6 scenic bike trails to explore in Western Pennsylvania for the best views

Cyclists on the Great Allegheny Passage (Cleo Fogal/Creative Commons)

By Kalena Thomhave

May 11, 2023

Whether you want to ride out past the shores of Lake Erie or bike from Pittsburgh to Maryland, the western side of the state has trails that offer scenic views, good workouts, and history lessons for cyclists of any skill level.

Pennsylvania is a perfect example of how abandoned railroad tracks can be put to good use.

During the railroad industry’s peak, circa 1920, Pennsylvania had more than 11,000 miles of track across the state. More than 100 years later, hundreds of hiking and biking trails in the state are rail trails, recreational trails converted from abandoned rail lines.

These trails crisscross the state, offering scenic views, good workouts, and history lessons. Indeed, some of the best trails to bike in Western Pa. will take you on tours of the state’s steel and coal history while you enjoy the fresh air of nature.

We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite bike trails on the western side of the state, most of which are rail trails. Whether you’re looking for a trail around Pittsburgh, Erie, or somewhere in between, you’ll soon be itching to strap on your helmet and begin exploring the state on two wheels.

Great Allegheny Passage

The longest multi-use trail in the state, the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) offers unparalleled views of Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands via an easy ride on a relatively flat trail. Conquering the GAP does require a commitment, as the trail is 150 miles long, mostly following old rail lines from Point State Park in downtown Pittsburgh all the way to Cumberland, Md.

While the GAP is beautiful while riding, it also offers plenty of activities when cyclists take a break. Towns along the trail, like Ohiopyle and Connellsville, feature restaurants and lodging geared toward cyclists so they can spend some time exploring off the trail, making it easier to break up a multi-day trek. But you can easily take a day trip riding just part of the GAP, like the 20-mile section from Ohiopyle to Confluence, where you’ll see the rapids of the Youghiogheny River as well as the deepest gorge in Pennsylvania.

Pine Creek Rail Trail

A journey on this trail takes you through the beauty of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, officially called the Pine Creek Gorge. The path on the Pine Creek Rail Trail begins in Wellsboro and routes south to Lycoming County, with a slight grade downhill that’s barely detectable, making this an easy ride whether you’re riding north or south. The scenery is nothing short of spectacular as you’ll pass perfect views of Pine Creek, mountain vistas, and cool historic bridges.

To ride the whole length of the trail one way, you can park a second car at a lot at the end of the trail, or you can hire a bicycle shuttle service to transport you back to where you started.

Ghost Town Trail

True to its name, the Ghost Town Trail passes by the sites of a number of old mining towns. Some of these ghost towns left behind ruins, while for others, nothing remains but stories, and historical markers.

Like many trails in Pennsylvania, the trail follows the path of a former railroad, starting in Black Lick at Saylor Park in Indiana County and ending in Ebensburg in Cambria County. You can also add the 10-mile Cambria & Indiana extension to your route, making the trail roughly 46 miles.

Along the trail, you’ll see lovely views, like that of Blacklick Creek, and you’ll also have opportunities to soak up some history with sights of old railroad equipment. As you ride, make sure to visit Vintondale’s Eliza Furnace, one of the best-preserved iron furnaces in the state. Because the furnace is located at the midpoint of the Ghost Town Trail, it’s the perfect lunch stop!

Montour Trail

The Montour Trail winds through and away from the suburbs west of Pittsburgh, making this trail a great destination for anyone looking to leave the city for a bike ride. It’s another rail trail, having taken over the abandoned route through Washington and Allegheny counties that once belonged to the Montour Railroad. You’ll pass through tunnels and over viaducts, including the McDonald Viaduct, the trail’s longest bridge, spanning almost 1,000 feet across the treetops. And for those who’d like to continue their ride, the Montour Trail also connects to the Great Allegheny Passage.

Three Rivers Heritage Trail

The Three Rivers Heritage Trail is an urban rail trail in Pittsburgh that at varying points runs along all three rivers of the city: the Allegheny, Ohio, and Monongahela Rivers, often on both sides of the riverbank. An excellent way to get acquainted with Pittsburgh, the Three Rivers Heritage Trail winds its way from downtown through different city neighborhoods, such as the historic Strip District, lively South Side, and museum-filled North Side (which features Bicycle Heaven, a free museum and shop dedicated to the humble bicycle).

Karl Boyes Multi-Purpose Trail at Presque Isle State Park

This fully paved trail is the perfect activity for the entire family to explore Erie’s Presque Isle State Park, a peninsula that juts out into Lake Erie. The park is an ideal summer destination for Pennsylvanians looking to enjoy the “seashore,” given that Lake Erie is so large it may as well be a sea. Visitors to the multi-purpose trail can also swim in Presque Isle Bay, visit the Tom Ridge Environmental Center to learn more about the ecology of the park, and explore the city of Erie itself.

If you don’t have your own bicycle to tackle this trail, it’s easy to rent one inside the state park.

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CATEGORIES: NATURE | SPORTS | THINGS TO DO

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