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The 61.5-mile Montour Trail follows most of the former Montour Railroad’s main line west and south of Pittsburgh. This little short line was incorporated during the late 19th century and, despite its small size, became very profitable thanks to the many coal mines once located along its main line. It also benefited from having interchanges with most of the region’s notable railroads. In later years, the Montour became a subsidiary of other larger systems. When coal mines closed over the years, the railroad found itself in a difficult position and was finally forced to shut down during the mid-1980s.
Forming a semicircle around Greater Pittsburgh, the corridor now helps host one of the longest suburban rail-trails in the United States, featuring a selection of bridges, trestles, viaducts, and tunnels framed by colorful Western Pennsylvania landscapes and vegetation. The trail is also part of the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition’s developing 1,500-mile trail network through Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and New York. The surface is primarily crushed limestone, with small sections of paved trail in Peters Township and Clairton, some on-road trail between South Park Township and Clairton, and a mostly on-road spur to Pittsburgh International Airport. Horses are permitted on the shoulders of the trail in Cecil Township between Morganza Road and the crossing of SR 980 and SR 50. Cross-country skiing is also permitted.
Coraopolis to Enlow: 7.8 miles
Both the trail and the railroad are named for the creek that runs alongside them; you’ll follow the waterway for the trail’s first 7.8 miles beginning in Coraopolis. Views will primarily be of leafy green neighborhoods sprinkled with wildflowers. A highlight of the trip includes the Enlow Tunnel in Findlay Township, about 7.2 miles along the trail. Not only is its 575-foot expanse fun to traverse, but the journey on either end is a treat as the path winds through a scenic wooded valley here.
Enlow to Airport Connector: 6.4 miles
Just farther south past the Enlow trailhead on Main Street, the trail branches north for about 6.3 miles to Pittsburgh International Airport, mostly along quiet roadways restricted for airport service vehicles. To take this spur, turn right onto Enlow Road. After 0.8 mile, the trail bears left onto a gated, restricted airport access roadway. You’ll continue on this wide, asphalt roadway about 3 miles to another gate near a residential area on McCaslin Road. Continue on the shared roadway, and then turn right onto the striped shoulder of the moderately busy Clinton Road. Use caution here, as the roadway crosses over I-376 with merging traffic exiting and entering the highway.
After crossing the interstate, the roadway soon becomes a restricted--traffic roadway to where the trail meets Airport Boulevard. Crossing signals allow trail users to navigate across the often-busy roadway into the airport’s extended parking lots, where sharrows (shared-lane markings) guide you to the end of this segment. Bike parking is available here.
Enlow to Southview: 13.4 miles
From Enlow, the trail heads southwest through Imperial and then south under US 22 toward McDonald. As the trail approaches the town of McDonald, it splits. To the left is a connector section to the 29.2-mile Panhandle Trail, which travels east to Collier Township and west to Weirton, West Virginia. This connector leads to just across Noblestown Road, where a parking area for the Panhandle Trail is located.
Veering right to stay on the main trail, you’ll come to one of the trail’s highlights, the beautiful 900-foot McDonald trestle, which crosses over the Panhandle Trail. The Montour Trail continues on through wooded surroundings, and then curves back south and runs next to a large golf course and several farms to the small neighborhood of Southview.
Westland Branch Spur: 4.1 miles
One of the newest segments of the trail splits off from the main route near Southview and heads southwest to Mount Pleasant Township. At just over 0.3 mile past the Galati Road trailhead, the relatively flat, crushed-gravel pathway turns southwest, continuing along 3.5 miles of rail line that were reactivated in 2012 to support the shale gas industry, before terminating at a parking area in the community of Westland.
Southview to Hendersonville: 6.6 miles
Heading out of Southview to the east, you’ll cross over SR 50/SR 980/Millers Run Road over a long bridge. The trail then returns to woods as it curves back and forth on the way to Cecil Township. You’ll travel along the southern edge of Cecil and through the National Tunnel—the trail’s longest tunnel at 600 feet—named for the nearby National Coal Company mines that the former railroad once served.
It’s curved, so you can’t see the other end; lights and pavement with guiding reflectors along the trail edge help ease navigation. The tunnel’s cool, damp interior is a welcome respite in summer, but in winter, the dripping water can cause beautiful (though dangerous) icicles along the ceiling and mounds of ice on the tunnel floor. The trail then bends right and crosses over Tarr Heights Drive to a parking area and the Cecil-Henderson Montour Trail Campground.
Continuing southeast, you’ll pass Henderson Park and reach another trailhead, where you’ll find restrooms, parking, and a large bicycle shop.
