Lower Trail (Pennsylvania)
|Length||16.5 mi (26.6 km)|
|Location||Butler County, Pennsylvania|
|Designation||National Recreation Trail|
|Use||Bicycling, Hiking, Bird-watching, Cross-Country Skiing, and Horseback Riding|
|Trail difficulty||Easy, ADA accessible|
|Surface||Smooth crushed stone|
|Right of way||Pennsylvania Railroad|
The Lower Trail (pronounced like "flower") is a 16.5-mile (26.6 km), smooth crushed stone rail trail that follows the Juniata River in West-Central Pennsylvania from Flowing Springs to Alfarata. The Lower Trail is owned and maintained by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy of Central Pennsylvania (RTTCPA). The trail follows the path of the abandoned Petersburg Branch of the old Pennsylvania Railroad, running along the Frankstown Branch of the Juniata River between the small town of Alfarata, Huntingdon County, to Flowing Spring, Blair County (just outside Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania).
The trail is open year-round for bicycling, hiking, bird-watching, cross-country skiing, and horseback riding. The trail also provides access to the Juniata River for fishing, kayaking, and canoeing. The Lower Trail is unique in a sense because it is the only rail trail in the nation that is privately owned and maintained by the members if RTTCPA, but still free of charge to the public. The portion of the Lower Trail from Alfarata to Williamsburg is part of the Pennsylvania Mid State Trail and Great Eastern Trail. In addition, the site was identified Important Bird Area by the Ornithological Technical Committee of the Pennsylvania Biological Survey in October 2001. In 2009, the trail was also designated as a National Recreation Trail by the United States Department of the Interior.
Much of the trail was the original towpath for the Pennsylvania Canal that operated in the early 1800s and was known as the "continuous waterways" which linked Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. By the 1850s, most of the canals became obsolete because the railroad industry became more powerful. The Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) had taken over the business and the land, in which the Lower Trail lays. Surrounding towns began to flourish and grow with the existence of the railroad in Central Pennsylvania.
Trail's history and evolution
The development of the Lower Trail was made possible through the combination of private and public funding. In 1992, Penn Central Inc. decided to sell 11 miles (18 km) of the corridor, from Alfarata to Williamsburg, and was purchased because of a donation from Hollidaysburg attorney, T. Dean Lower, by the Rails to Trails-of-Central Pennsylvania. The trail was named in honor of Lower's late wife and son, Jane Y. and Rodger D. Lower. The trail extension, from Williamsburg to Canoe Creek, was purchased by an anonymous donation for the land in 1994. State and federal funding assisted in the construction of the trail.
The Lower Trail is a privately owned trail that depends upon the generosity of the members of Rails-to-Trails of Central Pennsylvania, volunteers, trail users, businesses, and memorial gifts. These funds are necessary to maintain and improve the trail. Members of RTTCPA volunteer their time on projects such as the up keeping of the trail, building amenities, and fund raising. Rails-to-Trails of Central Pennsylvania is a non-profit, charitable organization as qualified under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
What to expect
The Lower Trail offers a relatively level terrain for bike riding made of crushed stone. The trail is 8 feet (2.4 m) wide, and also has grassy areas on either side of the stone path for horseback riding. The trail follows the Juniata River closely, offering unique glimpses of the wildlife and forests of central Pennsylvania.
Trail access points
The Lower Trail has six primary trailheads. All trailheads have abundant parking, and pavilions/picnic tables available.
|Trailhead||Coordinates||Elevation (ft / m)|
|Flowing Springs Station||N 40° 28.371' W 078° 16.050'||880 / 270|
|Ganister Station||N 40° 33.995' W 078° 07.282'||728 / 222|
|Williamsburg Station||N 40° 31.234' W 078° 10.304'||798 / 243|
|Cove Dale Station||N 40° 29.228' W 078° 10.188'||830 / 250|
|Mt. Etna Station||N 40° 27.713' W 078° 11.908'||844 / 257|
|Alfarata Station||N 40° 28.426' W 078° 13.614'||865 / 264|
- "National Recreation Trails". Trails nominated for NRT designation in 2009. National Recreation Trails. Retrieved October 16, 2009.
- "THE LOWER TRAIL: Where history and wildlife abound". THE LOWER TRAIL: Where history and wildlife abound. Sierra Club. Retrieved October 16, 2009.
- "Mid State Trail Guide and Maps". Mid State Trail Guide and Maps. Mid-State Trail Association, Inc. Retrieved October 16, 2009.
- "The Lower Trail". The Lower Trail. Retrieved October 16, 2009.
- "Lower Trail". The Lower Trail. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. Retrieved October 16, 2009.