A sampling of National Recreation Trails in the news or recently designated. The NRT program showcases the diversity of trails across America, from our cities and suburbs to the deserts, waterways, and high mountains.
Every kind of trail activity is represented in the listing of designated NRTs. Besides hiking and bicycling, the system includes water trails, motorized routes, snow tracks, greenways, and equestrian paths.
Search all of Pennsylvania's designated National Recreation Trails in the Online NRT Database
The 2007 extension of the Allegheny River Trail
on the west side of the River (photo by Mary Shaw)
Allegheny River Trail — Bordered by the river on one side and woodlands on the other, this 30-mile rail-trail is rich with wildlife, history, and scenic vistas. In addition to the beauty of its natural setting, this trail allows for a variety of recreational activities, including hiking, biking, camping, and horseback riding. The trail also provides connections to Venango County's larger trail network, intersecting with the Sandy Creek Trail and linking to the recently designated Samuel Justus National Recreation Trail (designated 2004).
Arrowhead Trail — The four-mile rail trail allows the residents of Peters Township to enjoy recreational opportunities as well as the natural beauty of the area. In addition to preserving native plants, the trail allows for recreational activities such as hiking, biking, and wildlife observation (designated 2003).
Blue Marsh Lake Multi-Use Trail — This 29-mile trail encircles the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Blue Marsh Lake project in Berks County. It is open for all non-powered uses, such as hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. The trail travels through various habitat types ranging from open fields in grass and other crops, to shrubby or brushy areas, to mature forest. The surface varies from mowed grass to compacted soil and gravel to abandoned roads. The trail varies from wide open spaces to winding single-track through the forest. It was constructed by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employees, local volunteers such as Scouting groups, local school classes, civic groups, and community service workers (designated 2011).
Cumberland Valley Rail Trail follows the old Cumberland Valley Railroad rail corridor for 9.5 miles, from Shippensburg to Newville, through the rich, rolling, picturesque farmlands of western Cumberland County in south-central Pennsylvania. Wooded stands of native trees shade much of this historically significant route. A grassy bridle path parallels the pedestrian path along the entire length (designated 2010).
Ernst Recreational Trail — This five-mile multi-use rail trail allows users to enjoy a wealth of natural treasures in the French Creek Valley, including a unique covered bridge. The trail meanders through a variety of settings and parallels Conneaut Marsh, which hosts bald eagles, migrating waterfowl, and the state's most biologically diverse body of water (designated 2003).
Ghost Town Trail — This limestone-surfaced rail trail spans 24 miles and gives visitors a glimpse back in time as it travels through several abandoned coal mining towns dating back to the early 11,000s. In addition to its wildlife, natural features, and human history interpretation, trail users enjoy activities such as hiking, biking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing (designated 2003).
Great Allegheny Passage - see photos of the trail — The main line of a trail system running from the C&O Canal Towpath at Cumberland, Maryland, to the Forks of the Ohio River at Pittsburgh, the trail will ultimately link Pittsburgh with Washington, D.C. on a near-level rail-trail through the Allegheny Mountains (designated 2001).
Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails — This 4-mile multi-use rail trail in Hazleton forms the core of a future metro area-wide trail system. It features scenic views, rare plant communities, picnic areas, and interpretive signs. Numerous partners have provided park benches, bike racks, exercise stations, and flower beds (designated 2009).
Heritage Rail Trail County Park — Traversing York County to the Maryland border, this 19-mile multi-use trail provides an integral link in a statewide trails system and epitomizes the concept of a close-to-home trail experience, but has regional, State, and national significance as well (designated 2008).
The Houtzdale Line Trail is in Clearfield County
(photo by Mary Shaw)
Houtzdale Line Trail — This 10-mile rail trail extends through the rolling meadows and mountains of the Moshannon Valley. The rail line dates back to the late 1800s, and trail users can visit many of the trail's historic features as well as enjoy the area's wildlife, wetlands and even waterfalls. In addition to its natural features, the trail provides recreational opportunities such as mountain biking, horseback riding, and fishing (designated 2003).
Lebanon Valley Rail-Trail — Located across 3 counties, this 12-mile rail-trail serves as a key community connector, linking to area parks, trails, historic sites, and schools (which use the trail for cross-country training). The trail serves a wide range of users, including hikers, bikers, skiers, equestrians, wildlife enthusiasts, and snowmobilers. This commendable trail is the result of a unique partnership between Lebanon Valley Rails-to-Trails, Inc., and State, county, and local agencies (designated 2004).
Luzerne County Rail Trail — This 13-mile rail trail offers residents a host of recreational opportunities and will eventually connect to a larger trail network in New York State. Trail users enjoy outdoor activities such as biking, fishing, hiking, and wildlife observation (designated 2003).
Mason-Dixon Trail — This 30-mile section of the 193-mile Mason-Dixon Trail is a hiking trail that follows the lower Susquehanna River from Wrightsville to the Norman Wood Bridge. There are beautiful views, deep ravines with waterfalls, and several big climbs and descents to where streams have carved out canyons in the river hills (designated 2010).
