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The Indian Creek Valley Bike and Hike Trail winds through the rugged hills in the former coal-mining region of southwestern Pennsylvania. Although remote, the trail passes through several small towns, where travelers can find food and drink at country markets and cafés.
The trail traces the Indian Creek Valley Railroad corridor that got its start primarily hauling timber out of the mountains in 1906. The railroad soon added passenger cars to serve communities along the line. By the time the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad acquired it in 1926, lumbering had declined, but coal mining and coke production boomed.
As those industries dwindled, B&O stopped using the line in 1969, and Saltlick Township acquired the section between Champion and Indian Head for use as a trail, known today as Indian Creek Valley Bike and Hike Trail. The nonprofit Mountain Watershed Association later acquired other segments, which became the Indian Creek Valley Trail, explaining why the trail has two names.
Several miles of private property separate the two segments that comprise the 13.7-mile trail. The older northern section runs about 8 miles alongside Indian Creek between Jones Mills and Indian Head. The isolated southern segment passes through scenic Indian Creek Gorge to the confluence with the Youghiogheny River. Long-range plans call for connecting these two segments and building a river crossing to link with the Great Allegheny Passage.
Beginning at the State Route 31/SR 381 intersection in Jones Mills, the trail runs southwest at the foot of the Roaring Run Natural Area on Laurel Ridge for about 1.5 miles to Champion on the Westmoreland–Fayette County line. Along the way it passes a facility operated by Babcock Lumber, which was established during the timber-cutting boom.
In less than a mile, you’ll likely see families from the Mountain Pines Campground enjoying Indian Creek on the opposite shore. The creek also draws kayakers and rafters to its stretches of whitewater. At the old station stop of Melcroft (named for two mining executives), a 1-mile spur heads north and loops around a series of ponds used to treat polluted mine drainage.
Both Melcroft and Indian Head (2.3 miles down-trail) have trailheads and markets. The path follows the creek through a wooded area 1.8 miles past Indian Head before it dead-ends. There’s no parking here.
The newest section of trail resumes at Killarney Road about 0.5 mile from SR 381. From the trailhead, the path rolls downhill through dramatic scenery in Indian Creek Gorge for 4.3 miles to the confluence with the Youghiogheny River. Plans are in the works to resurface this dirt stretch with crushed gravel. There are no services along this segment.
To reach the parking at the northeast trailhead in Jones Mills from I-70/I-76, take Exit 91 for SR 31 toward SR 711/Ligonier. Turn left onto SR 31 E, and go 2.8 miles. Turn left onto SR 381 N, and go just under 0.1 mile. Look for a small pull-off to your left. The trailhead is located 0.1 mile south along SR 381, where the road intersects with SR 31.
To reach the parking in Indian Head from I-70/I-76, take Exit 91 toward Donegal. Go through the toll plaza, and turn left onto SR 31 E toward Ligonier. Go 0.3 mile, and continue straight onto SR 31/SR 711. Go 1.8 miles, and turn right to stay on SR 711/SR 381. Go 6.2 miles, and turn left onto Indian Head Road. Go 0.1 mile, and turn left at C. W. Resh Memorial Park Lane. Go about 500 feet, and look for parking on the left. The trail heads south 1.8 miles to a dead end.
To reach parking for the southern segment through Indian Creek Gorge from I-70/I-76, take Exit 91 toward Donegal. Go through the toll plaza, and turn left onto SR 31 E toward Ligonier. Go 0.3 mile, and continue straight onto SR 31/SR 711. Go 1.8 miles, and turn right to stay on SR 711/SR 381. Go 9.7 miles, and turn left to stay on SR 381/Whites Bridge Road. Go 2.1 miles, and turn right at Camp Christian Road/Killarney Road. Go 0.5 mile, and look for parking on the left. The trail ends on the north shore of the Youghiogheny River in 4.2 miles.
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