Hendersonville to Library Junction/Venetia: 6.7 miles
From Hendersonville, the trail skirts the Valley Brook Golf Course, crosses Valley Brook Road twice, and then passes under US 19/Washington Road, where it becomes the Arrowhead Trail. It then passes through McMurray and travels on a mostly rural route to Library Junction.
Just past Hendersonville, you’ll cross a two-for-one attraction, the Chartiers Creek High Bridge—offering some of the prettiest vistas on the trail—and the adjacent 235-foot-long Greer Tunnel, both built in the early 1900s. On the other (east) side of the tunnel is another bridge, which crosses over a railroad.
Library Junction/Venetia to Bethel Park Spur: 3.4 miles
At Library Junction, you have the option of continuing east or taking a spur to Bethel Park that curves left and northward (on a triangular junction of the trail), skirting mostly residential neighborhoods on a relatively new and well-maintained section of trail. A small trestle bridge crosses over the intersection of Clifton Road and Highfield Road. Just after this trestle you can head left down a small spur to cross Highfield Road to George Washington Elementary School and a small café.
Library Junction/Venetia to Clairton: 13.1 miles
Heading eastward from Library Junction, the trail passes through more rural landscapes (note that parts of the trail in this section may be washed out, so take caution) before entering Library, where you’ll find several restaurants and eateries. At Pleasant Street in Library, an on-road section begins. Turn right onto Pleasant Street, and then turn left onto Brownsville and Library Road. Go 0.9 mile, and turn left onto Stewart Road. In just less than 400 feet, turn right to return to off-road trail.
The trail loosely follows Peters Creek, winding through rural backdrops for 1.6 miles to Piney Fork Road, where it becomes on road once more. The route winds south as it follows Piney Fork Road, which becomes Peters Creek Road shortly after heading north—just after the confluence of Piney Fork and Peters Creek. You’ll pass another campground as you travel north along Peters Creek and through the outskirts of Clairton, where the trail turns into Oak Road.
At SR 51, note that the trail turns right onto the busy highway with no shoulders and follows this road 0.2 mile. Use extreme caution here. Upon reaching Peters Creek Road, turn left at the traffic light to cross SR 51, and head north onto Peters Creek Road for about 0.5 mile. The trail then returns off road and heads north through Clairton Resident Park, formally ending at a large parking lot at North State Street and Mendelsohn Avenue.
At the southeastern terminus in Clairton, you can take the Clairton Connector route (urban, on road) about 5 miles to McKeesport, which links to the 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage.
To reach the northern endpoint from I-79 N, take Exit 64 for SR 51 toward Coraopolis/McKees Rocks, and turn left onto SR 51 N/Coraopolis Road. Go 0.7 mile, and take a sharp right onto Montour Coketown Road. Go 0.1 mile, and look for parking on the right. To reach the trailhead, turn right, heading north along Montour Coketown Road, and turn left into the trailhead access point.
To reach the endpoint at Pittsburgh International Airport from downtown Pittsburgh, take I-376 W (follow signs to the airport). Take Exit 53, and follow the blue signs to the parking area. Take the exit for extended parking, just past the employee parking area. The trail endpoint is between the extended parking and long-term parking lots. Sharrows (shared-road arrows) will lead you through the parking lot to the northwest corner of the parking area.
To reach parking at the Westland trailhead from I-79, take Exit 43 for SR 519 toward Houston/Eighty Four. Turn left onto SR 519 N, and go 4.4 miles. Turn right onto Hornhead Road, and go 0.2 mile. Look for parking on the right.
To reach the western trailhead in Clairton from I-70, take Exit 27 toward Dunningsville. If you’re coming from I-70 E, take a sharp left onto Brownlee Road, and go 0.4 mile; if you’re coming from I-70 W, you’ll turn right onto Brownlee Road. Take a slight right onto Church Road, and go 1.0 mile. Then take a slight right onto SR 136 E, and go 5.1 miles. SR 136 E turns slightly left and becomes SR 917 S. Follow it 0.4 mile, continue onto SR 136 E, and go 0.2 mile. Turn left to merge onto SR 43 N toward Pittsburgh, and go 8.7 miles. Continue onto Exit 54 (signs for SR 51/Pittsburgh/Elizabeth), and go 0.8 mile. Turn right onto Payne Hill Road, and go 1.0 mile. Turn right onto Clairton Road, go 1.2 miles. The road turns left and becomes Walnut Ave.; go 0.4 mile, and turn right onto N. State St. Go 0.3 mile, and turn left into the trailhead.
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