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The Wilkes-Barre and Harveys Lake Railroad—the rail corridor that is now the Back Mountain Trail—was acquired from lumber magnate Albert Lewis by the Lehigh Valley Railroad in 1887. Lumber, ice, leather goods, and anthracite coal produced in the Endless Mountains and Susquehanna River Basin were transported to urban markets and steel mills well into the 1940s. The corridor fell into disuse in 1963.
In 1996 the Anthracite Scenic Trails Association, together with Luzerne County, began work to open the corridor to public use; a planned 14-mile route will eventually extend from Riverfront Park on the Susquehanna River in Wilkes-Barre to the town of Harveys Lake. Today this 5.6-mile rail-trail winds through scenic woodlands punctuated by a meandering creek, a lovely waterfall, and expanses of wildflowers. Although sections of the trail run close to the highway, they don’t compromise the feeling of escaping into nature.
The trail currently begins at the Luzerne Creek Walk, at Buckingham and Tener Streets behind the Luzerne Fire Department. Plans are in the works for a trail connector linking this section to a segment of the Luzerne County Levee Trail at Rutter Avenue south of SR 309; the connector remains closed for development at the time of this writing, however.
After traveling northwest on the Luzerne Creek Walk for 0.3 mile, you’ll meet and cross over Main Street just before it intersects Kelly Street. The trail continues along Parry Street and past a large parking lot to the Parry Street trailhead, where you’ll find parking and a trail kiosk. This is the best place to start your journey.
Note: The Luzerne Creek Walk is the only section of the larger Back Mountain Trail that is wheelchair accessible.
The trail winds northwest briefly through dense woods; it then curves south over a small bridge and past a picturesque waterfall before heading north again through Trucksville. Here you’ll find additional parking at Carverton Road and South Memorial Highway, as well as trail-access points at Post, Carverton, and Harris Hill Roads. At Carverton Road, you access the trail on a set of stairs south of the road near where it intersects South Memorial Highway.
Continuing north, the route takes a short detour in Shavertown on local roads. Turn right onto Division Street for 250 feet, left onto North Lehigh Street for 0.2 mile, left onto Vine Street for 0.1 mile, and then right onto Shaver Avenue, which becomes North Main Street once you pass East Center Street. After going 0.5 mile, turn right onto East Franklin Street for 225 feet, and then turn left back onto the main trail. The trail continues briefly through woods for another 0.4 mile to its northern terminus at Lower Demunds Road and Terrace Street in Dallas.
In 2016 a local landowner granted an easement—later expanded to a 13-acre donation—to the Anthracite Scenic Trails Association to create a 0.6-mile loop trail near the northern end of the Back Mountain Trail at Dorchester Drive and Lt. Michael Cleary Drive. The new trail boasts a crushed-stone surface as well as several boardwalk sections; its natural highlights include wetlands, woods, abundant wildlife, and a central pond. Future plans include connecting the two trail segments as part of the larger effort to extend the Back Mountain Trail to Harveys Lake.
To reach parking at the southern endpoint from I-81, take Exit 170B for SR 309 N toward Wilkes--Barre, and go 0.3 mile. Continue onto SR 309 N, and go 4.4 miles. Take Exit 6 toward Luzerne, go 0.3 mile, and then turn right at a signal at the end of the ramp onto Union St. Go 0.3 mile, and turn right at a signal onto Main St. Take an immediate left onto Parry St., and look for parking immediately to your right.
Additional on-street parking is available just farther north at the Parry St. trailhead. To reach the trailhead from Main St., turn left onto Parry St., and go 0.1 mile. As you approach the trailhead, look for parking along the street immediately to your right; you can access the trail straight ahead where Parry St. makes a hard right turn.
To reach parking at the northern loop section from I-81, take Exit 170B for SR 309 N toward Wilkes-Barre. Continue onto SR 309 N for 9.6 miles, and turn right onto Dorchester Dr. Take an immediate right onto Dorchester Dr. and another immediate right onto Lt. Michael Cleary Dr. Parking is in a cul-de-sac at the end of Lt. Michael Cleary Dr. Additional parking is available just less than 0.1 mile to your left along Lt. Michael Cleary Dr.
Note that the disconnected main Back Mountain Trail segment has no dedicated parking at its northern end.
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