Mahoning Shadow Trail In Pennsylvania

Here is everything you need to know about the Mahoning Shadow Trail:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: Pennsylvania
  • Length: 15 miles.
  • Type: Multi-use.
  • Surface: paved
  • Managed By: Cambria County Conservation and Recreation Authority
  • Permit Required?: Yes.
  • Website:

The Mahoning Shadow Trail is a historic rail-trail located in western Pennsylvania, United States. The trail follows the former path of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Northern Branch, which was constructed in the late 1800s. The railroad played a significant role in the region’s industrial development, transporting coal, lumber, and other goods to various markets.

The construction of the Northern Branch began in the 1870s, connecting the towns of Punxsutawney and Brookville. The railroad line quickly became a vital transportation route, facilitating the growth of industries such as mining, timber, and agriculture. The Mahoning Valley, through which the trail now passes, was particularly known for its rich coal deposits, which were extensively mined during this period.

As the railroad thrived, numerous small communities sprang up along its route, serving as hubs for commerce and trade. These towns, including Anita, Hamilton, and Big Run, owe much of their early development to the presence of the railroad. The Northern Branch also played a crucial role in connecting these communities to larger cities, enabling the transportation of goods and fostering economic growth.

However, with the decline of the coal and timber industries in the mid-20th century, the railroad’s importance diminished. The Northern Branch was eventually abandoned in the 1980s, leaving behind a disused rail corridor. Recognizing the historical significance of the railroad and the potential for recreational use, local communities and organizations came together to transform the abandoned rail line into the Mahoning Shadow Trail.

Today, the Mahoning Shadow Trail serves as a testament to the region’s industrial past and provides a scenic pathway for walkers, cyclists, and nature enthusiasts. Along the trail, visitors can still observe remnants of the railroad’s infrastructure, such as old trestles and bridges, offering glimpses into the area’s rich history. The trail’s development has not only preserved the heritage of the Mahoning Valley but also created a valuable recreational resource for the local community and visitors alike.

While On The Trail

Access Points

1. Punxsutawney Trailhead: Located in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, this trailhead is the starting point of the Mahoning Shadow Trail. It offers parking facilities and restrooms.

2. Big Run Trailhead: Situated near Big Run, Pennsylvania, this access point provides parking facilities and is a popular starting point for hikers and bikers.

3. Marchand Trailhead: Located in Marchand, Pennsylvania, this trailhead offers parking facilities and is a convenient access point for visitors.

4. Clymer Trailhead: Situated in Clymer, Pennsylvania, this access point provides parking facilities and is a popular spot for starting or ending a trail journey.

5. Purchase Line Trailhead: Located near Purchase Line, Pennsylvania, this trailhead offers parking facilities and is a convenient access point for visitors.

6. Brush Valley Trailhead: Situated in Brush Valley, Pennsylvania, this access point provides parking facilities and is a popular starting point for hikers and bikers.

7. Blacklick Trailhead: Located near Blacklick, Pennsylvania, this trailhead offers parking facilities and is a convenient access point for visitors.

8. Dilltown Trailhead: Situated in Dilltown, Pennsylvania, this access point provides parking facilities and is a popular spot for starting or ending a trail journey.

9. Saylor Park Trailhead: Located in Saylor Park, Pennsylvania, this trailhead offers parking facilities and is a convenient access point for visitors.

10. Ebensburg Trailhead: Situated in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania, this access point provides parking facilities and is a popular starting point for hikers and bikers.

Transportation Available

1. Mahoning Shadow Trail Shuttle – Shuttle service for convenient transportation along the Mahoning Shadow Trail.
2. Local Taxi Service – Reliable taxi service for quick transportation to and from the Mahoning Shadow Trail.
3. Bike Rental Shop – Rent bicycles to explore the Mahoning Shadow Trail at your own pace.
4. Public Bus – Public bus service with stops near the Mahoning Shadow Trail for affordable transportation options.
5. Car Rental Agency – Rent a car for easy access to the Mahoning Shadow Trail and surrounding areas.
6. Ride-Sharing Service – On-demand ride-sharing service for convenient transportation to and from the Mahoning Shadow Trail.
7. Local Train Station – Train station nearby for those looking for an alternative mode of transportation to the Mahoning Shadow Trail.


