Explore West Penn Trail
This beautiful multi-use trail, which is entirely volunteer maintained, utilizes old sections of the Pennsylvania Railroad to provide users with a unique 17-mile route from near Blairsville to Historic Saltsburg. Both tranquil and rich with history, the trail passes through backwoods and over four spectacular stone-arch bridges (built in 1907) revealing views of the Pennsylvania Mainline Canal, which operated in here mid-1800’s.
Did you know?
The West Penn Trail is recognized as a National Recreation Trail, is part of the TransAllegheny Trail System, and is an important link on the Pittsburgh-to-Harrisburg Main Line Canal Greenway.
The West Penn Trail offers a unique hiking and biking experience, with several miles of hills and grade changes, sandwiched by two sections of rail-trail. The middle portions, Bow Ridge and Dick Mayer, are fit for those seeking a more challenging outing, while the rail-trail sections offer nearly flat surface for a more relaxing experience.
This section extends from Newport Road (approximately 2 miles outside of downtown Blairsville), across the Q-Span Pedestrian Bridge and, ultimately, to the Bow Ridge Tunnel and Switchback Sections of West Penn Trail. You will follow a portion of the old Pennsylvania Railroad line that operated along the corridor in the early 1900’s. This section passes over four stone arch bridges, which offer unique views of the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal, dating back to the mid-1800’s.
All trail users are advised that the Conemaugh River Lake Section is subject to periodic flooding. Water levels can rise quickly. Please, always use caution when using the trail.
The Bow Ridge Switchback is located at the entrance of an old railroad tunnel on the west end of the Conemaugh River Lake Section. The ascent up Bow Ridge may prove to be challenging. From the top of the ridge, the trail leads to a hydropower plant and continues past two closed tunnel entrances. The tunnel dates back to the 1800’s. The trail then crosses the bridge and proceeds downhill to Tunnelton Main Line Canal Park. Conemaugh River Lake Recreation Area is just up the hill and has ample parking. Enjoy picnic areas, a visitor center, nature trail, and playground.
Please note that all users of Bow Ridge must be able to negotiate a flight of stairs to access the beginning to the switchback. This steep grade is unsuitable for anyone riding a motorized or non-motorized devise while ascending or descending.
Dedicated in the Spring of 2007, this trail link between the Conemaugh River Lake and Saltsburg Sections was named in honor of former CVC President Dick Mayer. The grade along this section can be challenging, but the trail is not a single track so it’s easier to navigate than a typical mountain bike trail.
This portion of West Penn Trail spans from the Dick Mayer Section into Historic Saltsburg. This mostly flat section of trail passes through beautiful backwoods, revealing visible remnants of the canal and railroad as hugs the Conemaugh River.
From the Saltsburg Trailhead, the trail extends through Historic Saltsburg, along the path of the canal. The trail continues through Canal Park and crosses Market Street, Point Street, and finally Washington to connect to the Kiski Section Trailhead (across from River Hall/SVFD). An alternate route, allowing for fast and safe passage under the Route 286 bridge is accessible by turning left onto Point Street at Saltsburg Kayak & Canoe Outfitters. From there, the trail proceeds past the River’s Edge Stage and under the bridge to the Kiski Section.
After passing under the Route 286 bridge, the trail proceeds downriver, along the Kiskiminetas. A trail bridge built over Blackleggs Creek was dedicated in honor of CVC Trail Engineer, Jack Maguire. The trail currently ends 1-mile beyond the bridge. Future plans for development will extend West Penn Trail into Avonmore.
What’s Next for West Penn Trail?
CVC continues to work with our partners at the Roaring Run Watershed Association to link the West Penn Trail to the Roaring Run Trail and Recreation Area. This project will extend the trail through Avonmore, then north to Apollo. To our east, efforts are underway that will eventually connect the West Penn Trail with the Hoodlebug and Ghost Town Trails.
Discover the Heritage Tour
As you walk or ride along the West Penn Trail, look for our Heritage Tour Markers. There are over 50 sign markers designed to share the rich history and cultural treasures along the trail. Look for facts and photos about Historic Saltsburg, the Pennsylvania Railroad and the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal.
West Penn Trail Council
Get your hands dirty! To keep expenses at a minimum, the West Penn Trail Council oversees the operation and maintenance of the trail. They help CVC raise funds to cover the costs of routine trail maintenance and coordinate volunteers. If you enjoy the trail, please consider joining CVC, volunteering, or giving the gift of a small, monthly donation. Our annual maintenance goal is $5,000.
Trailheads & Parking
Enjoy any section of the trail, thanks to conveniently located trailheads and parking areas.
This trailhead is marked by a blue West Penn Trail sign. A small wooden fence and a line of mailboxes are to the left of the entrance. Please use caution and proceed slowly to the parking area, which is located at the end of a narrow access road.
When accessing the Livermore Trailhead, please use caution when approaching the active railroad crossing on Livermore Road. Parking is roadside.
The Conemaugh National Recreation Area has ample parking, as well as restrooms, a playground, and picnic areas. There is access to the Dick Mayer and Bow Ridge Sections.
There is ample parking at the Saltsburg Playground, as well as easy access to the trail from street parking throughout Saltsburg. Take a ride on the Saltsburg or Kiski Sections from here, and enjoy access to our sister trail, The Westmoreland Heritage Trail.
The Kiski Trailhead lot is located directly across the street from the SVFD River Hall.
Access driving directions to each location by clicking on our Trailheads and Parking descriptions.
Hours of Operation
West Penn Trail is open to the public daily from dawn to dusk. Plan your ride or walk to allow enough time to reach your vehicle before dusk, as many parking areas are not lit and/or may close at dusk.
To accommodate those with physical impairments, CVC and the West Penn Trail permits the use electric powered bikes and trikes. Please review our policy. Vehicles powered by gasoline are strictly prohibited.
Pennsylvania law requires that all children under 12, operating vehicles of any kind, must wear a helmet. CVC and West Penn Trail Council strongly encourage all trail visitors using motorized and non-motorized devises to wear a helmet.
“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” – John Muir
The Race is On!
Saturday, October 12, 2019: Join CVC for the 7th Annual West Penn Trail Triathlon! Challenge yourself in an adventure race like no other, as you kayak, bike, and run your way through beautiful, Historic Saltsburg.
Join Our Annual River Sojourn!
June 6-9, 2019: Make friends and connect with Nature on this epic four-day river adventure. We’ll paddle 44-miles from Johnstown to Apollo, through the deep ravines and river gorges of the Kiski-Conemaugh River Valley, camping as we go. Make it a weekend or join us for the day of your choosing.