View of the rolling hills of the Pine Creek Trail in northern Pennsylvania.

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Guide To Biking The Pine Creek Trail In Pennsylvania

A ride along the Pine Creek Rail Trail in the Pennsylvania “Grand Canyon” has been on my biking bucket list for several years. I have previously ridden sections of the trail, but I have never ridden the entire length, approximately 62 miles. This past weekend, I made the whole ride, which was as perfect a bike ride as I had hoped. Here is a guide to biking the Pine Creek Trail in Pennsylvania to help you plan a great weekend trip. 

This guide will give you ideas on planning the trip, my suggestions on where to stay, and other activities in the area worth checking out while on your getaway. 

One of several bridges along the Pine Creek Trail in the PA Grand Canyon.

What Makes the Pine Creek Rail Trail a Great Ride?

Pennsylvania has many rails-to-trail rides, but the Pine Creek Rail Trail truly stands out. Nestled within the Pine Creek Gorge, also known as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, this trail offers a unique blend of remoteness and stunning natural beauty that sets it apart.

Before diving into the details of the ride and how to plan your weekend adventure, it’s important to clarify one thing: the PA Grand Canyon is quite different from its namesake in Arizona. Rather than a vast desert chasm, it is best described as a lush river valley gorge blanketed in old-growth forest in the heart of Pennsylvania. While the vistas are breathtaking, and the river valley’s beauty is undeniable, it lacks the sheer scale and majesty of the Grand Canyon. Approach your trip with this understanding, and you’ll appreciate its unique charm.

The Trail’s Natural Setting

The PA Grand Canyon spans two state parks and a vast state forest, creating a wild and remote area, making it one of PA’s best places for exploration. On the western side, Colton Point State Park covers 368 acres in Tioga County. This park offers rugged terrain and dramatic overlooks of the gorge. On the eastern side, Leonard Harrison State Park encompasses 585 acres and is known for its scenic hiking trails, beautiful scenery, and expansive views of Pine Creek.

The Tiadaghton State Forest complements these parks, stretching across nearly 147,000 acres of wilderness. This extensive forest area adds to the trail’s seclusion and provides a natural experience. The dense forests, cliffs, and diverse wildlife create a serene environment perfect for those seeking escape.

Why the Pine Creek Rail Trail Stands Out

The Pine Creek Rail Trail runs 62 miles from Wellsboro Junction to Jersey Shore. As you ride, you’ll pass through deep forests and alongside clear streams. The trail is well-maintained, with a gentle grade that makes it accessible to riders of all skill levels. Numerous spots exist to stop, rest, and take in the natural beauty along the way.

Far from major urban centers, the trail’s remoteness enhances its appeal. Wildlife sightings are common, and the changing seasons bring new landscapes to admire. Along the route, you will likely see bald eagle, deer, and snakes (the timber rattler is often seen in this area, but luckily, I didn’t encounter any snakes). In this wilderness, you may also encounter a black bear, but that is rare. 

Kayakers along Pine Creek Gorge.

History of the Pine Creek Trail and the PA Grand Canyon

The Pine Creek Gorge, often called the “PA Grand Canyon,” was sculpted by glacial ice during the last Ice Age. As the glaciers retreated, meltwater began flowing southward, carving a deep canyon through the region. Today, this stunning gorge reaches depths of up to 1,000 feet, creating a dramatic landscape of rugged cliffs and lush forests.

Early Settlement and Industry

The rich natural resources of the Pine Creek area attracted settlers in the early 19th century. Towering pine trees covered the landscape, providing an abundant supply of timber. By the mid-1800s, the region became a hub for the lumber industry. The nearby town of Williamsport earned the title “Lumber Capital of the World” in the 1880s due to its prolific production. At the industry’s peak, log rafts would float down Pine Creek to sawmills, fueling a booming economy.

The Railroad Era

Railroads were constructed throughout the valley to transport vast quantities of timber efficiently. In the 1880s, the Jersey Shore, Pine Creek, and Buffalo Railway laid tracks along Pine Creek, connecting the remote forests to the mills and markets in Williamsport. These railroads were vital for the local economy, enabling the rapid movement of lumber and other goods.

Transition to the Rail Trail

The decline of the lumber industry and the advent of modern transportation methods led to the gradual abandonment of the railroads in Northern Pennsylvania. By the late 1980s, the tracks along Pine Creek were no longer in use. Recognizing the potential for recreational use, local communities and conservationists advocated converting the defunct rail lines into a multi-use trail.