Montour Trail — Located near Pittsburgh, this approximately 30-mile multi-use rail-trail system will ultimately extend 47 miles from Coraopolis to Clairton. The trail takes users through a variety of settings, from urban and suburban areas to picturesque undeveloped landscapes. The trail's smooth limestone surface makes it ideal for non-motorized uses, including biking, jogging, and cross-country skiing (designated 2004).
Peters Creek section of the Montour Trail
(photo by Mary Shaw)
Oil Creek State Park Multi-Use Trail — Located within a 2-hour drive of Pittsburgh, this multi-use trail extends more than 9 miles through the heart of Pennsylvania's Oil Heritage Region in Oil Creek State Park. With access to the oldest producing oil well in the world, interpretive signage tells the story of years of drilling and fires in Oil Creek Valley; but the park also tells the story of environmental recovery. The goal is to eventually connect to the Samuel Justus NRT and provide a 40-mile accessible trail network. In addition to its scenic features, trail users enjoy outdoor activities such as biking, fishing, and cross country skiing. With the efforts of a diverse partnership, this area is now considered an emerald jewel of the state's park system (designated 2005).
Pittsburgh to Harrisburg Main Line Canal Greenway - The following six sections were designated in 2009.
Susquehanna River Water Trail – North Branch Section – Paddlers along the 181 miles of the North Branch of the Susquehanna River enjoy mountain views, river towns, remnant structures, as well as birds and other wildlife, fish, and camping at 17 river campsites (designated 2009).
Belmar Bridge on the Sandy Creek Trail
(photo by Mary Shaw)
Samuel Justus Trail — The eight mile rail trail offers visitors easily accessible scenic views of the Allegheny River. The trail draws walkers and bikers from nearby cities and states, who come to enjoy the natural and cultural resources of this region. Native American carvings dating back to 1200 AD, the spectacular Belmar Bridge built in 1907, and the Kennerdell Tunnel are just some of the features that make this trail system unique (designated 2003).
Sandy Creek Trail — This 19-mile scenic rail-trail winds through a pristine area of Venango County, with abundant wildlife (such as bald eagles) and native vegetation. Following the trail, visitors pass through a tunnel and along several bridges, including the spectacular Belmar Bridge, which provide unobstructed views of Penns Woods, the Allegheny River, and Sandy Creek. In addition to its natural beauty, this trail allows for a variety of recreational activities, including mountain biking, hiking, ice skating, and horseback riding (designated 2004).
Schuylkill River Water Trail — This 142-mile water trail provides recreational opportunities throughout five counties along the historic Schuylkill River. It is home to many natural features including scenic vistas, waterfalls, and wetland areas. In addition to these natural features, the trail also provides recreation for people who enjoy activities like camping and kayaking. As part of the Schuylkill River National Heritage Area and Pennsylvania Heritage Corridor, this trail is an example of what can be achieved through a successful partnership (designated 2002).
Schuylkill Trail at Schuylkill Banks — Located on the east side of the Schuylkill River, this increasingly popular 1.2-mile urban trail and greenway accommodates bicyclists, runners, and in-line skaters and provides access to a section of the river that had been inaccessible for over 100 years (designated 2007).
Susquehanna River Water Trail — Middle and Lower Sections – Flowing from Sunbury to the Maryland border, this 103-mile segment offers paddlers an exciting array of experiences, from observing great blue herons to learning about the Underground Railroad (designated 2008).
Susquehanna River Water Trail – West Branch — Starting as a narrow stream near Cherry Tree in the Allegheny Mountains, the West Branch of the Susquehanna River falls 228 miles through dense forests, rolling farmland, and historic towns to its confluence with the North Branch in Northumberland. The trail passes through Pennsylvania’s Lumber Heritage Region where paddlers enjoy the benefits of decades of forest conservation: mile after mile of mountains and valleys, deer, bear, elk, and birds in abundance, yet all within a six-hour drive of 50 million people. The trail also traverses part of the “Pennsylvania Wilds,” a region of natural beauty, charming towns, and the largest elk herd in the Northeast. Paddling along the large remote stretches of the forested upper West Branch evokes the landscape as Native Americans may have seen it (designated 2011).
Three Rivers Heritage Trail is an urban rail-trail paralleling the riverbanks in the Pittsburgh area for about 21 miles, often on both sides of the rivers. The trail is part of the Great Allegheny Passage, the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail, and the Pittsburgh to Erie Mainline Canal and Greenway. It offers spectacular views of the city. Recent surveys indicate diverse use of the trail for recreation and commuting purposes (designated 2010).
Three Rivers Water Trail is a series of public non-motorized access points within the 90 riverfront municipalities of Allegheny County. It is an urban water trail which follows the Three Rivers in the Pittsburgh area for about 75 miles. The trail extends to Sewickley on the Ohio River, Harrison on the Allegheny River, and Elizabeth on the Monongahela River, and is easily accessed from the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. The Three Rivers Water Trail is part of the statewide water trail system, connecting to the Youghiogheny River Trail and the Kiski-Conemaugh River Water Trail (designated 2010).
Youghiogheny River Trail follows Youghiogheny River banks in the Ohiopyle State Park. The trail features scenic views of the river, cascading feeder streams, maturing deciduous forests.