Sandy Creek Trail (PA)


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Sandy Creek Trail (PA) Facts

States: Pennsylvania
Counties: Venango
Length: 12 miles
Trail end points: Tarklin Rd near US 322/Lakes to the Sea Hwy (Van) and Fishermans Cove Rd & T370 (Polk)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6122940

Sandy Creek Trail (PA) Description

You’ll want to pack water, food, and flashlights to travel the Sandy Creek Trail, as it crosses 12 miles of remote, but scenic, countryside in Northwestern Pennsylvania. Named for separate Sandy Creeks at each end, the paved trail passes through forests and a tunnel and makes seven stream or river crossings, including the spectacular Belmar Bridge spanning the Allegheny River. There are no services along the route or at either end. The path is part of the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition’s developing 1,500-mile trail network through Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and New York.

Local oilman Charles Miller built the Jamestown, Franklin and Clearfield Railroad, a subsidiary of the New York Central Railroad, through here around 1907 to take advantage of the oil exploration and production. The corridor mostly carried passengers and coal, however, and later became part of the Penn Central Railroad, before the line eventually fell into disuse.

From the east, the trail trends downhill to the Allegheny River crossing and then follows the river downstream almost to the trail’s end. A short gap exists between it and the 8-mile Clarion Highlands Trail in the east, and it crosses the 30-mile Allegheny River Trail spanning from Franklin to Parker.

Starting on Tarklin Hill Road a couple miles north of the crossroads community of Van, the trail begins its descent through evergreens before it emerges into a hardwood forest. The path keeps to the ridge south of East Sandy Creek (also known as Turkey Run) until a high crossing just before Cranberry Rockland Road.

At 5.6 miles past the trailhead, the path crosses the creek on another high bridge and enters a tunnel—known variously as the Mays Mill or Deep Valley Tunnel—that’s 967 feet long. The 100-year-old railroad tunnel, suffering from a crumbling ceiling, has been improved by building a smaller tunnel inside and filling the gap with concrete and recycled rubber tires.

Once outside the chilly tunnel, the trail continues to descend and crosses the creek three more times before reaching the 1,385-foot-long Belmar Bridge. You’ll have unfettered views up and down the Allegheny River from the wooden deck of the through-truss bridge. This section of river is a national wild and scenic river. Below, you can see the paved Allegheny River Trail. A stairway connects with the trail.

After the bridge, the path runs along a hillside above the river for 4 miles. Then the trail crosses another Sandy Creek and veers inland for 0.2 mile to the trailhead on Fishermans Cove Road. The railroad grade (not part of the trail) continues another 3 miles on the dirt road until it reaches Old SR 8 in Polk.

Parking and Trail Access

Parking is available at a number of locations along the trail including at the Western Endpoint at Fisherman's Cove Rd., at Rockland Rd. Trailhead, and at the Eastern Endpoint along Tarklin Hill Rd. See TrailLink map for all options and detailed directions.

Sandy Creek Trail (PA) Reviews

Beautiful trail

We rode this trail for the first time today. Parked at the Sandy Creek Midpoint Trailhead. This is close the the Belmar Bridge. Glad we parked here as the trail seemed like it had a steady upgrade going this way. Loved crossing the bridges and going through the tunnel. We forgot our lights but, made it through without any problems. We have e-bikes so this wasn’t a difficult ride. Some people on the recumbent type bikes couldn’t fit through the gate posts. The trail does have some bumpy areas but, it wasn’t a big deal. Will deugo again. Deal

July 2023 Ride

Parked at Belmar Bridge trailhead and biked out to Van (7.5 miles each way) and then from Belmar to Fishermans Cove and back, (4 miles each way). Trail is asphalt paved in good condition though a few bumps here and there. Several wooded bridges, bumpy, along the trail that crosses a winding Sandy Creek. Slightly uphill from Belmar to Van so enjoy the coasting on the return trip. Belmar Bridge crosses the Allegheny River, water level very low due to lack of rain. Trail is mainly shaded. We saw several deer on this ride. One short tunnel about 2 miles from Belmar towards Van. No need for a light. The Allegheny River Trail goes under the Belmar Bridge and there is a set of steps that will take you down. Always an enjoyable ride on this trail!

A short and fun trip

In late October, my brother and myself rode a small section of this trail starting at the Belmar Bridge as a part of riding the Allegheny River Trail (ART). We had parked at the Franklin trail head - The Belmar Bridge is 5.1 miles south of this trail head. There are steps you can walk your bike up to get to it from the ART. The Belmar Bridge is over 1300 feet in length. The views of the river and region below were well worth it. My brother took a video that made for nice memory going over the bridge. Our trip was only from the Belmar Bridge thru the Mays Mill Tunnel. We had crossed multiple smaller bridges that carried you over the Sandy Creek on our way to the tunnel. The views were beautiful and with the autumn season, the colors added to a nice time and more picture taken.


Be prepared for a very remote trail. No services, bathrooms. Trail is paved but both ends are dirt/stone parking lots. Starting from the east it is very remote and deep woods, but as you get to the second half you cross a lot of bridges and go through a tunnel. Then the bridge over the Allegheny gives a nice view of the river and the kayakers below. River grade going west... coming back will be a incline again at river grade.