Today, the Pine Creek Rail Trail spans 62 miles, from Wellsboro Junction to Jersey Shore. This scenic path offers hikers, bikers, and nature enthusiasts a chance to explore the breathtaking beauty of the Pine Creek Gorge, retracing the steps of the railroad that once powered the region’s prosperity. The trail not only preserves the area’s rich history but also promotes conservation and outdoor recreation, ensuring that the legacy of the PA Grand Canyon endures.

Early parts of the Pine Creek Gorge in Pennsylvania.

Highlights of the Pine Creek Rail Trail Ride: Wellsboro to Jersey Shore

Embarking on the Pine Creek Rail Trail from Wellsboro to Jersey Shore is a journey filled with natural beauty, charming small towns, and enjoyable stops for food and drink. As part of this guide to biking the Pine Creek Trail here are some highlights along this 62-mile ride.

Starting Point: Wellsboro

Your adventure begins in Wellsboro, known for its gas-lit streets and historic charm. Before hitting the trail, consider grabbing breakfast at the Wellsboro Diner, a local favorite that offers classic American fare. Once you’re ready, head to the trailhead and start your ride through the scenic landscapes of Tioga County.

The trail is very wide for the first 25 miles. It consists of a hard-packed gravel surface and is a very well-maintained trail. Starting in Ansonia, the trail follows an unpaved service road (which was only used by a horse-drawn wagon ride during our visit). Once you reach Rattlesnake Rock, the trail narrows but is still a perfect surface on which to ride. The ride from Wellboro is mostly flat and is a 1% downhill grade to Jersey Shore. It requires pedaling and doesn’t have sections where you can coast. You will pass numerous trailheads along the route. 

Leonard Harrison State Park and the Turkey Path

About 8 miles into your ride, you’ll reach Leonard Harrison State Park on the eastern rim of the Pine Creek Gorge. Here, you can take a short hike on the Turkey Path trail, a steep but rewarding trail that ascends to the lookout point. As you climb the 1.5-mile trail, you’ll pass several waterfalls and enjoy stunning views of the gorge, making it a perfect spot for a scenic break.

Darling Run and Tiadaghton State Forest

As you continue south, the trail takes you through Darling Run and into the Tiadaghton State Forest. This section of the trail is serene, with dense forests and the sounds of Pine Creek accompanying your ride. Look for wildlife, as deer, eagles, wild turkeys, and other animals are often spotted here.

Blackwell

Around the halfway point, you’ll arrive in the village of Blackwell. This is a great place to rest and recharge. Stop by the Cedar Run General Store for snacks and cold drinks. 

Rattlesnake Rock

A little further along the trail, stop at Rattlesnake Rock, a popular spot for swimming, picnicking, and taking in the views of Pine Creek. The rock offers a unique vantage point and a great place to relax and enjoy the natural surroundings.

Rattlesnake Rock section of the Pine Creek Trail

Cedar Run

As you pedal on, the trail leads you to Cedar Run. This community is a peaceful spot to take a break, with opportunities to explore the surrounding forest trails. The Cedar Run Inn is a charming place to enjoy a bite to eat and relax before heading into the final stretch of your journey.

Slate Run

A little further down the trail, Slate Run offers another pleasant stop. This small town is known for its fly fishing and tranquil setting. The Slate Run Tackle Shop and Wolf’s General Store are worth a visit, whether you’re a fishing enthusiast or just looking for a refreshing beverage and a snack. Enjoy lunch at the Hotel Manor, which provides views of Pine Creek from its deck.

Jersey Shore

The last leg of the trail takes you through the lower gorge and eventually to the town of Jersey Shore, the trail’s southern terminus. Before you reach Jersey Shore, you will pass through Waterville, which has a general store and a restaurant. Here, you can celebrate the completion of your ride with a meal at one of the local eateries. 

How to Plan Your Trip

Planning your trip to the PA Grand Canyon is straightforward. Although some sources suggest that the area is remote and requires meticulous preparation, I found the trail well-traveled and accessible. Other bikers or hikers were always around, even in the more isolated sections. The road follows most of the trail, with only about 17 miles from Ansonia to Blackwell not easily accessible by vehicle.

Facilities

One common concern for hikers and bikers is the availability of restrooms. At least a dozen restrooms or comfort stations are along the Pine Creek Rail Trail. While these are outhouse-style facilities, they are clean and well-maintained. Additionally, there are several small general stores along the route where you can buy food and drinks, though bringing enough water to last most of the day is a good idea.

Transportation and Rentals

The most convenient way to navigate the trail is to use a shuttle service. We used Pine Creek Outfitters, which proved reliable and easy to book. We parked in Jersey Shore and were picked up at 9:00 am, the first stop on the shuttle route. Pine Creek Outfitters offers bike rentals if you don’t have your own equipment with you. 

