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The Lower Trail ranks high on the list of many Central Pennsylvania residents when they’re searching for a remote path with a woodsy feel. The Lower (rhymes with flower, and named in memory of trail benefactor R. Dean Lower) Trail traces the meandering Frankstown Branch of the Juniata River as it meanders through the water gaps that the river cut through the Allegheny Mountains. The trail, with a mostly crushed-stone surface, rolls 17 miles between trailheads near Canoe Creek State Park and Alexandria. How remote is it? One segment goes 11 miles without a road crossing.
Pennsylvania’s canal and railroad eras intersect on the Lower Trail. Originally a path used by local tribes, the corridor in the 1830s became part of the Pennsylvania Canal, a system of waterways connecting Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. Mules slogged on adjacent towpaths and pulled barges through numerous locks. Some of the canal locks and channels, as well as remnants of the lock tenders’ houses, can be seen through the thick vegetation.
This section of canal ceased operations in the 1850s but survived until the late 1870s, when a flood washed it away, and the Pennsylvania Railroad built a spur—the Petersburg Branch—to serve limestone quarries in the area. In 1989 the right-of-way came under control of the nonprofit Rails to Trails of Central Pennsylvania, which built the trail.
The Lower Trail is part of the Trans Allegheny Trails System, a group of rail-trails in western Pennsylvania. The trail is also part of the September 11th National Memorial Trail that connects the 9/11, Flight 93, and Pentagon Memorials, as well as the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition’s developing 1,500-mile trail network through Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and New York.
Starting at the Alfarata Station trailhead near Alexandria, the trail follows the river upstream through a water gap at Tussey Mountain. Just 0.8 mile from the trailhead, a short turnoff on the right leads to a diner with soft-serve ice cream.
About 3 miles from the trailhead, you’ll see dam abutments left behind from the canal. Your first bridge, 4.3 miles from the trailhead, is a stone-arch bridge across Fox Run. Then in 0.5 mile, you’ll cross the river twice on bridges the railroad built to avoid a river bend. After the second bridge, you’ll come to the Mount Etna Furnace trailhead, named for a pig iron furnace that predates the canal. The ironmaster’s residence still stands as a burned-out mansion here.
Continuing 2.6 miles, you’ll pass through the remains of Carlim, an old limestone-mining town, near the Cove Dale trailhead. The surface improves to asphalt here for the next 3.5 miles through Williamsburg, where you can catch a bite at a general store or diner. The trail crosses Juniata River Road a little less than 2 miles past Williamsburg and ends 3.5 miles later.
Deer, rabbits, squirrels, turtles, black bears, turkeys, bobcats, and more inhabit the surrounding woods, and the Audubon Society recommends the area to birders for its variety of feathered inhabitants.
The trail used to end at Flowing Springs Road and Long Road, but a project was completed in early 2019 extending the trail to Beaver Dam Road and Flowing Springs Road at the edge of Canoe Creek State Park. From the original terminus, continue 1,500 feet on a shared on-road section (with bike lanes on either side) heading over the Frankstown Branch of the Juniata River. The route then curves left onto a new segment of off-road trail (formerly T444), paralleling US 22 for a short period before looping left and then under US 22 to Beaver Dam Road and the state park. Future plans call for another section of trail that links the Lower Trail to the main beach and camping area inside the park.
For a unique side trip, check out a small white church on Turkey Valley Road on the way to the park’s main entrance; a conservation group bought this circa 1800s building to protect thousands of brown bats that roost here.
Additional long-range plans call for extending the trail southwest toward Hollidaysburg.
To reach the Alfarata Station trailhead from I-99/US 220, take Exit 48 toward SR 453/Tyrone. From I-99 S, turn left toward SR 453 S (signs for Water St./SR 550/SR 453 S). From I-99 N, turn left, then right onto SR 453 S. Go 0.5 mile. Then take a slight right to stay on SR 453 S, and go 8.3 miles. Turn left onto US 22 E, and go 0.7 mile. Turn left onto Logging Road 31101, go 0.1 mile, and continue onto State Route 4014. Go 0.2 mile, and turn right into the trailhead parking lot.
To reach the parking area at Flowing Springs Station from I-99/US 220, take Exit 32 for Frankstown Road toward SR 36. Head southeast on Frankstown Road, and go 3.7 miles. Turn left onto US 22, go 5.0 miles, and turn right onto Flowing Springs Road/T444. Go 0.2 mile, continue straight onto Long Road, and go another 0.2 mile. Turn left into the trailhead.
