Pennsylvania’s Pine Creek Rail Trail is a 62-mile trail where you ride through the Pine Creek Gorge, also known as Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon. Built on the former Jersey Shore, Pine Creek and Buffalo Railroad the trail runs through Tioga and Lycoming Counties. It begins north of Wellsboro and ends in Jersey Shore. Its located in the Appalachian Mountains in the area called the PA Wilds.
Voted the best rail trail by USA Today in 2001, this trail offers stunning scenery as you ride on a nearly level crushed limestone surface with only a 2% grade. Running through the Tioga State Forest and Tiadaghton State Forest makes for a peaceful ride passing beautiful waterfalls and mountains along the way.
This trail is multi-use so you can bike, hike, horseback ride (limited areas) or cross country ski. The trail runs parallel to Route 6 from Wellsboro Junction to the Ansonia Access Area then goes through the Pine Creek Gorge and then parallels Route 414. There are many things to see along the way and after the gorge area, there are towns and restaurants to visit.
History of the Pine Creek Rail Trail
In the early 1800s, white pine and hemlocks trees filled this area however heavy logging took place and the railroad was built to transport the wood. This line was also used for the coal industry. By the early 1900s, the area was almost completely cut down and industrial companies left leaving the railroad unused. The forest grew back with mostly hardwoods and the logging roads turned into today’s hiking trails. The railroad was turned into the treasure bike trail, with the first section opening in 1997, that we know today.
We took this trail from Darling Run Access Area to Blackwell Access Area (16 miles)and what a beautiful ride it was. We rode along Pine Creek and stopped and hiked up (steps made it easier but it was steep) to the falls in Leonard State Park on the Turkey Path Trail. We also stopped at the Tiadaghton Campground for a picnic lunch. This area has composting toilets. There was also a working water pump however the water is dirty and not tested so I wouldn’t recommend drinking it.
You are surrounded by abundant wildlife in this area including deer, bald eagles, coyote, black bear and all types of birds so make sure to be on the lookout for them. There is nothing that makes a trip more spectacular than seeing wildlife in their own surrounding.
Areas along the way
The beginning of the trail, this section is 7.7 miles. The town of Wellsboro has many accommodations and restaurants for your stay in the area. Pine Creek Outfitters offers shuttle service and bike rentals so you can bike the sections of the trail that you want. Visit their website at http://www.pinecrk.com/ for more detailed information. One interesting service that they offer is that they will leave your car at the access center of your choice so you are not on a time schedule.
Ansonia Access Area
Horseback riding is allowed from Asonia to Tiadaghton Campground. Horses are not allowed on the limestone gravel but there is a dirt area adjacent to the trail for horses. However that day we were there we didn’t see any horses on the trail.
Darling Run Access area
Pine Creek Gorge, also known as the PA Grand Canyon, is the most popular area to begin the trail. There is a parking area, restrooms, and information about the trail at this location. From this point its 16 miles to Blackwell. Your ride is parallel to Pine Creek through the gorge with stunning scenery. You can stop along the way at Turkey Path, a hiking trail ( 1 mile each way) that goes up to the Leonard Harrison State Park Observation deck for a fantastic view of the gorge.
7.7 miles past Darling Run is Tiadaghton Campground which has no road access and only used by people from the trail. It has numerous tables and outhouse restrooms. Not recommended for drinking, there is also a working water pump. It’s best to bring all the water you need with you. This is a beautiful spot to rest and take a break. You have another 8.3 miles to Blackwell. Enjoy your ride passing in this magnificent area with many small waterfalls along the way.
Blackwell access area
There is a parking area and a little general store where you can get food, drinks and homemade ice cream. There is a payphone where you can call for your shuttle pickup. (This is what we did since the campground Stony Fork Creek Campground where we were staying offered this service) If you continue on this trail the next area is 1.2 miles away.
Rattlesnake Rock access area
There is a large rock outcropping the river. It’s a great swimming area in the summer and tubing and canoeing is also available here. There is a parking area with restrooms. Rattlesnake Rock is a short walk from the parking area and it can get very crowded. There is access to the bike trail and also the mid-state hiking trail at this location.
Cedar Run Village
Cedar Run Village is on the western side of Pine Creek so you will have to cross over the bridge to get to the village. There are lodging and food for your convenience. There are cabins along the creek and also a beach area to take a drip in the creek. The Cedar Run General Store is a great place to stop and get some lunch or ice cream. There isn’t parking for you to go on the trail in this area.
Hillborn Fields Comfort Station
About 3 miles south of Cedar Run are restrooms right on the trail for your convenience.
Slate Run Village and Access Area
The small town of Slate Run has trail parking available. Wolf’s General Store has a gift shop and sells drinks and food. Go to Slate Run Tackle Shop for all your fly-fishing needs
Black Walnut Bottom Access Area
About 2 miles south of Slate Run is Black Walnut Bottom access area. There is parking for the rail trail and also canoe access to Pine Creek. There is also tent camping in this area but you need a permit.
Clark Farm/Utceter Station Access Area
There is parking for the bike trail as well as canoe access at this location. Seen often is a pair of nesting bald eagles in this area.
Ross Run Access Area
Here there is also parking for the bike trail and canoe and small boat access. This is where you would also park for the Bob Webber Hiking Trail.
There is no parking at this location but there are comfort stations here. The trail between Cammal Village and Dry Run Comfort stations (more restrooms along the trail) is 5.4 miles with a section fenced as it runs parallel to Route 414. You pass the village of Jersey Mills.
Waterville Village and Access Area
Here you cross a scenic railroad bridge over Little Pine Creek just where it becomes Pine Creek passing the town of Waterville Village where you can also get food if you’re hungry.
From Waterville, you have 4.3 miles to Bonnell Flats. There are comfort stations and a water pump ( I wouldn’t drink from it). It’s also the site of an old boy scout camp, Camp Kline that closed in the 1970s. The scenery in this area is beautiful as you are once again riding along Pine Creek.
Just over 3 miles you get to Torbert Bridge and another .6 miles to Torbert. Here there is parking and also canoe access.
In another 2.4 miles, you ride to the end of the trail in Jersey Shore, where there is a large parking lot and flushed restrooms. Jersey Shore is a “large” town in the area and offers food and lodging.
There are many places to camp in the area including Hoffman Campground, Tiadaghton Campground (tent only and no road access), Stony Fork Campground, Pettecote Junction Campground, Happy Acres Resort, and Canyon Country Campground to name a few. There are also bed and breakfasts and motel accommodations close to the trail. For more information on lodging visit https://www.tripadvisor.com/SmartDeals-g53942-Wellsboro_Pennsylvania-Hotel-Deals.html.
There is little to NO cellphone service through the trail but are several phone booths where you can make a call if needed
Camping permits for Tiadaghton, Hoffman and Black Walnut Bottom can be gotten at the Tiadaghton State Forest Management Center at (570) 753-5409.