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The stars in the Big Dipper and Little Dipper help navigators locate the North Star. Following the five stars in the Five Star Trail—the municipalities of Hempfield Township, Youngwood, South Greensburg, Southwest Greensburg, and Greensburg—takes travelers on a more northeastern tack. All five towns in the constellation partnered to create the nearly 7.8-mile trail southeast of Pittsburgh.
The route travels a transportation corridor shared with a major highway and an active railroad through the Laurel Highlands. It’s used for recreation and exercise, but the trail is also useful for alternate transportation, as it connects five towns, a community college campus, and a city park. Most of the path is crushed stone, though a 0.9-mile segment in the southern portion runs along a street.
The trail follows the former path of the Southwest Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad. The Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corporation bought the corridor from Conrail in 1995. Today the rail-with-trail shares the route with the Southwest Pennsylvania Railroad, a short-line railroad that runs trains from Greensburg south to Smithfield.
Plenty of parking is available at the Lynch Field trailhead in Greensburg. The town got its start soon after the Revolutionary War, when an inn was built here on the road between Fort Pitt and Philadelphia. Later, universities (Seton Hill University and the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg) and museums, such as the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, helped make it a cultural center.
Stay on the Five Star Trail in Lynch Field, as bicycles are prohibited on side paths. You’ll cross a bridge over Jacks Run, which accompanies the trail south to Youngwood. Then the path enters a tunnel to cross a set of railroad tracks and emerges in a residential and commercial neighborhood. There are establishments for food and drink as you pass through Greensburg, as well as the other four stars on the trail.
Hugging the tracks of the Southwest Pennsylvania Railroad, you’ll pass through commercial zones in Southwest Greensburg and South Greensburg until you finally escape the sprawl at about mile 2.8. For the next 1.6 miles, you’ll share a valley with the railroad and US 119.
The trail is interrupted at Trolley Line Avenue, mile 4.4, and you’ll have to take the shoulder for 0.9 mile. Reaching Depot Street, you’ll see an old railroad station and blue caboose across the tracks. This 1902 Pennsylvania Railroad depot is the Youngwood Historical Museum, which has exhibits on railroad history as well as a gift shop and restaurant.
From the end of Trolley Line Avenue, you can go straight ahead for 0.6 mile to East Hills Street. To the left, 200 feet east on Depot Street, the trail heads 1.6 miles through the Westmoreland County Community College Campus to Armbrust Road in the community of Armbrust.
The annual Five Star Trail Poker Run is a walk/run/bike event in July that raises money for the trail.
To reach the Lynch Field trailhead in Greensburg from I-76, take Exit 75 for US 119/SR 66 toward Greensburg, and then keep left to merge onto SR 66 Bus. N. Go 0.7 mile, and continue straight onto SR 66 Bus. N/US 119 N/S. Third St., and go 6 miles. Turn right onto E. Pittsburgh St., and go 0.2 mile. Turn left onto Arch Ave., go 0.3 mile, and then turn right onto Beacon St. Almost immediately turn right again onto Roosevelt Way. In 0.1 mile turn right onto Scott Blvd. Turn right into the trailhead parking lot just before you reach Lynch Field Path (across from the aerobic center).
There are no parking lots on the southern endpoints of the trail. The best place to start at the southern end is the Youngwood trailhead on Depot St., near the Youngwood Historical Museum. To reach the trailhead from I-76, take the directions above to SR 66 Bus. N/US 119 N/S. Third St., and go 1.3 miles. Turn right onto Depot St., and go 0.1 mile. Turn right into the trailhead parking lot, just after passing the Youngwood Historical Museum and the train tracks. The trailhead is at the southeast corner of the lot. To reach the endpoint at E. Hillis St., access the trail at the southeast corner of the lot, and head southwest 0.6 mile down the trail. To reach the southernmost endpoint in Armbrust, turn right onto Depot St., go 250 feet, and turn right onto the Five Star Trail. The southernmost endpoint is 1.6 miles farther south.
A variety of material on the trail. Mostly crushed stone. Thicker in a few areas, so a bit more challenging in those spots. Pleasant easy ride. Shared with lots of walkers, with and without dogs. Good people in the trail.
This trail is fine. I prefer trails with more scenic/nature views. This trail cuts through Greensburg, so not a lot of nature going on. Had to cross a few busy roads.. and this trail does not have very much shade. Otherwise, it was fairly flat and it is a nice trail for those who live in the Greensburg area.
Great trail for leisurely runs, walks, and biking. Alot of puddles and run off of the crushed stone in some areas after rain though.
We had a very nice day on this trail. We liked the variety offered by this trail. You go from a park-like setting amidst the Westmoreland Community College campus and then by an old railroad station in Youngwood. Then, at the end, there is another nice park called Lynch Field located on the north end of Greensburg, PA, with a bonus of a Dairy Queen to get an ice cream treat before riding back to the village of Armbrust, where it all starts. There is a neat World War II helicopter located in the Lynch Field park. All-in-all, a very pleasant, leisurely bike ride and you get to see downtown sections of Greensburg and the handsome, historical courthouse there. By doing the side trail along the railroad track south of the railroad station in Youngwood, our total trip was 16.5 miles; not bad for a bike trail this close to Pittsburgh. We recommend this trail. Easy access from the PA Turnpike at the New Stanton, PA exit. It is only about one mile off the turnpike.
