The Ghost Town Trail, a National Recreation Trail, is a ride through the forests and farmland along Blacklick Creek in Pennsylvania's southeastern Allegheny region. Mountain bike your way through deserted coal and iron mining towns, that once thrived along the routes of the former Ebensburg & Blacklick and the Cambria & Indiana rail line. Interpretive markers all along this 34-mile long designated Pennsylvania National Recreation Trail tell the story of Blacklick Valley’s rich, early industrial era and highlight the many historic sites and interesting features you'll find near or adjacent to the trail which include several ghost towns, natural areas, Pennsylvania State Gamelands, the Eliza Furnace National Register Historic Site and the Buena Vista Furnace.
The relatively flat, well-maintained Ghost Town Trail has a fine crushed limestone surface, providing a fun, easy ride for cyclists of all ages. It is also ideal for an eye-opening educational family bike ride. While the The western 10 miles is quite flat, bicyclists will encounter slight uphill grades in some sections, the most notable being a 3% to 4% grade on the Vintondale to Twin Rocks portion of the trail.
A one mile “missing link” just to the west of Dilltown was completed in 2009 with the construction of two pedestrian bridges similar to the existing Red Mill Bridge on the Rexis Branch of the Ghost Town Trail. The new bridges, the 224-ft long Amerford Bridge and the 125-ft Scot Glen Bridge were named for former mining towns. The rail-trail now runs for 36 miles providing a continuous National Recreation corridor from Saylor Park (Black Lick) to Edensburg, PA.
From there, the Ghost Town Trail travels 12 miles east to Nanty Glo and another 8 miles to the eastern terminus at Ebensburg. The Rexis Branch of the trail extends northwards along the north branch of Blacklick Creek to White Mill Station off Route 422 and adds an additional 4 miles (one way) to your ride.
Services and parking can be found at Trailheads along the Ghost Town Trail at Blacklick, Heshbon, Dilltown, Wehrum, Vintondale, Nanty Glo and Ebensburg. Dilltown at the junction with the Hoodleburg Trail at the western end of the trail and Vintondale at the midpoint near the Eliza Furnace and the Rexis Branch trail junction are both popular access points with ample parking, restrooms, picnic facilities, bike rentals and water.
The surrounding landscape bears stark witnesses to the past. From the western terminus at Saylor Park it's about a 12 mile bike ride to Dilltown. Between Dilltown and Vintondale the creek runs bright red due to acid drainage from the coal mines. At several points you will exit the cool green forested surroundings and experience an “ecological disaster area”, a legacy of the mining era. About one-half mile east of Dilltown, the Ghost Town Trail bisects the Blacklick Valley Natural Area, which offers excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. Look for deer, wild Turkey ,and song birds are most common sightings along the trail.
After Vintondale the trail continue east, begins a long gradual climb up to the town of Nanty Glo. Leaving the scarred terrain behind, the forest becomes denser and the stream now flows clear punctuated by swirling rapids and waterfalls. You can take a break at Nanty Glo for lunch (eateries in town) before the return trip…downhill!
The Ghost Town Trail follows the route of the former Ebensburg & Blacklick RR. The Rexis Branch follows the route of the Cambria & Indiana RR. The name of the trail derives from the numerous mining towns, abandoned during the 1930s, that existed along the rail corridor.
The Ghost Towns: The largest town, Wehrum, was developed by Warren Delano, the uncle of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Other towns included Bracken, Armerford, Lackawanna #3, Scott Glenn, Webster, Beulah and Claghorn. Few remnants remain and most of the former towns are now on private property.
Eliza Furnace: The furnace, also known as Ritter's Furnace is located at the midpoint of the Ghost Town Trail. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It operated from 1846-1849 and and is one of the best-preserved hot blast furnaces in Pennsylvania. At peak production the furnace employed over 90 people. These furnaces helped to bring the Industrial Revolution to the Blacklick Valley. This site also features a trailside picnic area with rest rooms and an interpretive exhibit area.
Nearby Outdoor Recreation Opportunities:
Hoodleburg Trail: The Ghost Town Trail connects with the 10 mile Hoodlebug Trail, a non-motorized recreation and commuter trail, at the western terminus in Saylor Park. “Hoodlebug” refers to the self-propelled passenger coach that ran on the line until 1940.
Blacklick Valley Natural Area: .5 mile east of Dilltown, preserves an area of natural habitats, wildlife and songbirds with six miles of hiking and cross-country skiing trails.
The Buttermilk Falls Natural Area: 6 miles southwest of Dilltown, features an impressive
Cambria County Conservation & Recreation Authority