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Starting in Meadville, known as the home of the zipper, the 7.2-mile Ernst Trail closes the gap between the city and surrounding forests and farms for visitors. The trail is named for Calvin Ernst, who owned the unused right-of-way of the Meadville and Linesville Railway and donated it to French Creek Recreational Trails in 1996 for trail development.
One of the first towns settled in Northwestern Pennsylvania, Meadville became a destination for Revolutionary War veterans in the early 1800s, who received land grants for their service. Farming, logging, and iron production thrived, and the Meadville Railway Company laid tracks in 1881 to the Pennsylvania Railroad connection in Linesville to bring rail service to the area. That became the Meadville & Linesville Railway three years later.
By 1900, the railway operated as the Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad, with passenger service to the summer resort at Conneaut Lake until 1934. Service on the Meadville branch ended in 1977. This period also saw the rise and fall of the local zipper industry operated by the Hookless Fastener Company, which was renamed Talon. Although developed in the 1890s, a good use for the zipper wasn’t found until 1923, when B. F. Goodrich used the fastener on rubber galoshes called Zippers. The galoshes are long forgotten, but zippers survive today.
The old railroad corridor starts on Shippen Street across French Creek from downtown, taking a flat route. It heads south along French Creek before turning west around the base of a hill. You’ll roll along the meandering creek for the first 3.4 miles of your visit. French Creek is considered one of the most biologically diverse streams in the state, as it’s home to more than 80 species of fish and 26 species of mussels. Geologists explain that French Creek used to flow north to Lake Erie, but it changed course during the most recent ice age to flow south as a tributary of the Allegheny River. That allowed the river to adopt species from both the Great Lakes and the Ohio River.
Begin in Mary Gable Memorial Park (look for a small park sign at the entrance to the access driveway for the trail); dirt and gravel comprise the trail surface of the first mile to the trailhead on US 19/US 322/Smock Highway. About 1.3 miles down the path, you’ll cross a recently built covered bridge. The route then passes through a short stretch of cropland and forest alongside French Creek.
After 3.2 miles, the trail swings to the right and then heads west, crossing over Mercer Pike at 3.8 miles. Use caution here. The path then crosses under I-79, with the paved section ending at 5.5 miles (before the US 19/Perry Highway underpass). Turn right here, and go 0.2 mile to reach a trailhead and parking at Krider Road. The final 1.5 miles to Bailey Road is on a more recent extension covered in gravel. Like the first mile, the surface is fine for walkers and mountain bikers but dicey for road cyclists and not conducive to in-line skaters and wheelchair users.
To reach the endpoint at Mary Gable Memorial Park from I-79, take Exit 147A to US 6 E/US 322 E/US 19 N. Turn left onto Pennsylvania Ave., go 0.5 mile, and merge onto Pennsylvania Ave./SR 102. Go 0.4 mile, and turn right onto Shippen St. Go 0.2 mile, and look for trailhead parking directly ahead.
To reach the Bailey Road trailhead from I-79, take Exit 147B to US 6 W/US 322 W/US 19 S. Go 1.3 miles, and turn left onto US 19 S/Perry Hwy. Go 1.9 miles, and turn right onto Bailey Road. Go 0.7 mile, and turn left to stay on Bailey Road/T431. Go 0.6 mile, and turn left into the trailhead parking lot.
Sunday afternoon ride in December on a day it reached 40 degrees. Quite a few people out enjoying the afternoon. As always a great ride on a great trail.
Nice little picnic shelter at the beginning of the trail. Nice ride. Cool little covered bridge towards the end. Stopped at Timber Creek on the way home.
Nice trail on a beautiful summer day. Trail is approx 5 miles in length. Rode it back and forth twice to get in 20 miles. Goes through open areas passed cornfields and wooded areas. Trail is mostly shaded, and kinda on the buggy side so wear some bug spray! You will see sections of French Creek along the trail.
Flat and fast asphalt pavement.
Parked at the Krider Road end of the trail. Small lot, holds 2 cars plus one handicapped parking spot. Biked to 322 Beans Trailhead and back. Lots of pretty purple wildflowers along the trail. Trail has open areas, full sun, and shaded areas. There is construction near the 322 end of the trail. A bridge was washed out last Fall. Great trail as always.
Fall of 2018 a storm washed out a section of the trail, and bridge along the new section on the Beans Trailhead end of the trail. Recently a tree has fallen and taken out the railing of another bridge but you can cross the bridge. Refer to their Facebook page for updates on the progress. In the meantime, trail is clear from Beans Trailhead (Route 322) to Krider Road Trailhead (Route 19).
Ernst Trail is a little slice of heaven just outside Meadville, PA. This trail is relatively flat, nicely paved, well-maintained, and traverses lovely, peaceful, wooded territory.
very well maintained trail. somewhat easy biking. we rode on parts of trail not yet complete. Will be really nice once completed but these areas are rideable at this point.
