson, take a break at the homemade ice cream shop right alongside the trail before continuing on to the New York State border.
Note, from where you cross over the Lackawanna River from the O&W to the D&H (about 10 miles), the trail is improved with a stone dust surface all the way to Herrick Center (SR 374). From Herrick Center, cyclists will need a mountain bike to get through to the New York border because the trail can be rough in places.
To access the trail from Simpson, take I-81 to Exit 185, then Route 6 to Carbondale. After the town of Carbondale, turn left onto Route 171. Continue 1 mile and park on the right side of the viaduct, next to the military tank. Follow the O&W Trail for 2 miles, where it accesses the D&H to the west.
In Forest City parking is in Forest City Industrial Park off of Commerce Boulevard. There is a large trailhead, ample parking and a port-a-john. From Forest City, the improved trail is 2 miles south and 8 miles north.
The Union Dale trailhead is on South Main Avenue at the intersection with Skyline Drive.
Please check that the trail head is open after November 2017. The impression I got after reading the signage at the trail head is that the trail might not be accessible at Simpson, PA until the beginning of 2018; even then, I suggest that you check that it is open and accessible.
Please note that the trail is closed between Simpson and Union Dale from May 2017 until October or November 2017 for installation of a natural gas pipeline.
Am visiting NEPA And happened upon this trail while riding the local gravel roads on my cyclocross bike. Had a ton of fun riding from Burnhill and Tower Hill Roads up to Thompson. Surface was a mix of packed dirt, grass, loose cinder, and gravel ranging from "kitty litter" up to golf ball-sized rocks. I was running 35c semi-slick gravel tires (Clement USH) at 55psi and it was totally doable. A better tire choice might have been something like a 40c Clement MSO at 40-45psi, but I had fun regardless. I'm going to bring tires like that the next time I'm in the area and ride the full trail.
It seems like a few folk commenting here expected the trail to be a flat, smooth path and were angry that it ain't that. I'd put it half way between that and a true MTB trail; someone expecting a tough, technical MTB trail would be disappointed as well. But if you're looking for something chill for your MTB or want to add a fun section to a gravel ride, get in there.
Entered the trail at Union Dale and went north about 8 miles then back. Did not see a soul, only a turtle who may have been a little faster than me! The trial itself had great signage, but the 'parking lot' was an area behind the café (closed Wednesday's) and I asked someone if this was the trail lot. Very rough trail as others described. More like a washed out single track than a rail trail. I know it must be a lot of work for volunteer's to maintain and I am not complaining, just want others to know they may not want to bring little kids or anybody who is not up for a little bit more of a challenge!
We set out on a bicycling adventure on a perfect day. We were unable to locate the trailhead in NY as there wasn't a single marker or sign for it. So we continued on to Lanesboro and found the trailhead parking. The trail was extremely scenic, the sun was shining, the breeze was strong,unfortunately the trail conditions were about 90% horrible....too much cinder had our mountain bikes fishtailing, and if it wasn't that it was the size of the stone they used in most places that were far too big for trail bikes to travel safely over (Yes, I did end up going down). We actually had to walk our bikes through a few really rough spots, I believe were caused by the excessive rains we have been having. That is understandable, but we were so frustrated with with the conditions that we turned around at 6.35 miles. The trail was so beatiful, yet terribly maintained with little to no signage. I would love to ride this trail, but the conditions are prohibitive. We did meet people on atvs and even a dirt bike. They were respectful, but I don't believe they were supposed to be there. I would not recommend this trail for anyone who is looking for a relaxing enjoyable ride, I was totally stressed out from the conditions. We are going to give the other end of the trail a try, maybe the southern end is better maintained.
Started at the parking area in Forest City. Uphill all the way to route 374 at Herrick Center. It's a rail grade so it was manageable. I read some reviews prior to this ride and this is supposed to be the improved section. Not the typical rail surface like on the D&L or the Schyulkill River trail but not bad. More of sand and large gravel at spots. They did a fabulous job on the bridges and sure it cost a fortune. Overall very nice quiet and the general store in Uniondale was quaint and a great stop for a cold drinks
We started in Forest City, rode south about 3 1/2 miles or so to the second gate and then turned around and headed north far enough to make for a 30 mile ride. After the first gate going south the trail becomes noticeably more difficult. After the second gate we were no longer equipped to handle the condition so we turned around there. I would say about 7 miles north of the Forest City parking area the trail turns rough again. The last 3 or 4 miles that we rode on the north end were over large rocks and loose coal. Pretty difficult riding for our bikes. The middle part of the trail though was very nice. The county store in Union Dale also a very nice place. So basically if you are rail trail riders like we are and prefer trails like Pine Creek or along the Lehigh, then there are about 10 miles of decent trail here.
