Now that the warmer weather seems to have taken hold, outdoor enthusiasts are ready to hit streets, sidewalks and trails with their bicycles. We’re not talking daredevil mountain biking, but trails that families can travel at their own pace and distance.
One of the longest trails, the Great Allegheny Passage, cuts across the entire region, eventually connecting at Cumberland, Md., with the C&O Canal trail and heading to Washington, D.C.
There are plenty of other rural trails to tackle in Western Pennsylvania, or you can plan an urban ride in Pittsburgh. The city is still establishing a reputation as a biker metropolis, ranking second to Detroit with the number of new bike commuters since 2000, according to the League of American Bicyclists.
Pittsburgh’s bike share system, which made 50 stations and 500 bikes available in 2015, and street infrastructure helped it rank 20th among the top 50 Biking Cities of 2016, according to Bicycling magazine.
If you’re ready to hit the trails, here are just some of the places in Western Pennsylvania to explore.
Great Allegheny Passage
The 150-mile trail stretches from Point State Park in Downtown Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Md.
“It’s probably the most popular bike trail in the region,” says Mike Carroll, event director for Bike Pittsburgh, a Lawrenceville-based nonprofit that advocates safer streets for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Users can take the trail into Oakland and continue to Homestead. It’s great for day trips to scenic areas, such as Ohiopyle State Park in Fayette County, Carroll says.
Most people who bike the Great Allegheny Passage from Pittsburgh to Maryland take five to seven days to do so, and stop for the night on the way, he says. There are camping sites and bed and breakfasts in “every little town” along the route, he said.
The Yough River Trail is the part of the Great Allegheny Passage from McKeesport to Confluence. In Westmoreland County, riders can easily access the trail at Cedar Creek Park in Rostraver and in West Newton. A new place to stay, the Cobblestone Hotel and Suites, opened earlier this year just a short walk off the trail in Connellsville.
Westmoreland Heritage Trail
Officials broke ground in March on the third phase of the Westmoreland Heritage Trail. The newest section will be nearly 6 miles of trail from Murrysville to Trafford and is slated to be done in August. A welcome center and trailhead will be built in Murrysville.
Approximately 9 miles are already open from Saltsburg to Delmont. The trail has a wide, flat handicapped accessible surface and will accommodate everyone regardless of age or physical ability Murrysville council held a public hearing last week regarding development of the Roberts parcel, where a welcome center and a trailhead will be built.
The trail currently has four trailheads with parking areas, in Delmont, Slickville, another 2.5 miles east of Slickville and in Saltsburg.
The long-term goal is complete a 20-mile hiking and bicycling trail from Saltsburg to Trafford. Almost 9 miles of trail are completed and open: 5 miles from Saltsburg to Slickville, and 3.7 miles from Slickville to Delmont.
West Penn Trail
The 17-mile West Penn Trail meets up with the Westmoreland Heritage Trail at Saltsburg, where you can get on and ride to the Conemaugh River at Newport Road in Blairsville.
The trail, which roughly follows the Conemaugh River in Indiana County, has both hills and grade changes, along with two sections of relatively flat rail-trail. The middle portions, Bow Ridge and Dick Mayer sections, are a challenging outing, while the rail-trail sections offer an even surface for a more relaxing experience. The trail also has several historic sign markers along the way.
Five Star Trail
In Greensburg, riders can hit the Five Star Trail from Lynch Field to Youngwood, which is just over 6 miles on a flat rail-trail. At Hillis Street in Youngwood, the trail branches off on the Sewickley Creek Trail to travel through the Westmoreland County Community College campus and continue to Armbrust.
Coal & Coke Trail
The 6-mile Coal & Coke Trail links Mt. Pleasant and Scottdale along Jacobs Creek past historic coke ovens.
It passes through the Westmoreland countryside and at times runs parallel to a still functioning railroad.
Penn Avenue Protected Bike Lane
This 1.3-mile route in downtown Pittsburgh is a buffered bike lane, which means it is designated for biking and has a physical bollard separating automobile and bike traffic.
“It’s one of the first protected lanes in the city of Pittsburgh,” Carroll says. The protected lane is a great option for people who wouldn’t otherwise feel comfortable biking among cars in the city, he said.
The Pittsburgh Parking Authority’s garages have free, sheltered bike racks for public use.
Bud Harris Cycling Track
Located in Highland Park along Washington Boulevard in Pittsburgh, the Bud Harris Cycling Track is a half-mile, oval route with banked corners. It’s a good place for experienced bikers to travel and children to learn to ride, Carroll says.
On Tuesday and Wednesday nights throughout the summer, the Allegheny Cycling Association holds fee-based adults’ and kids’ races.
“It’s a really a family-friendly location. A lot of Pittsburgh youth learn how to ride there,” Carroll says.
Three Rivers Heritage Trail
The 24-mile nonlinear Three Rivers Heritage Trail has segments on both banks of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers, and provides access to neighborhoods and business districts, according to Friends of the Riverfront, the South Side-based steward and developer of the trail.
The corridor “extends from the old Western Penitentiary site to Millvale on the Allegheny and the Glenwood Bridge on the Monongahela, starting at the fountain (at Point State Park),” says Bruce Woods, president of the Pittsburgh Major Taylor Cycling Club.
Pittsburgh and Allegheny County Parks
Pittsburgh’s parks, such as Schenley, Frick and Highland Park, have great cycling loops around them, Carroll says.
Also, Allegheny County’s parks, including North, South and Boyce, have large cycling communities, and county parks have dozens of miles of single-track mountain-biking, which is biking on off-road trails, he said.
“The North Park 5-mile lake loop is very popular for cyclists that are making the transition from trail riding to road riding with bike lanes. Half of the relatively flat loop is on a one-way park road with little traffic and the other half are on through-roads with reduced speed limits,” says Monica VanDieren, president of the Western PA Wheelmen, a cycling club.
Her club’s members also like to ride from North Park to northern suburbs, such as Bradford Woods, Franklin Park or Sewickley, she says. Cyclists can take breaks at many of the restaurants in Sewickley, VanDieren says.
The 36-mile-long Armstrong Trail is located on the former Allegheny Valley Railroad line along the eastern bank of the Allegheny River in Armstrong and Clarion counties in Western Pa. The trail has nine trailheads from Rosston to East Brady. There are several historical sites along the way, including the Phillipston Turntable & Train Yard, the Brady Tunnel and the remains of the town of Gray’s Eddy.
Montour Trail Airport Connector
The connector, which is part of the Great Allegheny Passage, is about 6.5 miles and uses public and airport roads to connect the Montour Trail to Pittsburgh International Airport.
“There’s something about riding your bike to the airport, then catching a plane that appeals to cyclists everywhere,” says Bruce Woods, president of the Pittsburgh Major Taylor Cycling Club.
To take the corridor to the airport, start near mile eight of the Montour Trail, near the Enfield Ballpark Trailhead. Leaving from the airport, take the trail from the end of the moving walkway in the extended-term parking lot.
The Montour Trail itself eventually will extend 47.4 miles from Coraopolis to Clairton. It currently has 45 completed miles with two gaps in South Park Township.
Tory Parrish, a staff writer for Upgruv.com, contributed to this report.