Houtzdale Line Trail


23 Reviews

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Houtzdale Line Trail Facts

States: Pennsylvania
Counties: Clearfield
Length: 11.08 miles
Trail end points: SR 53/Spring St (Osceola Mills) and T550/Chesterfield Rd (Madera)
Trail surfaces: Gravel
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6032172

Houtzdale Line Trail Description

The old railroad line known as the Moshannon, or the Mills Branch, crossed the Moshannon Valley during the mid- to late 1800s. The line was the foundation of the region's late 19th- and early 20th-century economy. The valley's vast reserves of coal were the object of the railroad expansion, and with the economically feasible transportation to industrial centers, mining boomed. The rail line carried sitting President Benjamin Harrison when he toured the coal fields in the surrounding area and addressed the citizens at the Houtzdale Station. The history of coal mining in the area is noticeable from the trail as it passes remnants of the industry. Interpretive signage along the trail commemorates significant historical structures and events.

Purchased from Conrail in 1994 following its disuse, the corridor was converted to a multi-use path to preserve the land as a public asset. The trail is lined with hedgerows of multiflora and other deciduous shrubs. The entire length of the Houtzdale Line Trail is open for use with nearly 8 miles of improved surface from the Muddy Run Bridge west of State Route 2005 at Smoke Run to State Route 2007 just west of Osceola Mills. The trail has been graded, compacted and marked with mileposts. The extreme east and west ends of the trail remain in rough condition but are useable by hikers, mountain bikers and cross-country skiers. At the southwest end by Cross Roads Blvd, the trail continues for nearly 2 miles with an unfinished surface of dirt, grass, and cinders, until its official end at Chesterfield Road. The best access point is at the trail center in Houtzdale.

Beyond Ramey and Houtzdale, the trail traverses natural areas of wetlands, upland forest and stream corridor with an abundance of wildlife and native plants.

Parking and Trail Access

To reach the trail crossing in Houtzdale from Interstate 99, take 453 North to Viola and turn onto 153 North. (From I-80 take the Clearfield Exit for Route 879 South to 153 South). Park behind the BiLo Supermarket on Route 53 east of Houtzdale. On-street parking is available in Houtzdale and in Ramey on streets running parallel to the trail off State Route 453. A marked parking lot is now located off State Route 2005 in Smoke Run.

Houtzdale Line Trail Reviews

Decent trail in the middle but the ends leave a lot to desire. Shame that there isn't a local group to do some work as the whole trail is fairly level.

Decent trail in the middle but the ends leave a lot to desire. Shame that there isn't a local group to do some work as the whole trail is fairly level.

There is a small gravel lot on McAteer Street which is part of Rte 53 right next to the trail behind the old train station which is now a beer distributor.

There is a small gravel lot on McAteer Street which is part of Rte 53 right next to the trail behind the old train station which is now a beer distributor.

Rough is some spots

We also cannot locate any designated parking for the Houtzdale area. Plenty of parking in Smoke Run in lot. Trail west of Smoke Run is very bumpy and better done on a mountain bike. Also, east of Houtzdale is very rough and again with a mountain bike. We turned around at both of those locations. Right now there is plenty of debris on the trail because of brush being cut back. Very rough again. When debris is clear it will be a great run again.

No parking/poorly maintained trail.

Not the typical Rails to Trails. Parking lot at the one end of the trail map was non existent. Trail was more like an unused driveway.


Great great Trail

Worth it

We tried to do this trail but could not find the start of the trail (Houtzdale end). There were multiple gravel roads/trails but no markings or designated parking lot. I have never been to a trail where the trailhead was not clearly marked.

We tried to do this trail but could not find the start of the trail (Houtzdale end). There were multiple gravel roads/trails but no markings or designated parking lot. I have never been to a trail where the trailhead was not clearly marked.

Great Ride

This trail is a hidden gem! Small inclined but relatively flat the majority of the trip. The trail head was hard to find. It is mixed right in with some ATV trails. The first 2 miles was pretty muddy and rocky but if you have the right bike it’s fun. Once you get to cen clear entrance in Houtzdale it’s an easy path. We only went to Ramey because it was later in the evening. Which was 14 miles total for us. Will be doing this again but with better, thicker tires

Parking in Houtzdale

The trail is nice from Houtzdale west. We only road to mile marker 9. There are sections of the trail that are all grass, so you'll probably want a mountain bike. The trail east of Houtzdale is all grass and muddy in spots, so be prepared. The Bilo market is no longer in Houtzdale; it appears to be replaced by a Family Dollar. There's a large parking lot, so you can park there and take one of the streets about a block north to find the trail.

enjoyed this trail

I read some of the reviews about this trail and was very hesitant about going. I'm so glad I went. It was a beautiful day and the trail was so enjoyable. My husband and I are anxious to go back soon.