Summer 2022 Ride

Enjoyed a nice ride on this trail in June. We parked in Franklin and biked 5-miles South to the Belmar Bridge and took our bikes up the stairs and accessed Sandy Creek Trail that way. Rode from Belmar to Van and back. Trail is mainly shaded and asphalt paved. Saw a few deer. Slight uphill grade going from Belmar to Van but the return trip is a true glide! One short tunnel, Mays Mill, you can get by without a light.

Sad Update

I really loved this trail (see my previous review from 2020). In fact, it was my favorite trail in all of Western Pennsylvania. However, sadly, upon revisiting the trail today I found that trees were being felled (sometimes on both sides of the trail) between approx. the 3.5 and 6.0 trail markers. A young man walking his dog on the trail said that he owned a cabin in the area and that the destruction was probably due to logging by lumber companies, who own much of the property in the area. I can't say whether that's accurate--although I suspect it is--but I can say that the destruction of the forest bordering the trail has really despoiled the trail, destroying much of it's precious magic and beauty and turning some really sublime natural glades into zones of death and destruction.

Summer Ride 2021

Parked at Belmar and biked to Van and back. Van is almost 8 miles from Belmar. It was a hot summer day and the trail offered plenty of shade through the wooded areas. Sunny out on the many wooden bridges though. Slight uphill grade from Belmar to Van. I pedaled for 45 minutes. Coming back it was a breeze, no pun intended, enjoyed the downhill glide and returned in 30 minutes.

Mini-version of the GAP

We rode from Franklin on the ART. The most challenging section was climbing the stairs up to the trail. The trail was beautiful, plenty on wildlife, bridges and even a tunnel. On our way back we startled a porcupine, biggest one I’ve ever seen. Highly recommend this trail. We drove all the way from SEPA to ride the local trails, and glad we did.

Winter Walk

February, 2021. A good bit of snow on the trail provided for a lovely winter walk. Though off the trail a good foot deep, it was nicely packed down to a few inches deep along the trail. Parked at the Belmar Bridge and went out towards Van.

Fall Ride

Nice warm Fall day 2020. We parked at Rockland and biked to Fisherman Cove and back and also some out towards Van. Trail has been cleared of the leaves. Trail is paved in good condition. Always enjoy riding this trail.

Very Nice Trail

On 09/05/20 we rode this trail from end to end and it definitely lived up to expectations. There are several high bridges along the way which provide for some really nice views. I imagine that in a month or so when the leaves are showing their colors the views will be spectacular.

Stay Away! I can keep this gorgeous trail to myself! Beauty abounds as this trail crosses and re-cross Sand Creek in a series of 8 bridges over picturesque gorges, and the trail comes complete with an old-fashioned swimming hole a few miles in. For my tase, it doesn't get much better.

Group Ride-October, 2019

A numberof us got together for a group ride on a beautiful fall day. Though a little on the cool side, it was nice out in the sun.
Some of the leaves were beginning to change colors.
We biked from Belmar to Van and back, and then some, down towards Fishermans Cove. Total for the day was 22 miles.
Always a great ride on this trail.

One of my all time favorites.

I've been biking this for almost 20 years. The Belmar bridge over the Allegheny River is one of the most spectacular views I've ever encountered while biking. This is truly one of my favorite trails. The trail sits a top of Turkey Run as it meanders back and forth below. There are so many great little bridges along this trail. A must ride in my book.

Nice ride from Belmar to Van and Back

16 mile round-trip from the Belmar Bridge to Van, and back. Nice asphalt paved trail. Slight uphill from Belmar to Van, but the return trip is a breeze! There was a volunteer from the trail who was trimming the grass along the trail. The trail crosses over Sandy Creek several times on wooden bridges. One short tunnel. There are no facilities on the stretch from Belmar to Van so be sure to take water. Parking at Belmar for approx 15 vehicles and the same at the Van end. July 15 rode with some friends. Also rode the Justus and Allegheny River trail the same day so I got in 40 miles all together.

Hidden Gem

This trail is a hidden gem. My wife and I biked all 12 miles from Van to Fisherman's Cove. The entire trail is paved! The ride was smooth and enjoyable. The grade was barely perceptible. The Belmar Bridge is breathtaking and they did an amazing job with the Sandy Creek Tunnel. It is a tunnel in a tunnel to fix the water leakage and the path through the tunnel is smooth. Views of the creek and wildlife were abundant. Only downside was lack of bathrooms. The trail connects to Allegheny River Trail, another wonderful trail.

sandy creek ride

Great biking trail! We started at the Seneca Church Camp End. Preferred this end of the trail as there was so much to see including the bridges, tunnel, deer, porcupine, trout, and water! The Van end was mostly wooded and there were more people though we didn’t see more then 20 peoples the entire morning.

nice paved trail

Rode the trail this past Sunday. Followed the description to the west end trailhead. We wanted to ride uphill, as was recommended in a previous review. Drove the bumpy dirt road ( which IS INCLUDED in the red line on the trail map - very confusing ), for three miles until we found the paved trail. Limited parking here. There was no sign with the trail name on It, but there was a wooden sign overhead which read “ NO TRESSPASSING “ - what’s up with that ?? Description could use directions to the Belmar parking lot.
Anyway, enjoyed the bridges over the the creek and river. The tunnel was doable, we had flashlights, but you could see the light at the end . . . . The two railcars at the west end were a nice touch. Some of the benches along the way have seen better days. All said, a pleasant afternoon.