Was surprised to find that a long section of the "trail" was the paved edge of a road for motorized vehicular traffic: all that the "trail builders" had to do is paint a white line and some bicycle icons, and voila', here is a bicycle trail.
Otherwise, the trail is a bit interesting, as it passes through some industrial sections.
This was the first rail-trail I rode when I started out riding five years and 1700 trail miles ago. It was time to go back and document the historical treasures which remain on this trail. Five Star Milepost 0 is posted at Lynch Field, on US-119 on the north side of Greensburg, PA. This is the best place to start riding, with lots of free and safe parking at the popular athletic and sports complex. Zero your cyclometer here, and climb the hill 0.2 miles to the Pennsylvania Railroad's "duckunder" tunnel, which used to carry westbound trains heading south along our route under the busy 4-track mainline above until the 1950's. The tunnel allowed southward destined trains to leave Mainline Track #4 without fouling the other three main tracks above. At MP 0.5, climb down at the billboards and check out the "PRR" chiseled into the upper course of the cut stones supporting the former triple-track railroad above the old Lincoln Highway below. At MP 1.1, examine the "PRR" embossed in the stanchion bases of the old standard PRR railing found systemwide on the path leading away from the old double thru-girder bridge set. As you pass under 1954's US-30 Greensburg Bypass, note the classic, domed cast iron PRR whistlepost, "W" for "whistle." Steam engines whistled, but modern diesel roads still use that "W" for grade crossing warning signals to alert enginemen to blow that horn! The white office building you pass at MP 2.0 is the sole remnant of the once-massive Walworth Valve Company, which left for the greener pastures of Mexico in 1980. Classic PRR cast iron Milepost "2" is in place at Trail MP 2.1. We are two miles from the duckunder and the once impressive interlocking complex at "SW" Tower (Southwest Junction). The track you are riding beside here is Pennsy's old Southwest Branch. At MP 2.3 and 2.6, the legs of a wye join us from the old Radebaugh Branch, now the Southwest Pennsylvania Railroad's route out onto Norfolk Southern's ex-PRR main line, west of Greensburg. "County Junction" ("CJ") at this point was where double-tracked lines from both branches merged southward into the 4-track line heading into Youngwood Yard. The concrete footers of "CJ"s northward "home signals" remain in place south of the road crossing at MP 2.8. Another classic PRR Milepost ("3") is intact at MP 3.1. Note that both mileposts have "plated over" northward facing numbers. In addition to showing mileages from "SW", these "dual mileposts" once displayed distances from the SOUTH end of the branch, once 44 miles distant, at Fairchance, PA. One more classic domed whistlepost remains, at MP 3.3. Youngwood's old PRR yard throat begins at MP 3.8, now the site of a new Marcellus shale truck transfer facility. The "Trolley Line Trail" portion of the Five Star begins at MP 4.4, with a one-mile ride on the now industrial access road which sits on the right-of-way of Southwestern Pennsylvania's coal field carrier WEST PENN RAILWAYS interurban Greensburg-Uniontown "main line." Observe the power line from here southward. It sits on the old trolley grade from here to the south end of the trail. At MP 6.4 and the now sadly closed Youngwood PRR depot museum, turn left over the bridge, and immediately to the right, and you are now on the denuded interurban grade. Note the stiffer grades permitted by the hill-capable big 57-foot West Penn interurban cars. At MP 6.1, venture a climb down the west side of the grade and inspect the classic, concrete arch culvert constructed by the West Penn. This was new building material in 1900, and it is still in great shape a century later. There are several wonderful examples of multi-arch spans like this at the south end of the interurban system, near Allison. After passing through the campus of Westmoreland County Community College, the trail diverges down the hill and away from the trolley grade, and onto the final 0.7 miles of the trail, which is built on the grade of Pennsy's old Sewickey Branch, once the coal conduit from the once lucrative ooalfields across central Westmoreland County. At the end of the trail, imagine the huge steel trestle which carried West Penn's cars over top of the Sewickley Branch you are riding on, the winding adjacent road, and Little Sewickley Creek. I believe that a concrete pier from that trestle remains in place on the north side of the road at your left. Backtracking to Youngwood, an 0.6 mile spur carries the trail from the depot southward to trail's end at its MP 6. This is a great trail, offering a nice look at some interesting examples of two classic and historic Western Pennsylvania rail lines, and some nice residual classic and impressive heritage structures. -Rich Ballash, Latrobe, PA 9-23-2012.
"I went for a long run on the trail in February 2005. For the first four miles the trail is very nice and well marked with many quarter miles marked. Winter has been rough on the trail by creating some ruts and washed out sections. Only the first 4-1/4 miles are family friendly. After 4-1/4 miles the trail leaves the railroad bed (why?) and follows the road through an industrial park with heavy truck traffic. It reverts back to railroad bed near Youngwood for about 3/4 mile and then sort of dissipates into a very bumpy shoulder of an active railroad. I'm not sure why it is advertised as 6-7 miles long. However, the first four miles are quite nice. Unfortunately there are no outhouses along the way."
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