...unfortunately, we entered at Simpson! The surface of the first 2-3 miles (the O&W part) of the trail is like biking up hill in a rocky dry river bed. Don't waste your time with this south end of the trail. Enter the trail at Forest City. We only had time to do 10 miles north and then back. The Forest City to Union Dale section was quite pleasant.
I did from the NY boarder to Thompson back in 2011 and on a trip up to Cooperstown I did most to the Southern part of the trail. The Northeast Pa Rail Trail Council have done a great job with two great trail heads one in Forest City and one or more like two in Union Dale. I did it from Forest City down to Simpson and then up to Araat Pa. The last two miles into Simpson are not great but good. then from Forest City to Herrick the trail is great. A very nice Lime Stone dust that you could do on a road bike. From Herrick north I was happy to be on my 29 inch Mt bike as it is rough and tumble in spots. This is a family friendly trail from Forest City to Herrick. I ran into a couple that moved to Union Dale because of this trail. It was a weekday and on my 33 mile round trip I only meet three other people.
I did this trail last weekend only half of it but I am going back to do the entire lunch I must say I did enjoy the ride when I hate Uniondale I stopped at that little deli and had a bite to eat when a little farther past there and then return back to Forest City wish I had enough time did you the whole thing but did not will be returning in September to do the entire trail can't wait.
We found the parking lot at Forest City and biked to RT 374 in Herrick. North of RT 374 it appeared the trail was muddy so we turned around. The trail was in fair shape, with some slightly sandy spots, and new gravel. But our Hybrid bike handled it OK. We had a good lunch at Cables in Union Dale. Going thru the trail gates was a little sticky as they are quite narrow. I think the round trip was about 15 miles, mostly flat. I'd recommend a drive about 2- miles North to the Starrucco viaduct, it's an impressive sight.
WE STARTED OFF IN FOREST CITY WHICH HAD A LARGE LOT WITH A NICE WOOD SIGN IN FRONT OF IT.THERE WERE 6 OF US IN OUR GROUP SOME EXPERIENCED RIDERS AND SOME FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 12 YRS OR MORE, NOBODY HAD ANY PROBLEMS, TRAIL WAS A SLIGHT UPGRADE TO OUR END POINT IN UNION DALE A 12 MILE RD TRIP. SURFACE WAS HARD PACKED CINDER ALL THE WAY SMOOTH GOING. THE STORE AT UNIONDALE WAS A NICE BREAK FOR SOME COLD REFRESHMENTS. ON THE TRAIL WE SAW SOME RELATIVELY FRESH BEAR SCAT FILLED WITH BERRIES. THE BERRIES LINED THE TRAIL ON BOTH SIDES IN SPOTS.THE WAY BACK WAS A NICE DOWNHILL ALMOST ALL THE WAY. ON THE RETURN HOME WE STOPPED AT THE WAYMART BBQ FOR SOME FOOD AND ADULT BEVERAGES.
found the trail improved in quite a few spots. not a problem to ride on. no issues,seen quite a lot of wold life,deer,chipmunks,crows,redtail hawk and rabbits.lots of blueberries along the way.trail is in good shape along the way,lots of improvements along the way. went 14 miles from simpson on up,plus back down to simpson,nice ride both ways.. trails were marked,could be marked a little better,or more visible,but otherwise great.
We rode the this trail from forest city to union dale. 4,7,9,10 year old all riding 2 wheelers no training wheels and it was great. From forest city to union dale was all uphill and a little tough but the ride back was worth it. Totaled 14 miles. Great trail. Going to do it again.
On 09/07/2013, my wife and I rode our off-road tandem from the Forest City trailhead to the Uniondale trailhead and back - a one-way distance of about 5-1/2 miles. There were some sandy spots in Forest City, but most was dirt with some areas of gravel patched in. The gravel was pretty well packed. Being a converted railbed meant that the slope was slight - uphill going northbound. A nice ride for this area. There is a small grocery store 1 block north of the Uniondale trailhead, at Norton Hill Boro St. At the Forest City end, there is a convenience store a couple of blocks away from the trail where Rt 247 & Rt 171 intersect.
We biked the trail today from Herrick Center to Simpson one-way with a 12 and 15-year-old.