nice ride

Rode the trail this past Sunday. Followed the description to the west end trailhead. We wanted to ride uphill, as was recommended in a previous review. Drove the bumpy dirt road ( which IS INCLUDED in the red line on the trail map - very confusing ), for three miles until we found the paved trail on the LEFT. Limited parking here. There was no sign with the trail name on It, but there was a wooden sign overhead which read “ NO TRESSPASSING “ - what’s up with that ?? Description could use directions to the Belmar parking lot.
Anyway, enjoyed the bridges over the creek and river. The tunnel was doable, we had flashlights, but you could see the light at the end . . . . The two railcars at the west end were a nice touch. Some of the benches along the way have seen better days. All said, a pleasant afternoon.

beautiful trail!

Great trail in Oct 2017. Lovely foliage, bridges and tunnel. Note that to get between this trail and the Allegheny River Trail is a steep walk up/down a flight of wooden steps. Just be prepared to carry your bike. If you’re good with that, then it’s well worth it.

Remote and beautiful

Fun, scenic, remote. Highly recommended.

Most scenic trail I have ever been on.

This trail could be photographed for calendars. It has a few railroad trussells that are absolutely breathtaking over the creek. If you go in the fall you are really in for a treat.

Worth the climb

I parked in Franklin and rode the Justus and Allegheny River Trails to connect to the Sandy Creek Trail. The connection is made by a uphill connector which leads to the bottom of a steep set of steps with an adjoining ramp made from stair boards in order to roll your bike with you as you climb.
Two thirds of the way up, there is a tight fit as you also must avoid hitting your head on the bottom of the steel bridge above you. A couple turns before the top add to the challenge, but it is clearly doable. It was not hard to imagine, however that there have been some mishaps over the years. As an alternative, the paved connector changed to a dirt path beyond the stairs. I did not explore what it is like around the corner that I could see, but perhaps it finds its way to the Sandy Creek Trail. (I just didn't see and obvious connection point once up top however.
Once I made the climb I rode all 12 miles of the trail from end to end and found it to be fantastic. Its a scenic and unique as the other reviews indicate. Well worth it!

Two trails, one trailhead

I chose to park at the Belmar Trailhead off Route 8 because it has immediate access to the east-west Sandy Creek Trail (Sandy) at the Belmar Bridge and the Bridge when crossed, intersects with the north-south Allegheny River Trail (Allegheny). This way I could ride in four directions from a single trailhead. Further, the trailhead has houses nearby and appears safe.There is a porta potty here. On the other side of the River, the Sandy and the Allegheny cross at different levels and are connected by stairs.

The Sandy going west to Fisherman's Cove runs higher up the mountain and parallels the Allegheny River but is in the trees. It eventually pulls away from the River. The best section of the Sandy is to the east from the Bridge to Rockland Rd. Within this section the trail follows Sandy Creek which contains five high trestles and one straight tunnel to Rockland Rd. This section is isolated in the beautiful mountains and quiet without houses or roads.

Darkness caught us before we could bike the Allegheny River Trail. That trail is at river level and the Valley view more open which will be our next trip.

Always a nice ride

We parked at Belmar and biked down (literally) to Fishermans Cove and back up. Then headed out to Van,and back. Trail in good condition. Slight uphill to Van but nice ride downhill back to Belmar!

great trail

Other than having to stop to get our recumbent trikes through the many bollards, we loved this trail. Well maintained, there was a tree across the trail but it looked like it blew down very recently. Lots of other paved trails in the area too.

Very Scenic

We decided to park near Fishermans Cove, just off Rt 8. It is about 2.6 miles from Old Rt 8 to the Trail head via gravel road. Half way there is a small covered bridge that was cool to check out. Riding West to East, Fishermans to Van is 'uphill' so the return is the down hill part. The trail begins at a small bridge from the parking area. We counted 10 bridges in all which add to the scenic beauty on this trip. All but 1 are wood plank covered.
0.3 miles from the parking area, there is an old Caboose you can check out. 3.2 miles from the parking area there is an old bicycle built for two leaning on a fence post. At 4.2 miles you link to the trail at the Belmar parking area and approach the largest bridge crossing the Allegheny River and the trail from Emmlenton to Franklin. The remaining 7 miles to Van is highlighted with a tunnel (some cool graffiti) and most of the bridges. The entire trail is paved.

Wonderful scenery & lots of bridges!

The Sandy Creek Trail is one of the most enjoyable rides we've had all summer. It has it all: beautiful scenery, great wooden deck bridges, a short tunnel and abounding wildlife on a smooth (for the most part - some roots are pushing up blacktop here and there) paved trail.

We rode from Fisherman's Cove eastward to have the advantage of the slight downgrade on our return. There are occasional benches, but Porta-johns are scarce if not rare.