On the Bean's trailhead end of the trail, they are building a new section. New section is approx 6/10 of a mile which runs from Beans Automotive to under Route 322 at the entrance of the Park Avenue Plaza. This section is currently dirt and gravel. Good for walking though we did see a cyclist out on it. Bean's trailhead is located at Beans Automotive, which is on Route 322 in Meadville, across from the Park Avenue plaza. Eateries nearby as well as some stores.
We parked at the Bailey Road trailhead/parking and walked approx 2 miles on the gravel surface for 2 miles which almost takes you into the trailer park. Trail weaves through a cornfield passed a large pond. You will cross over Johnson Road and the trail continues to near the trailer park.
Tried biking this section. Due to it not being asphalt paved, and the gravel is relatively a few years old, it's kinda rough. But nice for a walk.
A section of this particular section is actually on the old railroad bed.
Cute thing to see on this gravel section is the fallen log that sticks out on the trail and it's painted to look like an alligator. Nice to see someone took the time to decorate it! (See photo submitted).
Gravel parking lot at Bailey Road has parking for approx 20-30 cars. Also offers a picnic shelter with tables.
Very nice bike path in the woods . Good length for a quick ride
The trail is nice, but I would not send my wife out there alone. This would be a perfect trail for a predator to prey on a woman out alone. And to agree with the previous review.....an unexpecting unarmed woman. The sign stating no armed weapons is great for the law abiding people that respect the actual sign. However, not sure the people who are wanting to commit a crime would do so. The state allows my wife to carry, the county allows my wife to carry, the city allows my wife to carry. The state parks allow my wife to carry (ie...Woodcock). I think anyone who frequents Woodcock St Park have seen the creepy guys in the woods. We enjoy the trail and the nice scenery, but I give my advice to anyone wanting to protect themselves to find another area to bike where you can defend yourself properly. Unarmed people are weak to the criminals who are armed. It is just a matter of time -
As far as the trail itself, it is a great place to bike and hike.....and a nice facility.
The trail is a very nice trail but the reason for the one star rating is due to lawfully permitted citizens not being allowed to carry personal protection while using the trail. The sign posted at the trail parking lot indicates no loaded weapons permitted. This only leaves you defenseless, not safer. Other than that, enjoy the trail.
Despite the location of the parking lot, this is a great little trail. Paved, level and mostly shaded. Enjoyed the 6 miles that I ran, including the hundreds of chipmunks scurrying all over the place.
If in the area, put in a couple miles.
Original 4.6 miles of the trail is nicely paved. Goes through wooded areas, runs along French Creek, and an active train. Open areas of the trail provide sunlight. Trailhead in Meadville along Route 322 across from eateries. They are working on adding onto the trail at each end. From 4.6 at Krider Road to 6.1 at Bailey Road is rough gravel. Use with caution.
Nice run through varied landscape with the animal. Trees, farms, little bridges etc.
It's been a while since we rode this trail. Not much has changed. Trailhead in Meadville on Route 322 next to the Big Box home improvement store. Across the street from a handy shopping plaza. Eateries nearby. We rode on the paved section which follows French Creek, to Route 19 at Krider Road. Restrooms at Meadville end. Picnic areas along the trail. 5 miles of nice level asphalt.
At the Meadville end, they are construction a new branch off which goes no where for now. See photo's. It is rough gravel.
Passed the Krider Road trailhead-parking is the gravel section which will go to Bailey Road. Rough gravel also through a rough trailer park, rough in more ways than one.
Still an all around nice trail to enjoy!
Very nice family bicycle trail. Steady peddle from Meadville to RT. 19 and a nice easy ride back a lot of coasting. Our children enjoyed this ride. About two hours total. There are quite a few benches along the trail for those who like to stop and enjoy the scenery.
Living in the area, I have biked, walked, and skied this trail many times since it's initial construction. This is a well-maintained trail with benches and shelters and mowed berms. There is no water, though. The cooling shade, the diverse scenery, and, most of all, the lushness and variety of this glacial region's vegetation offer a unique experience for the naturalist.
The new section west of Rte. 19 to Bailey Road is a bit rough now, but the groundwork has been done for future paving when funds become available.
Continuation of the trail to Conneaut Lake is still the development group's ultimate goal.
Since a six-mile trail (or double that since it is not a loop) may seem like just a warm-up for some, consider biking the less traveled paved roads at the Bailey Rd. trailhead. A loop to Geneva and back via South Watson and Geneva Roads and US 19 gives a great view of the expansive Geneva Marsh. Or take West Vernon Road on to Conneaut Lake.
We've biked this trail in summer and enjoyed the shade, and again on a warmish, breezy day in early November. Not too busy. Just enough of an incline traveling one direction, then easy coasting going back. Paved. Scenic resting places. Covered bridge. Very clean and quiet. One of the all-round best trails. We would like too see it expanded.
