Surrounded by 165,000 acres of the Tioga State Forest in the Susquehanna Valley Region of Pennsylvania, the 64-mile-long Pine Creek Trail runs north–south along an abandoned railbed on the floor of the Pine Creek Gorge along Pine Creek for most of its length. Aptly named the “Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania”, it received a National Natural Landmark designation in 1968 and is considered one of the top ten outdoor recreation destinations in the Mid-Atlantic States during all seasons, especially during the fall foliage months (September to October) and early spring (April to May) when the waterfalls are at their best.
The multi-use Pine Creek Trail extends from the Wellsboro Junction (Rt 6 and Rt 287) in Tioga County to north of Jersey Shore in Lycoming County, PA. It travels through a diverse landscape of wetlands, farm fields, historic villages and the spectacular wilderness areas of the Pine Creek Valley which include the "Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania", state forests and parks. The well-maintained, flat trail with a 2% grade over most of its entire length and firm riding surface of crushed limestone makes this an exceptional recreational bike tour for bicyclists of all ages and abilities and the perfect weekend get-away for East Coast denizens. Benches, picnic tables and comfort stations are available all along the trail.
While mountain biking along the Pine Creek Gorge Rail Trail, you are treated to views of waterfalls cascading down sheer canyon walls and over dramatic rock outcroppings. Thousand foot slopes carved by the Pine Creek and glacial action over a period of 350 million years into layered terraces of sandstone and shale are blanketed by forests of old growth hemlock, deciduous hardwood trees including maples, red oak, hickory and native red pine. Besides the beautiful scenery, there is plenty of opportunity for wildlife viewing. Animal species include bald eagles, osprey, bobcat, wild turkey, herons, hawks, black bear, coyote, deer and river otter
The rail trail, although predominantly used by bicyclists, is also a big attraction for hikers and in winter, cross country skiers. Horseback riding is permitted, but only on the dirt access road immediately beside the Pine Creek Trail, for a nine-mile stretch at the northern end of the park from Ansonia to Tiadaghtonon (see Pine Creek Trail Access below).
Ansonia To Blackwell: (Rattlesnake Rock)
There are many bike ride options along the entire 64 mile length of the Pine Creek Rail Trail, each offering a unique perspective of Pennsylvania's Pine Creek Gorge, the surrounding countryside, and taste of small town flavor. One of the most spectacular stretches of the trail runs for 17 miles (one way) through the core of Pine Creek Gorge between Ansonia at the northern end of the canyon and the small village of Blackwell. Most of this largely undeveloped and wilderness section of the Pine Creek Trail is protected within the Pine Creek Gorge Natural Area for over 12 miles within the Tioga State Forest.
Heading south of Ansonia, the Pine Creek Trail follows the contours of Pine Creek as it flows and swirls south along the floor of the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. About 4 miles from the start of your bicycle ride, a one-mile section of the trail passes through two state parks; Leonard Harrison State Park on the eastern rim and across the gorge, Colton Point State Park straddles the western rim. Camping, picnicing, hiking trails and other facilities are available in both parks. (see "Where To Stay" below). Here the canyon walls tower above you to a height of 800 plus feet. At its deepest point, the Pine Creek Gorge is 1,450 feet deep and nearly one mile wide.
You can turn around at any point and make it a short out-and-back ride or bike the 17 miles out to Blackwell (3 hours and up depending on gawk factor and ability level), spend the night and ride back the next day. Shuttle service as well as guided single and multi-day hikes and bike tours in and around Pine Creek Canyon can be also be arranged with local outfitters.
South of Blackwell, the canyon opens up to expansive views of the Pine Creek Valley. Forested hillsides, wide river bends, several bridge crossings and quiet towns provide a more genteel, but extremely picturesque experience and great back country cycling routes.
Many more miles of mountain biking opportunities abound within the Tioga State Forest on gravel forest roads, old logging roads and jeep trails. Intermediate and advanced mountain bikers looking for demanding, technical singletrack will find it just north of the canyon at the site of the Laurel Classic Mountain Bike Race held annually in September within the Asaph area of the forest.
Other recreational opportunities include hiking, canoeing, rafting, horseback riding and even covered wagon rides. Whether you choose to ride just a short section of the trail or make it a multi-day bike trip, this wilderness etched in stone will leave a lasting impression.
Pine Creek Trail Access:
Most of the Gorge is accessible along the Pine Creek Rail-Trail inside Tioga State Forest. PA Rt 414 follows Pine Creek for many miles down to Jersey Shore, much of that distance in the Tiadaghton State Forest. The main trail access areas with large paved parking areas along the trail route are at Ansonia (Rt 6), Tiadaghton (Rt 362), Blackwell (Rt 414) and Waterville (Rt 414).
Leonard Harrison State Park Access:
Colton Point State Park Access:
Where to Stay:
Leonard Harrison State Park
Note: Both parks offer camping and hiking trails.
If camping is not your thing, Historic Wellsboro is located at the northern terminus of the Pine Creek Trail about 8 miles east of Ansonia. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the town with its Victorian architecture, gas-lit street lamps, bike rentals, hotels, quaint shops, restaurants and proximity to the parks and Pine Creek Trail Access -- makes a great base of operations.
The charming town of Blackwell, PA offers a hotel as well as access to the West Rim hiking Trail. Several bed and breakfast establishments are scattered along the route and bike rentals can also be found at the extreme southern terminus of the Pine Creek Trail at Waterville.
The Pine Creek Trail travels on the canyon floor, offering a "bottom up" approach. Try experiencing the canyon on foot for "top down views". Some of the best, more popular hiking trails include:
Pine Creek Gorge West Rim Trail: A 30 mile hiking trail that runs adjacent to the western rim of the canyon between Ansonia and Blackwell, PA. In many spots, the trail follows the precipitous rim edge, offering fantasic views of sheer rock walls plunging into the canyon depths.
Barbour Rock Trail: A short 3.4 to 1 mile loop hike features an overlook of the Owassee rapids and brings you right to the edge of the rim.
Turkey Path Trail: Accesible from Leonard Harrison State Park, this popular trail switchbacks down through cool, lush forest and leads to beautiful waterfalls. It also connects to the Rim Trail, an easy, relatively level hike leading to several overlooks along the west rim (this is not the West Rim Trail).
The waters of Pine Creek and the footpath along it were used for hundreds of years by the Seneca Indians. It provided a connection between the Great Shamokin Path (along the Susquehanna River) and the Iroquois settlements along the Genesee River in New York. The railroad began its run through the gorge in 1883 as the Jersey Shore, Pine Creek and Buffalo Railway, carrying lumber, coal and passengers north into New York State.The railroad changed hands several times and was eventually taken over by Conrail. The last train ran through the gorge on October 7, 1988. Foundations of Civilian Conservation Corp camp buildings can also be seen along the trail.
For more information:
For other long distance multi-use rail trails in this region see Pennsylvania Rail Trails
Trail Website: Pine Creek Trail