One note to anyone using the map for coordinates to the western side Allegheny River trailhead. The map coordinates of 184 Belmar are INCORRECT. It will leave you at an intersection in the country about 2 miles from the trail. Try using Belmar & Nettles Road intersection, Franklin, PA.


I love this trail. We started in Fisherman's cove and rode up to Van so that the ride back would be easier. (24 mile round trip). I was initially intimidated about the 8 mile up hill, but for the most part it is barely noticeable. This region of Pennsylvania has so many great trails, however this trail is truly special and has so many wonderful views. Dont be intimidated by the 8 mile hill, a beginner could do it easily. I will make this trail a regular several times a year. There are no trash cans or potty"s along the trail, so just be prepared for it. I really look forward to the fall leaf color change and getting some spectacular views from this trail.

Nice trail

We spent the 4th weekend doing the Ohio & Erie Towpath, Western Reserve Greenway and the Alleghany River Trail/Sandy Creek Trail. I have posted comments on the other two trails.
These tarils (ART and SCT are some of my favorites.)
Nice scenery people are great. Could have a couple of porta johns.We started at Fishermans Cove and went to Van. Usually we like to start on the bottom and go up grade. This trail is all asphalt. Its a nice ride. At the BELMAR bridge you can get on the ART again all paved. Excellent trail system.

May 24, 2016

Started at the very eastern end and rode to the end of the west trailhead. You will crossover Sandy Creek six times and the Allegheny river once. The first 7.6 miles is all downhill until you hit the river. When you cross the river, this is called the west. It is 4.2 miles long. I passed one jogger and no bicyclist. This portion of the trail is along the river. You will see cabins and many fishermen. At marker 4W, you will see an old caboose. On the eastern side, it is all woods and streams. A very peaceful ride. Most of the riders I met were on the eastern side and parked on the western side of the Allegheny river. That way you are ride up toward the east to make a easier ride back. I tried to bike beyond the paved trail on the eastern side and you can only go about 100 yards until you hit a sign that is private property and may not go beyond the gate.

One of the best rail trails - if not the best rail trail!

We biked the entire paved trail in April 2016. Our favorite sections in this order were: (1) Rockland to Van and (2) Rockland to Belmar. Fisherman's Cove to Belmar wasn't as enjoyable as there is an access road that follows the trail, many homes on the Allegheny River, and it just wasn't as remote and preferable as the two sections above. The Rockland to Belmar section is only 3 miles long and you can go through the tunnel and see the Belmar Bridge - a huge infrastructure from the golden age or railroads. My recommendation would be to take the trail from Belmar to Van, about 7 miles long one way, and you will see the best the trail has to offer, and it's downhill on the way back. The Rockland to Van section, 4.9 miles in length, is very remote, scenic, quiet, and perfect if you want to enjoy the solitude of the forest. The access at Rockland allows the choice of going either way. And the grade is mild for the uphill ride back if you just want to see the tunnel and bridge. This is a must for those who enjoy rail trails.

Super Bowl Sunday Winter Ride

Since the temps were in the 40's, we decided to ride along
the Sandy Creek Trail. The sunny sections of the trail felt nice weatherwise, but most of the trail is in the shade and it was rather cold and snow covered. Still a nice ride. We parked at Belmar and biked to Van which is uphill going out. Downhill coming back. Then we ventured down to Fishermans Cove. We got in 20+ miles. The Allegheny River was not frozen, it was rather on the high (water) side. Just nice to be able to get out and bike in February in Northwestern PA!

Grand Fall Ride

Rode this trail from Fisherman's Cove to Van and back on a crisp, sunny Fall day. The trail is just as described with smooth asphalt paving, shallow grades, impressive bridges and tunnel, colorful woodland and river scenery and wildlife. While it's rather remote, I highly recommend this trail. Make sure you get good directions to the trail accesses as they are rather remote at both ends.

Belmar Bridge to tunnel

Wonderful trail. Started on Allegheny River Traill, my daughter wanted to ride on Belmar Bridge so ended up riding this trail up to and through the tunnel. Only hard part was climbing stairs from Allegheny trail to Sandy Creek. Heard rumors of switchback to be out in, hooe it pans out. Will be back either way.

Best paved trail in the USA!

We have ridden many bike trails all over the country and Sandy Creek is the best paved one we have been on. We rode from Fisherman's Cove to Van and back on a hot July day, and did some of the connected Allegheny River Trail as well. Sandy Creek is a beautiful woodsy shady trail, in great condition. Well worth the 2 hour drive to get there. And we got some great farm produce in Franklin too!

(Ditto) Awesome!

Always a great ride! We parked in the lot at Belmar and biked to Van and back. Approx 16 mile round trip. Cross the Belmar Bridge and beautiful view (s) of the Allegheny River. Sandy Creek trail goes over the Allegheny River Trail. You would take your bike down the bike staircase. Bike to Van from Belmar is uphill. Slightly. The trail crosses Sandy Creek numerous times, over wooded bridges. One tunnel, the Mays Mill tunnel, short in length, don't need a light. Trail to Van where the pavement ends. Bike to Van and back to Belmar is all downhill.....weeeeeeeeeeeeee! Fast ride back.
If you would like to ride more, you can go at the split in Belmar, there is a sign, to Fishermans Cove. That section runs along the Allegheny River, across from the Allegheny Trail. Trail goes through open areas as well as wooded. There is a new shelter just outside of Van. Newly constructed in Summer 2015. Just a great ride, all around nice trail!