Rode the Lower Trail on a weekday in September from Alexandria trailhead to Williamsburg and back. Saw 5 other riders and one trout fisherman. Crushed gravel trail surface was good; the several miles of pavement near Williamsburg were rougher. The trail was clear of branches and shaded. Frequent birdhouses and benches along the trail. Unfortunately the Lower Creamery in Williamsburg was closed until next summer.
My husband and i were on vacation from Maine. We have fat tire mountain bikes and have a shwinn child carrier that we haul for our 2 dachshunds. We have the rails to trail system at home and found out they had it here. So we started in williamsburg and made our way to the very end of the trail. It starts out on pavement then turns to like crushed packed limestone. The trails were awesome, smooth without any pot holes. It was great. There were benches to stop and take breaks and have lunch. There was a picnic area with picnic tables about half way to the end of trail system and our only bad thing that happened during our trip was one of our dachshunds which is only 13 weeks old started to whine, so my husband pulled off the side of the trail to see what was wrong and stepped in someones dog poop and it was all stuck in his sneaker. So i guess some people don’t pick up after their pets. At the end we got the dogs a pup cup icecream at the lower trail creamery. The young man that was running it was so nice and very polite. We met several people along the trail that stopped to talk to us and even and older gentleman as we were loading up. It was a great way to spend our last day here in Pennsylvania. The people here are the nicest people we have run into out of all the states we have visited. The state is just so beautiful and you feel so welcome here by everyone. People here say hi, they wave and even hold the door open for you. We will definitely be coming back again.
We looked for a bike trail that also had geocaching. This was it! Plus an earthcache was a bonus. Would recommend. Kudos to all who maintain this jewel!!
Did an out and back for 34 miles on this beautiful, peaceful trail. It was a Tuesday and there were very few other folks. The scenery is beautiful, the trail is very smooth (crushed stone and asphalt), and there are plenty of restrooms (every trail head). Highly recommend this trail if you want to ride a well maintained trail with great scenery. There are also a number of shelters and benches along the way with more bird houses than you can imagine.
My kids and I have visited this trail multiple times this past month. We love it. My advice would be to start at the north parking lot near Alexandria. The entire ride is gorgeous. If you have kids, the Lower Trail Creamery in Williamsburg at mile marker 11 serves as a great ‘ice cream’ motivator. Williamsburg is a great trail town. If you continue south, there is a final (convenient) parking lot at mile marker 16. The rest of the way north involves a bit of biking on a road to get to the underpass that connects to Canoe Creek State Park (after some more road riding).
I see very few recent reviews of this lovely trail. The tunnel under Rt 22 is indeed open and allows road access to Canoe Creek SP. The signage to Flowing Springs Rd access and parking appears to be upgraded as well, as another user noted it may have been missing in the past. This under-utilized trail continues to be a year round favorite of this biker.
It’s a fantastic trail, scenic by the River and we saw wildlife and it’s in superb condition.
Loved this trail! Easy ride with kids of all ages. We started on the paved trail turning right at the Williamsburg trailhead. After a few miles it changed to gravel which was still easy to ride. We were met by a chicken and rooster who came over from a nearby farm to see us. There’s a small ice cream store at the trailhead which was great on a hot day.
Lots of shade.
Easy, clean trail. Lots of shade.
Great bike trail
This trail is maintained really well. Lots of space. Can be crowded by trailheads but overall peaceful and quiet. Flat the whole way. Views of the river as you go. Would do this trail again.
This is a beautiful trail in the heart of Central PA. It is very close to Arch Springs. I have spent many trips with friends and family on this trail. It's probably one of the most fond memories I have at my time at Penn State. I miss it and hope that I'll get back there one day.
My wife and I rode the entire Lower Trail out and back on 11 June 2019, and had a wonderful time. We drove out from Camp Hill PA in the morning and stopped for an "MTO" sandwich at the Sheetz in Huntington PA, then parked at the Alfarata (north) end parking lot. It's a beautiful trail that has been on our bucket list for awhile. Saw some wildlife (snakes, turtles, etc), but lived to tell the tale. We highly recommend this trail!
Not only is it beautiful, the people I’ve interacted with are courteous to each other. There is lots of shade making it ideal for very hot days. It’s very flat making it great for people of all ages and abilities.
