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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 trail but still needs some work
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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..."
This is an undeveloped railbanked corridor. ATV and other motorized users keep the vegetation in check via their use.
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