Started at Van trail head and rode to Belmar bridge. The trail goes downgrade from Van but the return trip was not bad at all. The grade is gradual and the paved surface makes for a smooth ride. The numerous bridges all have great views and the tunnel is well marked with reflectors on the pavement. The bridge at Belmar has breathtaking views.


I only wish I had discovered this trail years ago. I need to explore more in the area! A great tunnel, lots of bridges, great views.


what a beautiful trail, very scenic, I loved riding across the Belmar bridge and thru the tunnel and across the many bridges. I will be back to this one and I hope that they can continue to extend this line further on.

LS&MS Property Marker in Photo Gallery

Darn! I missed this awesome artifact! Exactly where is this marker located? The Lake Shore & Michgan Southern was a predecessor component of what became the massive New York Central System!

Van to Mays Mill Tunnel - NYC Artifacts

I had high hopes to find at least a few of those classic New York Central cast concrete mileposts east of the tunnel, but sadly, there are none remaining. Those two mileposts I mentioned in my earlier review of the west end of the trail are the only two on this trail. And there are no other railroad artifacts. Nevetheless, the east end of the trail is a beautiful example of modern railroad engineering that never quite "bloomed." The trail is built on what would have been the eastbound track of this railroad. The wide right-of-way, and the extended piers on the single-track trestles, would have held that never built westbound track. Yes, and this is quite a hill, and the grade obviously steepens as one approaches the east end of the trail, as the railroad climbs away from Sandy Creek, far below. And the Van end is quite desolate, with very few users. The absolute wilderness here is awesome and spectacular. -Rich Ballash, Latrobe, PA 10-12-2014

Downhill ride from Van to Fishermans Cove!

September, 2014: We began our ride at Fishermans Cove since now we know where it is. The parking area at the trailhead was full so we rode 1/4 mile along the dirt road to Fishermans Cove boat launch and parked there.

Riding along the trail between Fishermans Cove and Belmar, the river is on your right. It was a slight uphill grade, not noticible. At the Belmar split you pass a few picnic tables and cross the river.

Trail crosses Sandy Creek several times (too many to count!) and you go through the short Mays Mill Tunnel.

We rode to the end in Van. There is a parking area in Van.

The trail may possibly continue past Van though it's dirt.

Once in Van (approx 12 miles from Fishermans Cove) we headed back to our vehicle.

We saw a grounhog and a deer.

It's all downhill from Van to the Belmar Bridge and from the Belmar Bridge back to Fishermans cove. You could really clip along!

Nice ride back to the car since it was all downhill.

This trail is near to where we live, it's our "go to" trail.

Late September leaves hadn't really changed at that time.

Mike and Vicki....Northwestern PA

Lost Cow

My husband was just on the trail at 11:00AM 9/5/2014 and there was a black cow on the trail. If anybody knows who is missing a cow they can search 1 mile west of Van and the tunnel.


Sunday Aug. 24,2014 Parked right near the Bel Mar Bridge. Large parking area, easy access to trail, right around the 8 mile post. If you go East, you cross the river bridge at once, if you go West you will go towards Fisherman's Cove for approx 4.2 miles. this is one great trail, you must put it on your to do list, a very easy ride. The parking area is easy to get too from Route 8. Turn East onto Ponce Lane towards Franklin High School, there is a sign for the trail saying 6 miles. Follow Ponce Lane until it intersects Bel-Mar Rd, Turn right on Bel-Mar and follow to parking area, it is well makked, Tom Day Canonsburg, Pa

May 26, 2014 afternoon ride

Very scenic and well maintained trail. Started at Van and rode to Belmar. The bridges and tunnel make the ride more interesting than your typical rail trail. Compares favorably to other trails in the region.

Nice Fall Ride- November, 2013

Hubby and I took a vacation day in early November since we never had an Indian Summer. It was a nice Fall ride. There were some leaves on the trail but overall trail was in nice condition. Of course it was before we had that NASTY Winter! We parked at Fishermans Cove and headed up to Belmar and crossed the Belmar Bridge (gorgeous view)to the Mays Mill Tunnel. We got a late start and since it got dark so early (it was after we changed the clocks back) we just did about 14 miles round trip. Sooo if you can get there in the Fall, it's a nice ride! -Vicki

Spectacular trail! Rode summer of 2012

We decide to do this trail as a family ride.My wife and my two sons went. We loved the views from the long tunnel to the long bridge over the water and how the trail connects to two other trails if you want to make a day of it.We started at the western trail head and rode about half the trail for a total of 12 miles. Looking forward to returning and doing the whole trail.