We spent a week riding 6 different trails in PA (Alleghany River Trail, Oil Creek State Park Trail, Presque Isle State Park, Kinzua Trail, Pine Creek, and Lower Trail). We rode the GAP trail last October. Because of my fear of snakes, we do a fall ride, hoping the snakes have all gone to their dens! My favorite PA trail is the GAP. My second favorite is Lower. I found Pine Creek well maintained and beautiful, but a bit remote (for me) and saw snake tracks on the path. We rode Lower (33 miles) the next day and this was my favorite of the 6 this year. Path is well maintained and beautiful(rocks, trees, and stream!). You do hear rode noise during small portion of trail, but I didn't mind it at all. We parked at Flowing Spring Station by Canoe Creek State Park. They are working on connecting the path to Canoe Creek. As a side note, we stayed at Reynolds Mansion (loved it!) the night before and got a massage by Lisa at Cloud 9. It was an amazing way to finish our bike week! It was the best massage we have gotten and such a treat for our bike muscles!
I had the morning open so I found this trail on Rails to trails.org. It had great ratings and I agree and give it 5 stars.
Path was wide and well maintained.
View was great with Juniata river flowing on one side and often large rock formations on the opposite side.
Highly recommend this trail if you have a few hours.
We are 60-somethings and rode this trail last summer and just did a second ride this week. This has to be one of the best trails we have ridden. The trail is very well maintained and perfect for those of us who need a more level trail. As a matter of fact, as we were riding from Hollidaysburg through the Williamsburg area, a willow tree had fallen across the train close to Williamsburg, but, luckily, we were able to walk our bikes around it. When we arrived at the trailhead in Alexandria, a crew was there and asked us about the report of a fallen tree. By the time we returned on the way back to Hollidaysburg, the tree had been removed from the trail! The shaded trail with numerous benches to rest, picnic tables, and spots to enjoy the views of the Juniata River make this a perfect perfect ride.
Great Trail. Very well maintained.
Nice ride on a great trail, from Alexandria to Flowing Springs Road and back, total of 34 miles, another trail off my bucket list, I think that was trail # 37, hope to get to ride all in Pa in the next 5 years!!!
One of our Favorite trails.
So much has been written about this wonderful trail, and our experience was the same. One of our favorite things was that the trail was mostly shaded, making it possible/comfortable to ride on a warmer day. The surface was well cared for, and the friendly maintenance crews were mowing while we were there. It was great to see the many benches and bird shelters located all along the trail. We came from approximately two hours away, and consider ourselves lucky that the trail is one of our "local" options!
the day after Thanksgiving we set out for some exercise late in the day. It was 45 ° out, damp and cloudy. But the trail was awesome. Cooler weather encouraged us to work harder to stay warm. We met some bird watchers on the trail. We only biked 6 miles due to the late start. Looking forward to completing this trail soon.
My wife and I recently did the entire trail round-trip (33 miles). This is a typical crushed limestone, rail-to-trail, meandering along one of the branches of the Juniata River. It is very well maintained and there are rest areas strategically located along the trail. There is about a 3-mile section around Williamsport that is paved, which was a pleasant surprise. There is also an ice cream stand directly beside the Williamsburg trailhead for those who feel they have earned a reward for the pedaling it took to get there.
The scenery is great. If you're a history buff, there are placards along the way describing the railroad and canal that were once in this area.
The trail is an easy ride. It is relatively flat, but if you're looking for a grade, the trail runs down hill from Flowing Springs (elev 900ft) to Alfarata (elev 720ft). This equates to a 0.20% grade. That being said, if you start at Alfarata, you'll be pedaling down hill on the trip back.
We drove from the Pittsburgh area (2 hrs) to ride this trail, and it was worth the trip.
We rode three trails in 3 days in this area, the Ghost Town, Lower and HB&T. The Lower trail is less isolated than the other two.
While the Ghost town trail was well marked with signs the Lower trail northern trailhead was totally unmarked. The Lower trail surface seemed a bit older than the Ghost town trail with a center grass medial resulting in double track in some sections.
Very peaceful and quite. Well maintained mostly level and even a paved section for a few miles. Highly recommended
We love this trail it's very beautiful and well maintained. Get your bike and get going. You won't regret it!
While waiting for the Bicycle Times Adventure Festival to begin, we decided to try this trail. It was a great decision on our part to do this. We parked at the Flea market near the actual trail head in Alexandria and headed out on this pleasant ride. The numerous shelters, benches and picnic tables are mostly well kept and spread out through out the 16+ miles. With the fall colors almost at peak and a wondrous sunny day we followed a sweet river and read the information about the canals that used to exist. I would absolutely recommend this trail, as it was well kept and was used by runners and numerous bikers. Ironically, the next night at the Bike Fest, I ran into a member of the board overseeing this trail.