While we opted to bike the entire trail length, most other passengers were picked up at Slate Run or Rattlesnake Rock. You can choose to be dropped off at Wellsboro Junction or Ansonia. We chose Wellsboro to experience the entire trail.

The shuttle ride from Jersey Shore to Wellsboro took about 1.5 hours. Initially, I was concerned it might take too long to bike the distance back, especially since we were riding standard bikes, not e-bikes. However, the ride was manageable and enjoyable. The shuttle driver was very knowledgeable about the area and the trail. He can give you information about biking, hiking, and kayaking (the summer water levels were a little low, so kayakers were not part of our group).

For those preferring shorter rides, consider being picked up at Slate Run or Rattlesnake Rock and starting at the Ansonia trailhead. While the first 7 miles from Wellsboro Junction are scenic, skipping this section doesn’t significantly detract from the overall experience.

Another option is to have Pine Creek Outfitters transport your car from their shop to your destination. This option gives you the flexibility to start your ride whenever you want.

Planning a Pine Creek Rail Trail trip is easy and accommodates various preferences and fitness levels. With clean facilities, convenient general stores, and reliable shuttle services, your adventure through the PA Grand Canyon promises to be enjoyable and memorable.

Where to Stay

Depending on your itinerary, you might want to spend a night or two in the area when riding the Pine Creek Rail Trail. Many riders make it part of a camping weekend, with several campgrounds in the Pine Creek Gorge and the surrounding towns. If camping isn’t your style and you prefer a comfy bed and bathroom, here are some other accommodation options:

Jersey Shore Area/Wellsboro Accommodations

Jersey Shore has limited hotel options, but you will find a few small bed-and-breakfasts. The nearest larger hotels are in Lock Haven, which offers a range of chain hotels. Wellsboro, on the other hand, has several small inns and hotels. Staying in Wellsboro puts you at the trailhead, and the town’s charm makes it a pleasant place to spend the night.

Williamsport: A Great Home Base

I recommend making Williamsport your home base. Williamsport is located about 16 miles east of Jersey Shore, which is the first pick-up point along the shuttle route. Williamsport has excellent hotels and a wide variety of dining options.

The City Hall Grand Hotel is a wonderful small hotel in the heart of Williamsport. This unique hotel is housed in the historic old town hall, built around 1900. Each room has its own distinct style, and no two are alike. There is no front desk; instead, you receive a code for the front door and your room on the day of your arrival. Parking is free, and the hotel is close to several restaurants. Check out the Brickyard Restaurant & Ale House, a great place to eat and drink.

Williamsport has a lot to offer for a small town, making it a great place to stay for the Pine Creek Trail. Whether you prefer the historic charm of downtown Wellsboro or the more extensive amenities in Williamsport, you’ll find comfortable and convenient accommodations to enhance your biking adventure.

Pine Creek Rail Trail in northern central Pennsylvania.

Make Your Plans To Bike The Trail!

Biking the Pine Creek Rail Trail in Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon is an adventure that should be on every cyclist’s bucket list. This guide to biking the Pine Creek Trail has provided information to plan your trip, including highlights along the trail, historical context, and practical tips for making the most of your journey. 

Every mile offers a new discovery from the charming town of Wellsboro, with its gas-lit streets and inviting inns, to the serene, forested landscapes that make up the trail. Along the way, you can take detours to hike the Turkey Path, enjoy Rattlesnake Rock, and explore the small communities that dot the trail.

Facilities are plentiful, with clean restrooms and general stores ensuring you have everything you need. Shuttle services like Pine Creek Outfitters make logistics a breeze, whether biking the entire length or opting for a short ride. The combination of natural beauty, historical significance, and well-maintained trails makes the Pine Creek Rail Trail a standout destination for biking enthusiasts of all levels.

Mike and Tim at the 62 mile marker at the end of the Pine Creek Trail.
Below are links and resources to help you plan The perfect trip

Travel Resources

  • HOTELS
    Booking.com and Expedia.com are great resources for accommodations around the world. Book almost any hotel directly from these links.
  • TOURS
    The best places to book tours and activities are Viator or Get Your Guide . From great food tours to guided hiking adventures to local walking tours, you will find great experiences to add to your travels here.
  • FOOD EXPERIENCES
    EatWith is a great resource for authentic culinary experiences with passionate locals worldwide. Connecting travelers with hosts in over 130 countries, providing unique, intimate, and immersive experiences in private homes and exclusive venues.
  • TRAINS
    Trainline is Europe’s leading train and coach app. They work with over 210 rail and coach companies to help their customers travel to thousands of destinations across 45 countries. 

The links above contain product affiliate links. We may receive a commission at no additional cost to you if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links. But your support of Fork & Wander is greatly appreciated!

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