The amenities available at the Mahoning Shadow Trail include:

1. Restrooms: There are restroom facilities available at various points along the trail for visitors’ convenience.

2. Parking: There are designated parking areas at the trailhead and other access points along the Mahoning Shadow Trail.

3. Camping Sites: The trail does not have designated camping sites, but there are nearby campgrounds and parks where visitors can camp.

4. Picnic Areas: There are picnic areas with tables and benches along the trail, providing a scenic spot for visitors to enjoy a meal or snack.

5. Benches: There are benches placed at regular intervals along the trail, allowing visitors to rest and take in the surroundings.

6. Information Kiosks: Information kiosks are available at the trailhead and other key points, providing visitors with maps, trail information, and safety guidelines.

7. Trail Markers: The trail is well-marked with signage and trail markers, ensuring visitors can easily navigate their way along the Mahoning Shadow Trail.

8. Scenic Overlooks: There are several scenic overlooks along the trail, offering beautiful views of the surrounding nature and landscapes.

9. Wildlife Viewing: The trail provides opportunities for wildlife viewing, with various species of birds, mammals, and other animals inhabiting the area.

10. Interpretive Signs: Along the trail, there are interpretive signs that provide information about the local flora, fauna, history, and geology, enhancing the educational experience for visitors.

11. Dog-Friendly: The Mahoning Shadow Trail is dog-friendly, allowing visitors to bring their leashed pets along for a walk or hike.

12. Accessibility: The trail is designed to be accessible to people with disabilities, with sections featuring paved surfaces and accessible facilities.

Please note that amenities may vary, and it is always recommended to check with local authorities or trail management for the most up-to-date information.

Nearby Services

1. Mahoning Shadow Trail Lodge – A cozy lodging option located right on the trail, offering comfortable rooms and scenic views.
2. Riverside Inn – A nearby hotel with a restaurant, providing convenient accommodation and dining options.
3. Trailside Cafe – A charming eatery situated along the trail, serving delicious meals and snacks for hikers and bikers.
4. Mahoning Shadow Trail Campground – A camping site near the trail, offering basic amenities for outdoor enthusiasts.
5. Mahoning Shadow Trail Visitor Center – A resourceful center providing information, maps, and assistance to trail users.
6. Indiana Regional Medical Center – The nearest hospital equipped to handle emergency medical services for trail users.

Mahoning Shadow Trail Difficulty Notes

The Mahoning Shadow Trail offers a moderate difficulty level, making it suitable for a wide range of outdoor enthusiasts. The trail spans approximately 15 miles and features a mix of flat, paved sections and more challenging, hilly terrain. While some portions may require a bit of effort, the trail is generally well-maintained and accessible for walkers, hikers, and bikers of various skill levels. With its scenic views of the Mahoning Creek and surrounding woodlands, the Mahoning Shadow Trail provides a rewarding and enjoyable experience for those seeking a moderate outdoor adventure.

Features And Attractions

The Mahoning Shadow Trail is a 15-mile long rail trail located in Pennsylvania, United States. Along this trail, you can find several scenic views, historical sites, natural landmarks, and other points of interest. Here are some notable ones:

1. Blairsville Riverfront Park: Located at the southern end of the trail, this park offers beautiful views of the Conemaugh River and is a great starting point for your journey.

2. Blairsville Underground Railroad History Center: This historical site provides insights into the Underground Railroad and its significance in the region’s history.

3. Blairsville Cemetery: A peaceful resting place with historical significance, featuring unique tombstones and markers.

4. Tunnelview Historic Site: This site offers a scenic view of the Conemaugh River Valley and the historic Pennsylvania Mainline Canal Tunnel.