This is a very good trail. Well kept. It has about 3 to 4 miles that is paved from Williamsburg north. It looks like they have recently added a mile or so to the paved section. Very level the whole way. Anyone can ride this.
My friend and I drove 2 1/2 hours and easily found this great trail. We parked in the Alfarata Station parking lot which is along Main St in Alexandria between route 305 and route 22. As advertised it is nearly flat over the complete distance and everything is in great condition. We rode the complete trail plus a few of the roads at the Flowing Spring Station trail head at the south end. Including the return trip we clocked about 37 miles. There is a stretch of almost 4 miles that is paved from Williamsport north. There is even a great little soft serve ice cream stand at the parking area a few miles north of the south trail head.
My wife and I are avid Pa rail trailers and love to ride side by side. This trail is wide the entire length and the paved section at Williamsburg is a nice break. Well maintained and many improvements along length of trail made this a joy to ride. A great trail for riders of any age!
My wife doesn't bike often and does not enjoy trails - having to always be watching the few feet infront of her. With that in mind we both enjoyed the level and wide gravel rode, the scenery (woods and river) and rode 10 miles before we knew it. We saw a few black snakes (not sticks) and a couple of river otters.
But if you are like me, and want some stellar single track, head over to Allegrippis, near Seven Points on Raystown Lake!
We rode the entire length of this trail 05/2015 at the recommendation of a gentleman we encountered on the Pine Creek Trail. First, we would like to says thanks for recommendation. We found the trail to be very well groomed and to top it off, the weather was perfect. The only negative that we encountered was parking availability on eastern end of the trail at Alexandria. It looks like there is enough room for about 40 vehicles at that location and we took the 40th spot. So if its one of those days where the weather is just calling for a bike ride, you may want to keep this in mind. All things considered, this is a wonderful bike trail.
I was just back to the Lower Trail, one of my favorites for biking, and am pleased to see that the paved section in Williamsburg has been extended another 2 miles or so eastward to the next access point. I believe some of the bridges may have been resurfaced as well, with nonskid material added over the old planks. What a beautiful and well maintained trail! If you are from central PA or just passing through, please take the time to visit this trail, and drop a few bucks in the parking lot donation box too.
We had great weather however this tree lined trail along the river would have been a cool experience on a much hotter day. We did the entire trail, up and back. Plenty of benches and rest areas. It is quite level, so no hills here to climb, but then none to coast down either. Stop just outside of Williamsburg, hit the c-store for some good food & Ritchie's chocolate milk for an energy boost for the next 10 miles or so.
We took this ride based on the recommendation of some local folks who bike it every year. It was well worth the drive over. The trail was in great shape and the scenery was lovely.
May 6, 2014
Rode from northern trailhead @ Afarata to Mount Etna, perfect weather. Trail is in beautiful condition. Watched fly fishermen casting for the "big one" in the Juniata. Listened to birds singing, water rushing by and even swerved to avoid a garden snake. Great ride on a great trail.
From the Alfarata trail head (northern terminus), just after you cross under Rt. 22, take a look across the river. The large outcropping of bare rock, to the right of it towards the top you can see the nest. Eagles are known for making large, messy nests. This past Saturday as the Mrs. and I headed back to the truck she spotted the nest, then saw one of the Eagles on a branch just above the nest. It's so awesome to see the Eagles coming back to Pennsylvania!
There is so much to see on this trail. Give yourself plenty of time. It seems like every 100 yards there is something historical to stop and explore. The highlights of the trail are the canal locks. Amazing.
We decided to take an adventure today and ride the Lower Trail from the north end near Alfarata. We wound up riding 13 miles of it before turning around. This is a most excellent trail to ride. The surface is in great shape and most of the trail is shaded (we started around noon). There are some flying critters, so you might want to put on some insect repellant, but as long as you're moving it's not an issue. There are some remnants of the PA Canal along the trail (you're mostly riding the towpath) including the ruins of a couple of buildings and a couple of the canal locks. If you know the history, it's an even better ride and there are signs along the trail to help educate you if you're not "in the know" yet about the history. Great trail, great ride, great day. If you haven't ridden this yet, pack up the bike and get out there!
I was so pleasantly surprised to find this place and to see how well it was done. I grew up in Central PA and have found so few great places to go and do outdoor activities such as this. We rode the whole way out and back and it was one of the nicer rails to trails I've been on. We found the seclusion from roads and towns so peaceful, the shade along the way to be cool and the fact that we followed the river so much would allow for a dip to cool down if necessary. Highly recommended.