Game plan with little kids: Start at Herrick Center. The trail starts on Rt. 371 about a half mile west of Rt. 171. Pull off the road on to the trail and park along side it. From here, it's downhill all the way to Simpson. The whole way to Simpson took us 2 hrs. 10 min. From Herrick Center to Forest City the trail is really nice with no rocks. With the above-aged kids, it was about an hour and 20 min. to Forest City. There's a nice parking area and port-o-potty at the Forest City trailhead. With little kids, I would stop there. Not long after that, the trail starts getting rocky to the degree that it would be difficult for little kids to ride on. Plus there are 3 bridges that some parents would be afraid to bring their little kids across.
Game plan with older kids who are adventuresome: If you continue past Forest City, there are rocks but they'll get through them. The trail also narrows in some spots which is different from earlier on the trail. The 3 bridges look rickety and a little hairy to cross but they're really not bad. The trail from Herrick Center to Simpson is about 11.5 miles.
Keep an eye out for the occasionaly ATVer when going around a bend. Most of the ride is along the Lackawanna River which is nice. At one point on the left throught the trees there's a small pond that's rust-colored. I wondered if it was due to the presence of clay or iron or some contaminant. We took 2 cars and dropped one off at the Simpson trailhead.
I did this trail from the NY line to Thompson a couple of weeks ago. This trail is not for the faint of hart or a Sunday after noon ride, but I have to tell you I had a great ride. The trail is not in the best of shape and I was on a Mt Bike with a road tire and did not have any problems. Just after you go under a stone Viaduct there is a bridge that I feel should not be open to the public, there is a picture with two young men and a dog sitting on this bridge. From the state line to Thompson is all up hill, 1hr 45 min going out and just a little over 1 hour coming back. I ran into many more turkeys then people, three people and about twenty turkeys, two flocks. There are a couple of views that are out of this world, one of a small town with a church at each end of the town. It had been a very wet month and the trail was very wet most of the way. So you must be saying how could this be a great ride, well you are out in the middle of nowhere and out in the rough, I could just picture coal trains running up and down the tracks. There is a lot of damage from ATV and talking to a local there just is not enough state game officers to Enforce the law. So in closing if you like a little more of a rougher ride and like a great work out put this trail on your must do list, sometime this fall I will be back to do the lower end of this trail.
First of all, I could not find the southern trail head initially in Carbondale. When I did find it, I was unpleasantly surprised. I began riding north and almost immediately found large rocks protruding from the trail surface. Other areas had a large amount of fine cinders (no crushed limestone that I saw here!), so large in fact that it became like trying to pedal through loose sand. On this part of the trail I was going uphill and could average only slightly under 10 mph due to the rocks and cinder sand. I rode up the trail only 3/4 miles and turned around.
On the return I began to pick up speed due to the downslope. However, it was dangerous to get too much speed due both to the protruding rocks and the cinder sand. Both of those factors made it more difficult to control my bike, not to mention the real possibility of ruining a tire and/or rim on those rocks.
There may be nice scenery along this trail. Unfortunately I never will see it because I would not waste my time going to it again. By the way, I'm here in NE PA visiting, but I live in SW PA. The trails that make up the Great Allegheny Passage are BY FAR better than this one. THE D&H TRAIL IS BY FAR THE WORST TRAIL I'VE EVER RIDDEN. Whoever is in charge of taking care of it should be embarrassed by its condition.
Well, it seems that the photo numbering I spent so much time on was lost in the upload. Sigh. Sorry, guess for now you just have to figure it out (email to r2t already sent).
I did get this from the people who support this trail:
1. the D&H extends south of the crossroads --one mile which we do not own, and has 3 unimproved RR bridges. The next mile we own, then an unknown small section into where the D&H Carbondale yards/roundhouse was. We are partnering with LHVA to figure out these sections & link up to Carbondale.
2. There are another 6+ miles north of Stevens Point. Go across the SR bridge & get back on the trail. Goes under the awesome Starrucca Viaduct to NY border (along Susquehanna River). Another group bought the NY D&H to Ninevah --will hopefully work with them for an interstate trail. We also own one mile spur that takes you up to the active rail at the Starrucca Viaduct.
Unsure if the trail was improved to Simpson, I looked in vain for a road to "Crossroads" but none exists, so continued on to Forest City. Started North at 10:30 AM after a 2+ hour drive (see photo ending with 000). The path is quite wide and sunny, and the surface is excellent. Path crosses a few streams (001,002) and was canopied in a few places (003). Pass a huge reservoir (004) that was a prettier scene than the photo suggests. Continuing towards Union Dale, same surface and views (005). The Union Dale General Store use to offer food and beverages, but its now houses a Rail Trail organization (thus no food/water in town). Proceeding North, you now see grass growing in the center of the trail, but surface is still very good (006).