What Trail?

This was the ugliest trail I've ever seen. First of all, didn't even look like a trail. We had a hard time even finding it. All gravelly, rutted and too rough. More like a four wheeler trail. And the black flies were horrible. Looks abandoned and creepy. Should be taken off this link. Waste of a Saturday

It's 50/50

I ride this trail every day... but it's really 2 distinctly different trails.From houtzdale to smoke run the trail is wonderful. With the exception of town, the road crossings are fairly sparse. Parts of the trail are complete grass, but they're hard packed and perfect for a dual sport bike.Past Ramey, it's a shaded, 342 foot drop over a few miles to Smoke run. A couple of low branches here and there.And for the 2 stars. Smoke run is the end of the trail. The next trail is listed that it goes to Madera, but a bridge is blocked off and several other kids on a bad trail.The trail from Houtzdale towards Osceola is dangerous. It's rutted, the cinder and gravel is horrible for traction. Of there are any puddles, just walk them, trust me.The gates are also dangerous. they aren't maintained and one, the chain in between is hard to see and about 6 inches off the ground.

A good ride

I just got back from my bike ride on the Houtzdale Rail Trail. I'm an avid rider of rails-to-trails in central PA and I love trying new trails. This is the first time I've ridden the Houtzdale trail. I had done a little research, so I planned on parking at the Smoke Run parking lot and ride in to Houtzdale. But I couldn't find an address (all I could find was Route 2005 in Smoke Run, but my gps couldn't even find Smoke Run!), but I sorta knew the way to Houtzdale so I thought maybe I'd see it. Nope - so I ended up going on in to Houtzdale and parking at the supermarket (Shop N Save) on Route 53. Even here, the trailhead isn't marked, you have to bike down the next turn on the same side as the store and the trailhead is right before the bridge. Here you can go north on the "undeveloped" trail or south down through town and on to Ramey/Smoke Run. I decided to check out the undeveloped section. I made my way (on my mountain bike with fairly knobby tires), but the ride got too rough for me, so I parked my bike and walked a little ways. It was easy, level walking then. The section through Houtzdale is a nice surface, and there were pretty many road crossings, and then from here to Ramey, you're pretty much in people's backyards, with no fences or anything. And the surface was grassy in a lot of places. From Ramey to Smoke Run is nice through the woods. I don't know if my legs were just tired, but I thought the ride back up from Smoke Run to Ramey was noticeably harder. After Ramey, the trail seemed to level out the rest of the way back. One other thing to mention is that, while maybe half of the trail was in the woods, there weren't too many areas of shade for me on this hot, sunny, summer day. Overall, though, I enjoyed this trail - it's a little more challenging than your typical rail-trail - but I would definitely recommend it.

Some good, some not

Rode this in September during a dry spell, from east to west, with a loaded touring bike and 38" knobby tires. It was like riding 2 completely different trails. The trail east of Houtzdale is impaired by poor maintenance and lots of large rock chunks that require constant vigilance and maneuvering. From Houtzdale west it is in excellent condition, as it gradually rises to Ramey summit, then plunges ecstatically down to Smoke Run. The section around Houtzdale especially shows a great deal of TLC. I wished it were longer.

About what was expected

We rode this trail on 11 May 2015. For a sparsely populated mountain area, it was about what was expected. Some areas of the trail were a bit rough but the grass was mowed and we rode the whole thing on hybrid bikes no problem. One 2 mile up grade east of Smoke Run but nothing real bad and great to ride back down as the last 2 miles before returning to the car at Smoke Run. The only rest room is at the Smoke Run parking lot and in Houtzdale but the town rolls out the sidewalks at 9 or 10 so if you get there early, good luck. If you like a trail with little traffic and few road crossings, this trail is for you. The mountains are beautiful and I find the coal towns very interesting. Don't expect a well groomed city trail but we enjoyed the scenery and solitude. As for the bugs, yes they are there but nothing some bug spray will not fix. Lots of benches but no water sources except resturants in Houtzdale when open.

April 2015, and the trail has deteriorated

You will need a mountain bike for parts of this trail. No skinny tires.

From Houtzdale to the Smoke Run parking area is pretty nice. There is construction at the 5.5 mile mark and the trail has been dug up and then filled in. There are lots of loose rocks and bumps there, and there doesn't seem to be any effort to repair that half-mile section beyond what's already been done.