I rarely get the chance to get out and bike and after months of not biking I went out with 2 other friends and it was wonderful! The trail was clean, fairly flat, some great scenery at times, lots of places to stop and rest. Awesome trail :)
Did the ‘Lower Trail’ yesterday. Since it is the first ‘private’ trail I have visited I didn’t know what to expect.
Would it be a skinny road like path or wide boulevard? A dumping ground for old appliances and tires?
What I found was a very well maintained and used trail. Numerous trailheads with parking, clean restroom facilities, scattered benches, and picnic shelters.
While going out from Alexander trailhead, I had to scramble over a fallen tree. When I returned a couple of hours later, the only evidence of the tree was a pile of saw dust. Somebody really cares for this trail. It’s a job well done.
I just enjoyed an end to end to end ride on this beautiful, peaceful trail with the fall colors exploding! My ride was within perhaps 6 hours of some wet weather. Everything was perfect with the exception of the trail between milepost 5 and 8 (heading west). The trail has been resurfaced with several inches of fine crusher-run about the consistency of course sand. The wet weather (in combination with the poor drainage of a super- compacted ex-railroad line) turned this section of trail into a slow slog. When I first encountered the new surface I literally dismounted my 29er to check for a flat tire! My tires weren't sinking in but they weren't rolling freely either. Kind of like riding on slightly wet cement! I assume that in dry conditions this section hardens up and poses no issue what so ever. In wet conditions be prepared for a leg busting slog that will sap your strength and slow you to about 2/3 speed for 3 miles (6 round trip)! Thinner tires will fare even worse through this section. It almost seems like the surface is so new that maybe they never had a chance to run a road roller over it to compact it down. At any rate just be aware that if it has been raining, this section is more like riding on a beach than in the mountains!
17 miles long, scenic, tree covered, Juniata River running near it most of the way. What more can you ask for? It is well maintained, someone even mows the grass on some sections of the trail. I have used this trail numerous times & enjoyed it every time.
First to answer two questions fron below: 1: The tank in the photo is located in a children's playground right next to the trail in Williamsburg. To get to it from Route 22 you take route 866 into Williamsburg. The tank is just across the street from the Martins convenience store next the bridge. 2: The concrete structure along the trail up from Alfarata near the #1 mile marker is the remains of part of Owens Quarry. There is a quarry on top of the hill above this structure. More on this later. Now for the trail history part, starting from the Flowing Springs end and heading towards Alfarata. The trail follows along the path of the old Pennsylvania Mainline Canal, and the canal and railroad originally extended into Hollidaysburg. Just before Flowing Springs on the railroad there used to be a side spur track that led into what is now Canoe Creek State Park, and that line serviced the quarries and limekilns there. You can see the limekilns and quarries along the hiking trails in the park. On the left just before the trail bridge at Ganister is the site of Three Mile Dam, and you can see the stone abutments of the dam on both sides of the river when the leaves are off the trees. Ganister used to be the site of several limestone quarries, and there was a railroad spur along now what is Wertz Road that led up to another quarry at Orminea. If you turn right off the rail trail and follow Wertz Road up through the valley you'll see several old quarry blues holes, and you can see old quarry buildings and small railroad bridges crossing the creek on both sides of the road. More about Ganister here http://ganisterpa.com/history.html After the trail crosses 866 in the wooded section on the left just before the electrical substation there was the Williamsburg Dam and you can still see an old railroad call box next to the trail. At the end of the paved trail in Williamsburg the trail crosses a railroad bridge, and this bridge used to be an old canal towpath bridge. If you look closely at the bridge pier stones you'll see that there are smaller stones that the canal used, and larger stones that the railroad added later when they added on to it. Between mile 8 and 9 on the right you'll see a bench, and behind it is a bridge abutment and some bridge piers in the middle of the river. This was the site of another railroad spur that led up to a quarry at Sparr. The old quarry at Sparr is now a bluehole and is used by scuba divers. There are supposed to be old railroad cars underwater in the quarry. At Covedale there's a canal guard lock on the right that used to be called Schmucker's Lock, and there was a dam across he river here. There's a canal channel running alongside the trail from the guard lock to an outlet lock further down the trail on the right. Carlim was the site of another quarry, and there are concrete buildings and structures in the woods along both sides of the trail here. There's a concrete house on the right, along with several house foundations, and several concrete structures on the left dating to 1912-13. Just before milemarker 11 on the right is another canal lock and dam that was called Potter's Dam. The remains of the dam are gone, but the lock is in decent shape, and there are iron bars sticking out from it's walls that once held the wooden boards that lined the lock. Off the trail at Mt Etna, and up Etna Furnace Road on the left you can see the furnace workers log cabins, the ironmaster's house, and the