A good ride

The Mrs. and I decided to head up north and take a ride on the Sandy Creek trail yesterday. The weather was perfect and the trail is excellent. As one of the other reviewers here mentioned, going in to the Fisherman's Cove end of the trail you might think you're lost, but you're not. Keep following the dirt road and you'll practically run right into the western terminus. There's no real parking lot, but there is plenty of room alongside the dirt road to park. We rode all the way to Van (the eastern terminus) and back. Clocked the distance using MapMyRide at just about 25 miles. Going east is a slight grade uphill, so coming back is a bit easier on the legs. The bridge over the Allegheny at Bel Mar is pretty cool, and if you wanted to go down to ride some of the Allegheny River Trail, there is a set of steps. We decided not to take advantage of that. The tunnel east of the bridge is straight, but it does get a bit dark in the middle. My recommendation is to take a flashlight. There are several bridges over various creeks along the way, and some great photo ops. The trail is fairly well through the wilderness so it's pretty quiet and there are sections where I lost cell phone service. The trail is paved for the full length and very well maintained. Certainly a good trail for an out-and-back in under 3 hours without killing yourself, and taking a little time to enjoy the scenery along the way. Enjoy the ride!

Scenic River Trail

We started at Fisherman's Cove. You'll come in on a dirt/gravel road that seems like it's the wrong way but eventually you'll come to the bike trail head. There's a small parking area off to the side of the road. The trail is a very very slight incline going East, pretty much not noticeable at all. It crosses over a lot of bridges which provide great views. It's very well marked with a couple maps along the way. We took the trail all the way to Van where it ends at a parking lot. The trail is well shaded with a few sunny sections. It crosses through one tunnel that's paved and well lit from sun on both ends that a light isn't really needed. There are no places to stop along the trail for water/food but if you take the Allegheny trail that intersects below at the Allegheny river bridge, you can travel 5 miles North to Franklin which is one of the best little towns around!
A round trip from Fisherman's cove to Van and back took 24.77 miles.

Sandy Creek Trail 7.21.13

This trail is beautiful and I look forward to doing it again! We like to do the uphill part first so we parked at the west end (Fisherman's Cove) and rode to Van and then returned (total 24 miles). The route from west to east is virtually all a slow incline that starts to feel steeper after about mile 9 :) Read the directions posted elsewhere for finding Fisherman's Cove... worked for us. Water, bridges, a short tunnel and no development = super ride.

Sandy Creek Trail 7.21.13

This trail is beautiful and I look forward to doing it again! We like to do the uphill part first so we parked at the west end (Fisherman's Cove) and rode to Van and then returned (total 24 miles). The route from west to east is virtually all a slow incline that starts to feel steeper after about mile 9 :) Read the directions posted elsewhere for finding Fisherman's Cove... worked for us. Water, bridges, a short tunnel and no development = super ride.

Sandy Creek Trail on 7/3/2013

The Sandy Creek Trail is definitely a nice trail. I started my trip in at one end of the trail, in Van, Pa, and rode the 12 miles up to Fisherman's Cove where the trail ends. After that I turned and headed back.

The Belmar Bridge is high point of the trail. This long bridge over the river gives a great view. The first part of the trail from Van to Belmar is very wooded and you won't see homes or camps or hear any traffic. Perhaps it was just the day, but I also encountered very few riders on this portion of the trail.

After crossing the bridge the trail became more crowded. Closer to the river now, there is also homes and camps, as well as a gravel road running along the trail for access to them. This second section from the bridge to Fisherman's Cove did not feel as scenic as the first part had been, though the trail was still nice. Nearer to the Fisherman's Cove endpoint and after the gravel road ends, the trail becomes very scenic again. There is an old train car near the side of the trail which can be seen in many pictures here.

If your looking for a shorter ride I would definitely suggest the portion of trail between Belmar and Van, but you won't be disappointed if you choose to take on the whole thing.

Wildlife at your fingertips

What a superb pedaling experience. On my first excursion last year we spotted a river otter, many deer, a porcupine and many varieties of birds. Be sure to take a light for the tunnel or otherwise walk it.

