A Stretch on the Armstrong

Just a quick post on the Armstrong Trail today, probably of interest mostly to western Pennsylvanians. This was where Susan and I just spent a happy Saturday, checking on what’s accessible in the spring of 2017. Like almost all other rail trails, efforts are being made to expand the trail along more disused rail line all the time and so it’s worth checking back now and then to find some new mileage.

The Armstrong Trail parallels the Allegheny River atop the old rail line, running at a constant one or two percent grade. It’s as easy as trails get. And so, it offers a fabulous opportunity for long-distance biking. The Armstrong offers over 30 miles currently but connects to a few other trails, offering more than 60 miles in aggregate. One day the connection will probably be made from the town of Catfish to the town of Parker, PA, linking the Armstrong to many, many more miles of existing rail trails.

Currently, the nearest location to Pittsburgh to access the Armstrong is at the confluence of Crooked Creek and the Allegheny. I can tell you, from today’s experience, that even when the river’s near flood stage, none of the trail’s inundated. The rail right-of-way to the south of Crooked Creek, all the way to Pittsburgh, still has rails on it and I believe it’s being used by a scenic tourist railroad (the Kiski Junction RR) who jealously guards their several miles of track. It’s a difficult situation because KJ RR still hauls fuel and freight for the vestige of manufacturing that remains viable

in the area but in so doing, block a key link in a very long trail system. Is it too far-fetched to think that the rail trail and an active line could co-exist side-by-side?

And furthermore, there’s a less flat hiking option right in the same neighborhood. The old Baker Trail begins near the town of Freeport and winds up and down through the hills above the southern end of the Armstrong Trail. I’d guess that few people even know that it’s up there or even recognize the yellow blazes as trail guides. The Baker is a different sort of trail, running more than 50 miles along seldom-seen dirt and asphalt byways north to the Clarion River area.

And if there’s any point to be made here, it’s that the trail miles available in western Pennsylvania right now are beyond comprehension. I’ve just spent yet another day on never-before seen trail after 17 years in the state. Have you seen all of the trails yet?

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