5. Hoodlebug Trailhead: A popular starting point for trail users, this area features a parking lot, restrooms, and picnic facilities.

6. Ghost Town Trail: The Mahoning Shadow Trail intersects with the Ghost Town Trail, which extends for 46 miles and passes through various historical mining towns.

7. Ebensburg: As you approach the northern end of the trail, you’ll reach the town of Ebensburg, which has a charming downtown area with shops, restaurants, and historical buildings.

8. Lake Rowena: Located near Ebensburg, this small lake offers a tranquil setting for fishing, picnicking, or simply enjoying the natural surroundings.

9. Cambria County War Memorial: A significant landmark in Ebensburg, this memorial honors the local veterans who served in various conflicts.

10. Historic Ebensburg Train Station: This beautifully restored train station is a testament to the area’s railroad history and serves as a visitor center.

These are just a few examples of the scenic views, historical sites, and natural landmarks you can encounter along the Mahoning Shadow Trail. Exploring the trail will provide you with a deeper appreciation for the region’s history and natural beauty.

Usage Guidelines

1. Pets are allowed on the Mahoning Shadow Trail but must be kept on a leash at all times.
2. Clean up after your pet and dispose of waste properly.
3. Bicycles are allowed on the trail, but riders must yield to pedestrians and use caution.
4. Motorized vehicles, including ATVs and motorcycles, are not permitted on the trail.
5. The trail is open year-round, but certain sections may be closed during winter months due to weather conditions or maintenance.
6. Camping or overnight stays are not allowed on the trail.
7. Fires and open flames are prohibited on the trail.
8. Littering is strictly prohibited. Please carry out any trash and dispose of it in designated bins.
9. Respect private property adjacent to the trail and do not trespass.
10. Use caution and be aware of your surroundings while on the trail.

Seasonal Information

The Mahoning Shadow Trail, located in Pennsylvania, offers a picturesque and serene experience for outdoor enthusiasts. The best times of the year to visit this trail largely depend on personal preferences and the activities one wishes to engage in. Spring and fall are particularly popular due to the mild temperatures and vibrant foliage. During these seasons, visitors can enjoy pleasant hiking or biking experiences while being surrounded by the beauty of nature.

In spring, the trail comes alive with blooming wildflowers and the sounds of birds chirping. The weather is usually comfortable, making it an ideal time for outdoor activities. Hikers can witness the rejuvenation of the surrounding forests and witness the gradual transition from winter to spring. Fall, on the other hand, offers a stunning display of colors as the leaves change to vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow. The crisp air and cooler temperatures make it perfect for long walks or bike rides, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the breathtaking scenery.

It is important to note that the Mahoning Shadow Trail has seasonal closures during the winter months. Due to the potential for inclement weather and hazardous conditions, the trail is closed from December through February. This closure ensures the safety of visitors and prevents any accidents or injuries that may occur during the colder months. However, the closure does not mean that the trail loses its charm. The surrounding landscape transforms into a winter wonderland, offering a different kind of beauty for those who enjoy snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.

In conclusion, the best times to visit the Mahoning Shadow Trail are during the spring and fall seasons when the weather is mild and the scenery is at its most vibrant. However, it is important to be aware of the trail’s seasonal closures during the winter months for safety reasons. Whether you prefer the blossoming of spring, the colorful foliage of fall, or the tranquility of a snowy landscape, the Mahoning Shadow Trail has something to offer throughout the year.