North of Houtzdale, on the way to Osceola, the trail is pretty lousy. It consists mainly of the original cinder base from the railroad, so if you have knobby trail tires you will get fairly dirty from the spray. Also, there are lots of muddy areas. The locals have found ways to get their ATV's and four-wheelers onto the trail and dig it up.

Finally, the worst part --- TRASH! Houtzdale is a pig sty. As you ride along the trail through residents' back yards, you wonder if they have any sense of pride. There are piles of trash all along the trail through Houtzdale and up to Osceola. It's a shame.

As one other reviewer noted, there are lots and lots of bugs. The rail bed was raised to go through low-lying swampy land, and there are lots of stagnant areas where water collects. There are plenty of benches south of Houtzdale (none to the north), but you'll be swatting bugs if you stop.

Enjoyed this trail

We rode this trail June 12th 2014 ,it had rained earlier so their was plenty of mud and puddles in beginning. Very rough from Osceola Mills to Houtzdale( recommend mountain bikes only ) , we did enjoy the rest of the trail.

nice for area

Nice trail but still needs some work

Nice ride

My dad and I cycled this trail last weekend, June 30th, 2012. We were planning on parking and starting at the Smoke Run end but there is a bridge out on SR2002 so we drove to the the other end SR2014 and Route 53. There is a nice big pull off where the two roads meet and we were able to park there. That end of the trail, from the start to almost Houtzdale is a little rough with higher weeds and many bugs... bring the bug spray. Once you get to Houtzdale the trail is very well maintained. It was a pleasant ride the whole way to Smoke Run and back. There is a significant hill from about Ramey to the end at Smoke Run but nothing you can't handle because it is an old railroad. There are plenty of places in Houtzdale to grab a bite or a drink, right off the trail in Houtzdale.

Overall this is a very nice trail. This is our 3rd Rails to Trails we have completed together. We have ridden the complete Pine Creek Trail, and the Bellefonte Central Rail Trail.

needs maintainence in Houtzdale...

Just took a trip to this trail last week. It was a nice ride until you get past the gate behind the tanning place in houtzdale. The weeds have grown past knee high and the trail was pretty wet. This created quite the problem with gnats and horseflies. With a little bit of weedwacking and spreading of gravel with trail would be better.

Very Nice!

I rode this trail last week and enjoyed the beautiful views and riding through Ramey. Everyone was pretty friendly along the path. The trail is very nice constructed and well thought out. The grade coming from Smoke Run isn't too bad and provided a great workout. I highly recommend this trail to anyone. Enjoy!


Rode from Smoke Run to trails end. It was a rainy day.
If you have the right maps, then you should have no problem finding the trailheads and parking.
I found the trails end interesting as it is clear that this line has been "banked" for possible future use. Some rails remain at the junction across the road from the endpoint. The line there is still in use. I enjoyed exploring the area.
The unimproved trail is not so bad. Just take it easy and watch out for the larger stone.
Stop now and then to look around and you will see swamps, wetlands, lowlands, and a meandering stream that all add to the character of the trail.
In Ramey and Houtzdale you will ride through peoples back yards. It's neat and clean too. The trail is maintained by various businesses with signs naming them.
The varied nature of the trail make it a very interesting ride.
Note that the map on this web site does not show the trail extending west of Smoke Run. It does in fact extend half way to Madera. I didn't ride that section.

Early-spring on the Houtzdale

Went out there on a Saturday morning (4/12/08) with my wife and toddler. As the previous post says, the Bi-Lo mentioned on this site (and in the PA Rails Guidebook 10th Ed.) is no longer there. There is another grocery store right by the trailhead, I forget the name. We parked there, but you actually have to ride out of town one block (towards the tanning place) and you can see the trail sign behind there. The 1/2 miles part going through Houtzdale was neat, lots of signage and things to see. The trail surface was limestone, and hard packed for easy pedaling. Because the wind was picking up and it looked like rain, we only made it about 2.0-2.5 miles to where the trail crosses 253 near Kendrick. After that, the trail got very sandy and the clouds got pretty ominous so we turned back to Houtzdale.

It's an easy 45 minute drive from State College/Bellefonte, so that's why we picked this trail. It wasn't the most exciting one we've been on, but I'd like to go back and finish it sometime.

Almost interesting

"The trailhead in Houtzdale is hard to find. As of 06/07, Bilo no longer exists. We parked behind ""The Tan Barn"", just before you drive north out of town. Other then a couple of washouts, the trail surface is very good. Unfortunately, there's not much to see on this ride. Both ends just kind of end, sadly, while the old rail bed continues into eternity. Also, DO NOT do this trail in the heat of a summer day, as 1/2 of it is exposed to the sun..."

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