On both occasions the trail was very well maintained, with benches and shelters conveniently placed along the trail. We parked at a lot near Hoss's on route 322 and ate a good meal at the Italian place across the highway. There are at least two other parking lots, one at midway and another with a shelter and tables at the trail end.
The new few mile addition, they call it the Bailey Road section, is gravel, big gravel and not smooth at all. The original 5 miles of the trail is smooth asphalt. The new section T's off the original section it goes past some residences, crosses a road, then through a cornfield and it's gravel. Rode it for less than a half mile and bailed (turned around).
Hopefully some day it will be paved.
We drove past the new Bailey Road parking lot it looked nice from the road. Ample parking, I think it was gravel though.
The original part of the trail is always a delight. We saw some deer and fawns.
This was our first rails-to-trail ride; so nice and great for the whole family!
I am new to biking and this was our first rails-to-trails ride; beautiful trail; very scenic; and wonderfully maintained! Our family loved it!
Suggested this trail to a friend to take their 12 year old son, who is new to biking, on the trail. The youngster loved the trail! He said he made it the whole length and back. Parents loved the trail as well. They said it was well kept and enjoyed the covered bridge, pretty flowers and rest stops along the way.
Liked the trail over all. The wife and I do this as a cool down ride on the way home from bigger rides. The trail is flat and easy around 5 miles. The trail heads can be a bit hard to recognize The east end is by a gas station in Meadville and the west end is off a country road that's off of rt 19. Condition is very good and never crowded. Do bring bug spray because the trail goes through some major wetlands and at times the bugs can be terrible. Over all its a nice fun ride....bicycling Pennsylvania /Facebook
I was excited to hear of the new trail extension as they work toward a Conneaut Lake terminus. My wife and I were pleased with the crushed stone surface of the new section. However, like Alkibler's observation, running this through a sketchy trailer park was not a great idea. A barking Rottweiler and suspicious sounds coming from inside one of the trailers as we passed by left my wife pretty spooked...to the point that she says she will not ride this part of the trail in the future. I am sure that getting the easements for the trail across private property is a challenge, and compromises have to be made...but when personal safety is in question, other options need to be pursued.
Other than that, it is a wonderful trail that we have biked numerous times.
We are new to cycling. Used to run (a lot) can't now due to knee injury/surgery. Anyhow, nice level trail good trail to start out on. 5 miles out, then 5 back makes it good for beginners. Scenic. With temps near 90 after a week of rain the mosquitos were out in full force...so don't forget the repellant!
Trail is very nice, especially in the early Am. The new extension is very peaceful, Only 2 things I didn't like about it was the ride across rt 19 and having to ride through the middle of a trailer park ( rough Looking place) to pick up where I left off. I'd have given it a higher star rating if not for that. The new packed gravel surface is actually smoother than I thought it would be. Just make sure to wear insect Repellant!
The Ernst trail is a wonderful ride along French Creek and west toward conneaut lake. The trail is cool on hot days with many rest areas and is well maintained. At a mere .62 % grade on the first 5 miles, it is a comfortable ride for the whole family. The trail is in the process of expanding and will soon offer the opportunity to travel to conneaut lake on back roads (West Vernon).
Just read the trail is being expanded by all most 2 miles, expected to be done early this coming spring Coonstruction is due to start anytime
we loved the trail goes along french creek very nice trail
It is so quiet in the early morning, only saw 3 people in the over and back ride, wish it was longer, but it is a excellant trail in awesome shape with loads of wildlife.The peolpe taking care of it should be extremely proud of their work. They deserve quite the pat on the back. Thank You Covered in spiderwebs
WHETHER YOU WALK, BIKE RIDE, WHEEL CHAIR MOTIVATE, CROSS COUNTY SKI, OR SNOW SHOE ALL YEAR LONG YOU CAN GET ALONG. WELL CONSTRUCTED, AND CARED FOR. 3 POINTS OF ACCESS, A COVERED BRIDGE, PICNIC SHELDER, GROWING NUMBER OF BENCHES FOR THIS STROKE SURVIOR. WILD FLOWERS, FALL HARD AND SOFT WOODS, INTEREST PLANT AND ANIMAL LIFE. AN HARD SURFACE THROUGH A TIME FROM THE PAST.
I really don't have a lot of experience on too many trails yet, but I've found at age 54 and being 100 pounds overweight that I can cycle and I love it. My husband and I rode on the trail yesterday even though the temperature was 90 degrees and humid. The trail goes through many shady areas some of which are densely forested resulting in a cooler temperature. The scenery was great. I loved seeing French Creek and there are places to rest. This Granny can do 10 miles you bet!
The trail is an "out-and-back" one, with access near the midpoint of the trail on the Mercer Pike south of Meadville. With its crushed cinder surface it is well suited for most bicycles.
"We bike the trail weekly and while it's a short trail, it does offer a great view of French creek and lots of wildlife."
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