1. Wheelchair Accessible Parking: Designated parking spaces are available near the trail entrance for individuals with disabilities.
2. Accessible Trail Entrance: The trail entrance is designed to be easily accessible for wheelchair users and individuals with mobility impairments.
3. Paved Surface: The trail surface is paved, providing a smooth and even pathway for wheelchair users.
4. Restrooms with ADA Accommodations: Restroom facilities along the trail are equipped with accessible features such as grab bars and wider doorways.
5. Accessible Picnic Areas: Picnic areas along the trail are designed to accommodate individuals with disabilities, featuring accessible tables and seating.
6. Wheelchair Accessible Viewing Areas: Scenic viewpoints along the trail are designed to be accessible for wheelchair users, allowing everyone to enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
7. Accessible Trail Signage: Signage along the trail includes Braille and large print, ensuring individuals with visual impairments can navigate easily.
8. Accessible Trailhead Facilities: The trailhead area includes accessible amenities such as ramps, handrails, and accessible parking spaces.
9. Assistance Animals Allowed: Service animals are permitted on the trail to assist individuals with disabilities.
10. Accessible Trail Information: Trail maps and information are available in accessible formats, including large print and electronic versions, for individuals with visual impairments.

Safety Information

1. Trail Conditions: Check for any trail closures or maintenance updates before heading out to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
2. Weather Awareness: Be aware of current and forecasted weather conditions to dress appropriately and avoid potential hazards.
3. Trail Etiquette: Respect other trail users by following proper etiquette, such as yielding to pedestrians and keeping pets on a leash.
4. Wildlife Encounter: Stay alert and maintain a safe distance if you encounter any wildlife along the trail.
5. Sun Protection: Protect yourself from harmful UV rays by wearing sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses.
6. Hydration: Carry an adequate amount of water to stay hydrated during your journey.
7. Insect Repellent: Apply insect repellent to prevent bites from mosquitoes or ticks.
8. Emergency Contacts: Carry a cell phone and have emergency contact numbers readily available.
9. First Aid Kit: Bring a basic first aid kit to handle minor injuries or emergencies.
10. Trail Map: Familiarize yourself with the trail map to avoid getting lost and to plan your route accordingly.
11. Buddy System: Consider hiking or biking with a partner for added safety and support.
12. Trail Markers: Pay attention to trail markers and signs to stay on the designated path.
13. Road Crossings: Be cautious when crossing roads, obey traffic signals, and use designated crosswalks if available.
14. Lighting: If using the trail during low-light conditions, carry a flashlight or wear reflective gear to enhance visibility.
15. Personal Safety: Trust your instincts, be aware of your surroundings, and avoid isolated areas if you feel uncomfortable.
16. Bicycle Safety: Wear a helmet, follow traffic rules, and use hand signals when cycling on the trail.
17. Trail Maintenance: Report any trail hazards or maintenance issues to the appropriate authorities.
18. Leave No Trace: Respect the environment by packing out your trash and leaving the trail as you found it.
19. Fitness Level: Assess your fitness level and choose a trail section that matches your abilities.
20. Time Management: Plan your trip accordingly, allowing enough time to complete the trail before sunset or park closing hours.

Conservation Notes

The Mahoning Shadow Trail, located in Pennsylvania, is considered to have a stable conservation status. The trail is managed by the Indiana County Parks and Trails Department, which actively works towards preserving and protecting the natural resources and wildlife habitats along the trail. The department ensures that the trail is well-maintained and that any potential threats to the conservation of the area are addressed promptly.

Efforts are made to control invasive plant species along the trail, preventing them from overtaking native vegetation and disrupting the ecosystem. Regular monitoring and maintenance activities are carried out to ensure the trail remains free from litter and debris, preserving the natural beauty of the surrounding environment. The department also collaborates with local organizations and volunteers to organize clean-up events and educational programs, raising awareness about the importance of conservation and environmental stewardship.

The Mahoning Shadow Trail is home to a diverse range of plant and animal species, including several rare and endangered ones. The conservation status of the trail is further enhanced by the presence of wetlands and riparian areas, which provide crucial habitats for various wildlife species. The Indiana County Parks and Trails Department actively works to protect these sensitive areas, implementing measures to prevent erosion and maintain water quality.

Overall, the conservation status of the Mahoning Shadow Trail is considered to be in good standing, thanks to the dedicated efforts of the Indiana County Parks and Trails Department and the support of the local community. The trail serves as a valuable resource for both recreational activities and the preservation of the natural environment, ensuring that future generations can continue to enjoy its beauty while respecting and conserving its ecological significance.

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