furnace. The first bridge at Mt Etna used to be another canal bridge that was later used by the railroad. Just past the 2nd bridge, on the right there's a walking trail through the woods along the bend in the river, and there are several concrete structures, house foundations, and an old kiln that you can see. The canal towpath followed along this bend, and there was the site of the Willow Dam here too. Near mile #15 is a concrete wall from Goodman Quarry on the left, and a quarry bridge abutment on the right. This was also the site of another canal dam and lock, and you can see the abutment wall of the dam on the opposite side of the river. Whenever the river is very low you can see the wooden structure of the canal dam at the bottom of the river. One thing most people don't know about the trail is that on the mountain on the opposite side of the river between Goodman and Owens Quarry there is a series of railroad switchbacks and quarries at the top of the mountain. You can see pieces of railroad rail, old structure foundations, old railroad spikes, steel cables, and small pieces of machinery and tools up there. There are also rail lines that led straight down from the top the mountain to the river, and there are sites at the top of the mountain that once had stationary engines to lower the quarry cars down by cable. Just before you get to Owens Quarry you can see a trace of the canal channel next to the trail on the right with a canal sign posted there. About 1/4 mile before that you can see what looks like a small pile of rocks on the right in the woods between the river and the trail. This looks to be the site of another canal dam and inlet lock. When the water level in the river is very low you can see the wooden structure of the dam at the bottom of the river. I found many iron spikes about 18" long in the riverbed here that held the dam together, as well as 7ft long iron rods with large nuts on the end of them. I also found a set of ore cart wheels that were laying in the middle of the river that were made by the American Car and Foundry Company.
We had the privilege of riding this trail from Alfarata to Williamsburg, 23 mi total round trip. It was as level as noted in other reviews which was nice. We drove right by the trailhead in Alfarata because the sign is back under some trees and not easily visible from the highway. Directions were supplied by a pedestrian in Alexandria. We met a couple of volunteers who were trimming weeds along the way and mentioned this signage need to them, while thanking them for their labors. As a person interested in the history of canal systems, this trail was of special interest. The various signs along the path were informative and seeing the remains of a couple of locks was neat. The Juniata River is almost always in view and provided great scenery during the ride. We picked up sandwiches at the Grab'N Go in Williamsburg and picnicked on a nearby bench. The trail volunteers told us that someone had counted the benches along the length of the trail and they number 109! I've never seen so many. All in all it was a great ride. P.S. Does anyone know what the large, concrete structures are near MP 1 (northern end)?
High Street, Williamsburg. I am not sure how long the tank will be there.
I saw a photo of a military tank in this trail's photos. Were is it? What kind of tank is it? How do I get to it from Rt 22? Please let me know.
I'm very fortunate to have this trail just within a day's riding distance of my house. It's a beautiful, well-maintained trail with many interesting natural and historical sights. The trailheads and facilities are also all very nice and well-maintained. It's suitable road or mountain bike use for its entire length. There's Ice cream available in summer at Water Street flea market!
This is a very nice trail, smooth, well maintained, and very scenic. Both upper and lower sections are great.
My wife and I rode this trail in one day from one end to the other and back. The grade is not bad at all but, I would recommend you start at Alfarata trail head and ride to the west so you have the slight down grade on the return trip as we did not. It is very well maintained and lots of benches, shelters and bathroom along this trail. With riding this trail in the full bloom of summer you have to really look for the highlights of the history but it is well worth it and we will return in the fall of the year as the color should be awesome and also the stone faces of the mountains. The nature along this trail is also awesome as we seen everything from chipmunks to deer, plus there were a number of people canoeing and kayaking the Juniata river. This is one trail you should put on your to do list if you have the time.
We ride trikes so our preferences and trail requirements are slightly different from those for two wheelers. Lower Trail is really three different trails in one. At the southern end, the trail is wide and smooth and well maintained and great for trikes. For a mile or more around Williamsburg, the trail is paved and just a pleasure to ride on, no matter what kind of wheels you are using. The top end which is easily two thirds of the trail, is great for bikes but more challenging for trikes. In places, it narrows and grass grows in the center. We had to ride with at least one wheel in the grass which takes more effort. Dirt washed onto the crushed stone in other places, creating mini swamps which we had to go off the path to avoid. However, these rough spots are the exception. There are ample restrooms, which means a lot, and beautiful Pennsylvania scenery. Overall, the ride was very enjoyable, especially the 4 or 5 miles below Williamsburg where there are mini pavilions with picnic tables along the trail. This is a top notch bike trail but not as well suited for trikes.