Penn-Central Artifacts - Fisherman's Cove to Mays' Mill Tunnel

I always choose to do my artifact searches on the slower, uphill ride, hence my decision to start at this trail's west end. It's easy to get to, from the Old (2-lane) Route 8 overpass, just south of Franklin. Drop down under the bridge, and the dirt road IS the old New York Central railroad grade, east right and west left. Head east (under the Old 8 bridge) for 3 miles, and you will find the western trailhead. The railroad grade/road you travel on is a bit muddy and sloppy, but it is quite navigable. There is room for several cars at the little-used trailhead, at the road's 90-degree turn right off of the railroad grade. Just 0.4 miles from the trailhead, a classic monument to both former railroads running the banks of Allegheny here appears on your left. Up on the hill, to my amazement, was classic PENN-CENTRAL caboose #19257, in original green PC paint, and with all of its railroad markings completely intact! 19257 was built as a Pennsylvania Railroad N5 "cabin car", as this railroad called their trailing units, in January of 1927, and was rebuilt in May of 1961. Its latest maintenance work was performed in May of 1974. The unit no doubt ran on both the east-west "Central" here, and the north-south "Pennsy", on the opposite bank of the river. Quite a monument! 19257 and a defaced, horribly painted sister hack, closer down to trail level here, were used as hunting camps. Both "cabeese" are abandoned, but both are in fairly good condition. Further east, two domed, original New York Central concrete mileposts grace the trail. At the Belmar trailhead trail entrance, just west of the Allegheny River Bridge, looks for Mile Marker "A84/B51", and 0.9 miles east of the Allegheny River Bridge, look for milepost "A85/B50", both in pristeen condition. "A" stands for Andover, Ohio, at this line's western terminus, and "B" is for Brookville, PA, in the heart of Central Pennsylvania coal country. A coal conveyor is the highest status which this line came to achieve, as compared to the east-west New York-Chicago through route which Rockefeller and his NYC cronies had envisioned it to become. Connecting with the Central's New York-Chicago main line at Lyons in upstate New York to the east, and at Ashtabula in Northeast, Ohio, this east-west New York Central "Pennsylvania Division" line made a deep "stab" into the lucrative coal fields of Central Pennsylvania, and twisted its many branches into and around its arch rival Pennsy's lines over there like wild weed vines. Consider this as you observe the massive, high fills, deep rock cuts, huge steel deck girders, and the 967-foot Mays' Mill Tunnel, all outfitted for double-tracking which never came to materialize. The engineering here is absolutely marvelous, and it leads to one spectacular rail-trail. Fellow long-distance biker Billy Niesen from Alliquippa, who I met at the west end here, accompanied me on my ride. Billy told me that this was his favorite rail-trail, and I can easily see why. He and a friend once rode a track-car down the hill from Van to Polk after the line was abandoned, and he remembered seeing coal trains plying the route, observed from their hunting camp west of Belmar (That's Billy in the PC caboose window). One word of advice... Bring a headlight or a flashlight along for that tunnel. It gets real dark in the middle of the tunnel, and the annoying mid-floor reflectors do absolutely no good, they just feel like you are hitting something that you can't see. As one reviewer notes, hitting an upright bottle or can in there could be disastrous. (And sadly, there is lots of graffiti, philosophical outpourings, and hang-out remnants all over that east end!) But this is truly one outstanding trail! -Rich Ballash, Latrobe, PA 11-22-2012

Nice Ride

We rode this trail on a really hot July day. The shady trail went a long way toward making this a very comfortable ride. Several bridges, a black snake, a multitude of chipmunks, a few ground hogs, and nice views of the creek made this a very enjoyable ride. The pavement is in good condition, with just a couple of spots where the pavement buckles a bit along the edge--but plenty of room on the trail to move onto the 'non-bumpy' part. A few benches along the route; but no other facilities at beginning/end/in between. All in all, a very nice 26 mile jaunt.

One of my favorite rides

My wife and I have hiked and biked this trail many many times, March through November. Every time we go it seems that we always find something new to enjoy be it the flora, the fauna or the seasonal changes in the scenery. Unquestionably, our favorite part of the trail is the section between Rockland Road and the Belmar Bridge. There are five stream crossings on high trestles in this stretch with picture perfect views of classic Pennsylvania fly fishing waters... particularly stunning when the fall colors paint the hillsides with a mix of pines, primarily Eastern Hemlock. Be sure to bring your camera. A short tunnel adds a little fun and provides a very welcome place to chill during the heat of summer. If a lunch break or a splash in the creek is in your plan, approximately 1/4 mile west of the Rockland Road parking lot is a side trail (dirt) that leads over to a big swimming hole used by the locals throughout the summer. Look for a blue arrow spray painted on the edge of the asphalt. We've seen folks camping here quite a bit. Despite some graffiti and trash left behind it's still a beautiful spot. East of the Rockland Road parking area to Van and west of the Belmar Bridge are nice stretches as well but it's kind of like a sandwich... the good stuff is in the middle.

The Sandy Creek Trail connects with the Allegheny River/Justis Trail which greatly adds to the possibilities if you care to make an entire day of it... especially if cycling with friends and shuttling. A ride upstream along the Allegheny will take you to the lovely town of Franklin filled with victorian homes and variety of dining and shopping options. Downstream along the Allegheny leads into the quaint little town of Emlenton with a few small eateries and a nicely stocked IGA supermarket with prepared food.

Great Trail, Lacks Toilets

My wife and I have ridden this trail a few times, most recently in October 2011. The trail surface is great. The scenery is good to great. The trailheads at each end are a bit hard to find. Get detailed directions from the trails web site

The one shortcoming, and the reason I give the trail only 4 stars, is a total lack of toilets. It's also a bit remote from other public toilets, such as at gas stations, fast food restaurants, etc. Plan ahead a bit. Cut off your coffee consumption well in advance. Locate and visit a public toilet on your way to the trail. You will be happy you did.

A perfect trail

My wife and I rode most of this trail Sept 9 2011. We parked just across the river from Franklin and rode 5 miles down to Sandy Creek. Yes, we did have to push the bikes up the stairs at the Belmar bridge but it was well worth it! I loved the Sandy Creek trail as soon as we started. Very isolated, no other traffic and no road crossings. It is slightly uphill heading away from the river but not a big deal. I enjoyed and my wife hated going through our first tunnel on bicycles. You ride high above Sandy Creek and cross on bridges often with great views. I found nothing negative to this trip. Round trip from Franklin was 21 miles.

Sandy Creek Trail Eastern Entrance

This is a great trail but the eastern entrance is not well marked and difficult to find. It is worth finding. From old route 8 at the bottom of the hill where a high bridge crosses Sandy Creek you will see a sign for a bible camp. Enter there then take a right on a dirt road following the signs to Fisherman's cove. Trail head is almost 3 miles in just where the dirt road turns right up a steep hill.

