O&W Trail - PA


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O&W Trail - PA Facts

States: Pennsylvania
Counties: Lackawanna, Susquehanna, Wayne
Length: 8 miles
Trail end points: Simpson and Stillwater
Trail surfaces: Dirt, Gravel
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6017032
Trail activities: Bike, Mountain Biking, Snowmobiling, Walking, Cross Country Skiing

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O&W Trail - PA Description

There are two trails named the O&W: one in New York and this one in Pennsylvania. Although the trail stretches 32 miles (as shown on the map), only the first 8 miles of trail (from Simpson to Stillwater) are managed by the Northeast Pennsylvania Rail Trail Council for bicycle and pedestrian use. The remainder of the trail is privately managed with no guarantee of being open. Follow the map carefully, as portions of the O&W may not be marked and gaps necessitate riding along the road for some segments before rejoining the trail.

Built in the 1880s to transport coal mined from the Lackawana Valley's rich anthracite deposits, the New York, Ontario & Western's Scranton Division was just one part of a network of rails and canals connecting the Wyoming Valley to the East Coast. As the demand for coal declined, the corridor was abandoned by the railroad in 1957; at the time, it was the longest railroad abandonment in the United States.

Parking and Trail Access

To reach Simpson, take I-81 to Exit 191A, and then Route 6 to Carbondale. After the town of Carbondale, turn left onto Route 171. Continue about one mile, park on right side of the viaduct in Simpson (look for the tank). Enter the O& W along Homestead Street.

O&W Trail - PA Reviews

This is not a trail that is friendly to cycling. It is mostly an ATV trail. However, since the southern end runs so close to the D&H trail, you might want to give this a try. I was cycling the D&H and found the places where there were crossovers between the two trails. Inspecting the O&W, I found its roadbed to be vastly inferior compared to the (apparently recently upgraded) D&H. Since the O&W always stays east of the Lackawanna River, I figured it would have a bit of a different feel to the D&H- and it does. I would recommend doing what I did- unless you really want the exercise. I covered the O&W DOWN-hill from Forest City to Uniondale and covered the D&H 3 times (once down, twice up). The O&W is pleasant going downhill, but it was clear that the slippery cinder base would be a challenge going in the other direction.

I biked a short stretch of the trail between Poyntelle and Preston Park with my hybrid bike and it actually wasn't that bad, although I did have to keep my eyes on the trail at all times to avoid scattered large rocks. Most of this section is open to ATVs (and snowmobiles in winter) although I didn't encounter any during my ride. Definitely not for road bikes or those expecting a perfectly smooth surface. There was a steepish hill south of Preston Park with many large rocks which those with less robust bikes might want to walk their bikes over (though mountain bikers might enjoy it). Mostly a "green tunnel," but some views between the trees in spots.

As a separate matter, note that the first two miles north from Simpson are closed until October or November of 2017 for installation of a gas pipeline.

About 8 miles of rough, rocky trail...not for the casual rider and certainly
not for a street bike. Alot of history here and my grandfather was an
eingineer on this line, so it had a personal connection but not alot of
fun to ride. Crossed over to the D & H and continued to Union Dale.
All uphill going out and swift downhill return.


We diverted our trip home from the VA Creeper and Greenbrier River trails to finish off with this short ride.

The trail is definitely for mtn bikes. After dodging large rocks (softball size) for a mile we turned back for fear of blowing a tire.

The Stillwater to Orson section of the O&W is open to ATV usage and is managed by the Northern Wayne Outdoor Recreation Club. Membership is required for motorized usage of the trail. Non motorized use is permitted without membership. The clubs web address is:


You have to realize that two sections of this trail are now township roads so vehicles do use it.

Take New York State Route 17 to Hancock, NY. Cross the bridge into Pennsylvania. (There are two bridges in town, the other crosses the Delaware River but stays in New York - becomes N.Y. Route 97 - that's the wrong bridge!).

After crossing the bridge into Pennsylvania, the road forks at the big 'Welcome to Pennsylvania' sign. The left fork is PA Route 191, the other is a short local road. Stay to the right (on the local road) at the big sign.

Go straight about one block, until that short local road ends, then make a right. You will pass an industrial yard to your right with a chain link fence. The trail is hidden up on top of the incline, in the woods, to your left.

Explore around, there are several steep dirt paths and roads up to the trail, one is big enough for a 4WD vehicle. Find the trail. Then go back and find safe parking.

Once on the trail, you will be surrounded by overhanging trees and beautiful, secluded forest. Further along, there are impressive cliffs 20 to 30 feet high to your right. The roadway is smooth, with occasional rocks and lumps of coal. The color of the roadway (coal dirt gray) is the only unattractive feature of the trail. Otherwise it was a lovely walk.

The only problem is the (infrequent) sharing of the trail with motorized vehicles. In four hours on the trail on Memorial Day Weekend 2010, we passed by one family on ATVs, and one 4WD truck.

Bring enough water, do not expect your dog to drink from streams, as there are none that are convenient from the trail.

The trail is very nice to the Starlight Station (now a town shed), more to come as we explore.

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