I took the lower trail as my first rails-to-trails ride, and it was great! I'll definitely be using this site for more biking trail tips. One correction in your directions to the trail head off of the holidaysburg exit of 99, it's 13.9 miles to Flowing Spring Road, not 8.2 miles, which was a little confusing since I was actually mileaging how far I needed to go. But, the trail is perfect. I used a hybrid, and that worked really well- the small patch of pavement along Williamsburg is a nice break from the gravel. The Porta-jons, benches, and picnic areas along the way make it convenient and accessible to anyone. A really pleasant ride, basically flat. Looking forward to my next ride!
My Brother and I rode this trail a couple of weekends ago and we really enjoyed this one. It was a great ride the whole way. We enjoyed riding into Williamsburg and getting some water. It provided a great workout and the icecream stand at the Water Street parking area was a great treat at the end of our ride. Over all the trail is very nicely contructed and well thought out. We plan on riding it again. I highly recommend this trail to everyone. Enjoy!
If you’re a fan of rails-to-trails you have to make a point to visit this one. My wife and I have done a number of the major trails in the PA/MD area and this is one of her favorites. It is very flat the entire length. The trail surface is fairly wide and in good shape. The tree canopy makes for a well shaded ride and it is very peaceful following the river. Throughout the trail there are a number of benches and picnic pavilions to take advantage of… More than most trails. Along the way you’ll see some interesting rock formations, building remains, wild life and a few educational signs about the history of the trail.
From end to end it is approximately 17 miles long. We happened to park at the southern trailhead off of Flowing Spring Road. There is ample parking space (but it was Friday) and the portable toilet was at least clean and fresh. Near Williamsburg the trail is paved for a few miles and there are a couple of places to grab some refreshments at this trailhead.
At the northern trailhead there is a small bit of trail construction going on as they fix an overpass, but nothing to be worried about or detract from the ride. (Rode trail on May 7, 2010)
The only thing I wish could change and this is typical of most rails-to-trails, is to make the yellow barrier poles near trail entrances a bit wider apart. I know these must be narrow to discourage motorized vehicles, but they are somewhat narrow when your bike is equipped with mirrors, panniers or you’re pulling a kiddy cart like I always have attached. Mine is modified for my dog when he’s not running along side us.
Was it worth traveling 3 hours to ride? YES!
I also encourage everyone using the trail to contribute to the “donation boxes” at each of the trailheads. Someone has to maintain the trail and I’m certain it costs more than what we all realize. I’m also guessing there are a few volunteers who cut the grass, keep tree limbs out of the way and provide other vital services to keep the trial 1st rate. Thank You!
My boyfiend and I live in Tyrone so this is a very close trail for us to get to to spend the day on. I have riden on few including the Pine Creek trail in northern PA, and the Heritage Rail Trail in southern Pa to northern Md. I would have to say has a beginner, this trail has been great at just spending a day riding. The trail is mainly cushed limestone right up untill you get into Williamsburg and then it turns into paved road. I would highly recomend a hybrid bike for this trail as it would easily convert from limestone to paved road, however, with riding a mountain bike I didn't have any issues. Once you get into Williamsburg, there is a Martin's general store right along the trail that is good for just a quick stop. Just a few more yards away is a great little park to sit and relax at. We only made it from Water Street in to Williamsburg and back in a day due to us only being beginers. The wildlife is also abundant on the trail. Ranging from chickens and hens from local homes along the trail to foxes and the chance of seeing a snake or two. Just watch out for the rooster that is a litte agressive as we found when we stoped to let the baby chicks cross...lol!
My boyfriend and I decided to take a bicycle ride yesterday (5-4-08). We haven't been our bikes since last year, it was such a beautiful day we decided to ride from Alexandria to Williamsburg. That is 11 miles one way! Well these two old farts rode the ENTIRE 11 miles down and back!! This morning my knees and butt are wondering what the heck happened. The aches and pains are well worth it, the trail is absolutely beautiful with plenty of places to stop and rest and take pictures. We saw a Blue Herion, a mother duck with ducklings and another mother duck laying on her eggs at the Mt. Atena Stop. What a great day! We will be back.
I just got back to riding this trail after a number of years. In those years I've taken some time to learn about the history of the Pennsylvania Mainline. Riding this trail really takes you back to what it may have been like back then. The views along the river are nice, and there are some really nice rock formations.
Just the other day as I was riding the trail, a turkey crossed my path...you don't get that on a city street!