Sandy Creek Trail

Rode the bike for the first time on this trail yesterday. There is access on both sides of the Allegheny river with most of the trail being paved. The trail has a little bit of everything to see. In the short distance, has many bridges with scenic views, one was an old covered bridge. I was impressed on how they made the tunnel clean and safe to ride through. I also did a little Geocaching along the trail too.

Must Ride Trail

My wife and I rode this trail on 4/15/2011 and have to say that of all the trails we have been on this is number 1.
I base this on the incredible scenery,the numerous bridges and the reconstructed train tunnel.
The only thing I would do different is next time I would start at Belmar and no fisherman's cove.There is not much to look at starting from the cove to Belmar,all the beauty is from Belmar to Van and if you just want a short incredible ride just go from Belmar toward Van and turn around about the 6 mile marker because you have seen the best there is up to this point.
If you want a long ride start at the cove and ride to van,(this is what we did) and well worth it.
We are looking for a way to kayak the creek sometime this summer,just not sure where to put in and take out.
Ride this trail,you won't be dissapointed!
The only con is that there are no portajohn's on the trail and no picnic tables or benches at Van which would be nice after a 12 mile ride to take a break.

Trails for Trikes: Sandy Creek Trail

We ride trikes, so our preferences and requirements for suitable trails are slightly different than those for two wheelers. That said, I can't imagine a better trail for the use of any type of wheels. Being paved, it's perfect for trikes. There are spots that are rippled like a wash board but HEY, it's paved, who cares. Riding through the Allegheny Forest, the scenery is spectacular and never-ending. We criss-crossed Sandy Creek for miles. Bridges are always fun but crossing the Allegheny River on a high bridge was thrilling. There are picnic tables and benches along the trail, but only one restroom, so be prepared. This trail has one short tunnel that has been resurfaced with concrete which brightens it enough to pass through without lights. However, you should be prepared and use lights because the same kind of people who paint the graffiti on the walls also leave soda cans standing upright on the path. I didn't turn my 'too bright' light on and hit one with my trike which made me glad I had three wheels. A two wheel biker may have lost his balance. The only trike specific problem we had was getting through the gates. Our trikes are almost 33" wide and some of the gates, I'd say, were only 34" wide so it was a really tight squeeze. We loved this ride and recommend it to everyone! It's a long trip for us to get here but well worth it and we'll be back.

Great trail

In April of 2010 we rode this trail. It happened to be Earth Day. There were several groups of people on the trail cleaning up. It is a well maintained trail that connects to the Allegheny trail. We parked at the Rockland Rd. lot and it was easily accessible for an RV. It was mostly down hill to the Allegheny. We decided to ride the Allegheny trail for a short distance... we had walk our bikes down (and consequently back up) a stairwell with a "bike rail" to get to the Allegheny trail. Beautiful scenery and I bet in the fall it is a very busy trail.

New Information

To expand upon Brian's post below - the trail extension he spoke of down the west side of the Allegheny River has been completed for nearly a year. It follows the river for a distance of 5 miles to a secluded PA Fish Commission boat launch known as 'Fisherman's Cove'. This trailhead can be accessed from the south by traveling OLD Route 8 (that is the two lane highway, not the four lane) to Fisherman's Cove Road. The entire trail from Fisherman's Cove to the Van trailhead is 13 miles.

Also, the trail extension he spoke of on the Allegheny River Trail is complete. You can now ride right in to downtown Emlenton.

Photos of both these trails are on my website -

Nice paved trail.

"This trail is a nice one, it's paved unlike most Rail Trails, so riding is really easy. It's a shallow downhill decent (almost level) from the trailhead in Van down to the Belmar bridge at the trail's end.

Along the way there are several bridges you pass over which gives a nice view of the creek below, and a short tunnel you pass through...the tunnel has bridges on either end leading up to it.

The trail is very secluded, and away from pretty much everything. The trailhead in Van is basically just a gravel/dirt parking lot with no restroom facilities. The Van trailhead is up a short gravel road in Van, just off Route 322, there's a sign along the road for it, but if you blink you'll miss it. Since the trail is secluded you'll need to bring food and water along with you if you need it. There is a portajohn at the Tailhead parking lot just across the big bridge in Belmar, but that's it as far as facilities goes.

When I was on the trail on 7/27/06 they were working on paving a new trail extension from Belmar that went along the West bank of the Allegheny River, though I'm not sure of what the completed length of this section will be. They were also working on paving a section of the Allegheny River Trail, South below the Rockland Tunnel. When I was there that day they had it paved up to a point about 3 miles North of the old Quaker State refinery in Emlenton.


tunnel closed

Its a great trail to ride but
was closed.The tunnel is being
repaired it will open some time in august.

Trail Closure

"Just a heads up that this trail (A.K.A. Sandy Creek Trail) is closed heading west at a point 5 miles west of the Van access point. There is no explanation other than the ""Trail Closed"" sign on the barricade. Also note that there is a road closed sign on Tarklin Rd. at the Van access point but the road is open to the trail access point."

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