North of Herrick Center, the road turns into cinders and gravel, and the condition varies mile by mile (007,008). The view opens into the valley, and you get some gorgeous views of bucolic PA (009, 010). The rail bed crosses between two lakes coming into Ararat (a map location, not a town), which happens to be the highest trail location. Path starts looking more like a NJ rail trail with close growing trees and weeds (012). Travel through a cool and shady cut (013) before coming to a wet and very rock section North of Ararat.
Finally, civilization in the very pretty town of Thompson. Your first view is of an ice cream store right non the trail, in what must have been the train station (015). Inquiring about food, was routed to the Hobbs Country Mart (down to the right, 016). Stocked up with a sandwich ($5) and fresh cut cantaloup ($1.37!), and set out North. Thompson is exactly 20 miles from Forest City - Stevens Point is another 10.
There must have been a massive bridge crossing a stream valley and Bucks Fall Road - you now must descend and ascend steep rocky slopes to continue (017) [going north, the best trail is the the third trail going West on the road]. I stopped at the stream - it was gurgling and the smell of pine was overwhelming - I could have stayed there for hours!
More beautiful valley views on the road to Stevens Point - the camera does not do it justice (019). I saw my first mile marker at 27 and even photographed it - on the way back I saw more but they sure were hard to find (020). Five more miles!
When the trail runs into a paved and divided highway, you've arrived at Stevens Point. I knew for sure when I saw a sign to the cemetery! The trail crosses the road, then merges back onto it to cross State Route 1009 (021). I was running out of time, so had to turn around. Google maps makes it appear the trail goes for another 1/2 mile, not sure.
Going back resulted in an unpleasant discovery - I had been going down hill for the past 15 miles, something that had just not registered. In fact, I had gone up 500 feet, then down 900. The road condition just made the return trip all the much harder. I didn't have a road map or smart phone with me, but did gamble (and win) by picking up the State Route 1003 (signed Burnwood Rd) and taking it till it became Creek Rd. Looking at google maps now, I realize I could have taken it to Herrick Center. In fact, with good maps you probably could road back from Stevens Point to Herrick Center. Amazingly, each leg took me 3:45.
On the road to Thompson, there is a valley that must have had a train bridge (022). In Thompson, the girl at the Ice Cream store graciously refilled my water bottle, and I headed home saying goodbye to Thompson (023).
Just to see how bad the Stevens Pt - Ararat climb was, I used google maps to get approximate elevations:
1520 Forest City
1600 Stillwater Lake
1680 Union Dale
1760 Herrick center
2050 Ararat Road Crossing [State Route 1003]
1120 Stevens Point
E-Mail the Rail-Trail Council of NE PA at email@example.com and request a brochure - they'll send one out by snail mail ASAP.
Finally, my rating. Well, I just took the D&L trail from White Haven to Jim Thorpe, which has dazzling views. Much of this trail has no summer views - the tree foliage blocks everything, but the views I did get were often gorgeous. The unfinished road north of Herrick Center could get unpleasant - large stones or sections of soft find cinder were not fun to ride, especially on the return uphill trip. Several ATVs and motorcycles on the trail (guess they figured the prohibition on such doesn't apply to them).
Going from Forest City to Thompson would be a good compromise - a 40 mile round trip, and who could pass up an ice cream store right on the trail!
Biked this SEP2009, 32 miles from Simpson to end of trail and back for a total of 64. Starts a bit rough for a few miles then the trail is well maintained til close to the top, going a shallow rise up 800' over 18 miles. Nearing the top and on the back side the trail is rougher (rockier).
Main St. in Thompson at Hobbes Store is a good place to resupply and grab lunch, just 1/4 mile off the trail.
Sometimes hard to follow (especially in the beginning where you have to move from the O&W to D&H), could use a few more markings, but a great ride.
I did this nice trail in mid July 2008 starting in Simpson and Rt 171 to Herrick Center which is the end of the paved trail or about 15 miles. The first 5 or so miles are not paved and are co-teminous with the O & W Trail and are rough in places and sometimes a bit hard to decide which is the real trail. The scenery is very nice and much runs along a pleasant creek. There is a store in Union Dale but not much else. The northern 15 miles is there but not paved. We stayed in the quirky Vacation Inn Motel which is north of Herrick on Rt 171. Below Union Dale there is a nice lake and views. The trail web site is <www.nepa-rail-trails.org>
A nice brochure is available via the Rail Trail Council of NE PA, PO Box 123, Forest City Pa. 18421-0123
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