I began riding this trail in April. It is such a beautiful trail and provides a calm atmosphere. Everyone should experience it.
"The trail was wonderful. I haven't been on a bike since I was a child, but this was excellent. We had a lot of fun and it was nice & shady."
My wife and I both native Blair Countians rode this trail today a first for us. It is a true gem and worth a repeat ride and many more for sure!
We really enjoy riding the Lower Trail. It is beautifully maintained with benches and flowers along the trail and a nice fine gravel riding surface. We enjoyed the flowing river side view. It was a wonderful morning ride.
The Lower Trail is our first bike tour. We're riding small parts at a time in the evenings and really enjoy the gorgeous scenery and well-groomed trail.
"The trail has been extended from Williamsburg out to Flowing Springs road near Canoe Creek, giving the trail a total of around 16 miles in length. There is a trailhead parking lot off Route 22 on Flowing Springs Road at the end of the trail. The trail meets the road here, but the actual parking lot is a few hundred feet up a dirt road just to the right of the limestone trail surface. Park here because it's fenced in and has a pretty good sized lot with a small pavillion.I've seen cars parked on the end of the trail itself next to the road, but just use the lot.
The trail extension is nice and is the same surface as the Williamsburg to Alexandria section. It follows along the Juniata River and through an old campground. On the section between where the trail crosses Route 866 and the electrical substation, on the opposite bank of the Juniata River across from the trail there is a vertical ""spine"" of rock going up the side of the hill that looks like spires.Very interesting. All in all this is a nice extension to a great trail. "
I start at the Alexandria entrance and bike up to Williamsburg. There is a great ice cream stand there. So I have my treat and then bike back to my starting point. It's 22 miles round trip. What a great ride!
This is one of the nicest and prettiest trails that we've ever ridden.
Picturesque and lovely. A Great Escape!
"This is my ""home"" trail as I live in Hollidaysburg, and it's also the one that I guage all other Rail Trails by. The trail itself is always kept in really good condition, and there are mile markers along the length of the trail. In Williamsburg where the main trail head is there is a paved parking lot with a picnic pavillion, and a trailside store that sells food and rents bikes. There is also a UniMart convenience store right next to the trail there. One of the nicer things about this trail is that there are many places along the trail where they have benches to sit on if you want to rest, and there are porta-johns at both trail ends and at the midpoint at Mount Etna. Mount Etna access area has a gravel parking lot, a porta-john, a picnic pavillion and a small covered bridge over a stream. The end of the Trail at Alexandria also has a gravel parking lot, porta-john, and picnic pavillion.
The trail has three main bridges that pass over the Juniata river, and several sites where you can see remnants of the original Pennsylvania Canal. There are several signs on the river side of the trail explaining the history of the Mainline Canal that was operated in the 1830's. There are many areas along the trail where you can see the remains of local iron furnaces and stone quarries. The trail is mostly shaded by trees, and provides a good place to ride in the summer when the temps get up into the 90's.
There is an extension of the trail just outside of downtown Williamsburg that takes you alongside the Juniata river for around 5 miles that takes you to Flowing Springs, probably about a 1/2 mile from the entrance from Canoe Creek State Park. The extension isn't crushed limestone like the main trail, but is hard packed dirt and fine crushed cinders/ballast. No problems riding on it, but might be a little muddy after a recent rain because of all the shade.
If you're visiting this trail make sure you also to check out the Allegheny Portage Railroad Museum near the town of Cresson that's run by the National Park Service. It's a really nice museum that will teach you a lot about the Mainline Canal system and the Portage railroad with it's inclined planes. There is a replica of the engine house that helped pull the canal boats up the inclined planes between the canal basin in Hollidaysburg and Cresson. There is also a replica of one of the steam engines that pulled the canal boats on trains across the top of the mountain.
Also check out the two mile long trail leading to the Staple Bend Tunnel, a railroad tunnel from the Portage Railroad. This trail is crushed limestone too, with a paved parking lot and permanent restroom facilties. This trail runs alongside the mainline of the modern railroad so you'll see many freight trains making their way over the mountains. The tunnel at the end of the trail is restored and you can ride or walk through it.
There is also a Canal basin park they are opening in Hollidaysburg near the railroad shops that features a restored canal era house and recreation of part of a canal lock. Don't know when it's officially opening.
If you're in Hollidaysburg also check out the small park and overlook above Hollidaysburg at Chimney Rocks. This park has a paved lot, permanent restroom facilties and a picnic pavillion. The view from Chimney Rocks is excellent and you can see the entire valley around Hollidaysburg and mountains surrounding the area."
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