On west slope of Laurel Ridge between Jones Mill and Kregar in Westmoreland County
Within 3 miles of the Donegal Turnpike exit, Forbes State Forest has opened a new system of trails for mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. This was a 1997 project of the Youth Conservation Corps. The trails lie on the western slope of Laurel Ridge, bounded on the north by the PA Turnpike and on the south by PA31. This is a State Forest, so wear blaze orange and exercise caution during small game season, and go elsewhere in deer season.
Unlike many trails in this guide, the trails in this area were developed as multi-use forest trails that provide a primitive forest experience. The lowest (western) trail follows a railroad grade along Indian Creek; the upper (eastern) end connects with the North Woods trail system on the crest of Laurel Ridge. The trails along the base of the ridge are not technically demanding, though they are rougher and significantly hillier than most rail-trails. The trails themselves are generally 6-12' wide. They don't have shoulders, and the woods come right to the edge of the trail. On a straight stretch with sun dappling through the leaves overhead, it feels like a Gothic cathedral. The effect is much more intimate than you'll find on a rail-trail, and we rather like it.
As you go farther north and east, the trail gets much rougher and steeper. This is a great place to get acquainted with mountain biking, without committing a day to something you may not enjoy—just start near PA31, work north and east until you've had enough, and return the way you came or by road on PA381.
The system includes three trails, plus a couple of connectors.
Blair Brothers Railroad Grade follows the west side of Indian Creek. It connects with Mountain Streams Trail in two places, near Camp Run and at Hunter Land.
Mountain Streams Trail starts at Camp Run Rd and parallels Indian Creek up the ridge, eventually connecting with Tunnel Rd and the North Woods trail system.
Pike Run Trail connects the south end of Mountain Streams Trail with PA31 above the Pike Run Country Club
The Blair Brothers Railroad Grade begins at PA381 just north of PA31. It is nearly level, often double-track, and the trail surface is good enough to ride on a hybrid bike, though not nearly as smooth as most rail-trails. It will remind you of a 1-lane country driveway, with grass growing between the wheel tracks. This trail is on the same railroad grade as the Indian Creek Valley Trail a few miles to the south. The ride through the bottomland near Indian Creek is lovely, but short enough to leave you wanting more. A right-hand turn 0.6 miles from the parking lot leads to a connector trail that crosses Indian Creek and PA381, then leads to Pike Run Trail. From this intersection the railroad grade continues another 0.6 miles, where it crosses a tributary of Indian Creek, then another 0.2 miles to its end at Hunter La. Turn right on Hunter La, cross Indian Ck and PA381, and go up a short connector to meet Mountain Streams Trail.
Mountain Streams Trail begins at Camp Run Rd just east of PA381. The first 4 miles have some serious, but not brutal, climbs and descents. After 5 miles the surface gets very rough, and the last 3 miles of the trail climb a thousand feet to the crest of Laurel Ridge. Starting at Camp Run, the first mile has recently been scraped and graded to a width of about 12'. It climbs steadily past its intersection with Pike Run Trail to a corner, then descends quickly to Camp Run, where a splendid new bridge provides passage. You pay immediately, though, with a brisk climb that brings you back within sight (or at least sound) of PA381. The new construction ends, leaving the trail still wide but more mature. At several points gaps in the trees provide great views north and west up the valley. Soon you descend to a trailhead at Aukerman Rd, 2.3 miles from Camp Run Rd.
To continue from here, go right on Aukerman Rd (note: not the road marked "no outlet") for 0.15 miles and turn left at the trail signs. The trail narrows to only about 6', and it gradually becomes more technical. Folks with hybrid bikes may want to turn back here. After a delightful rolling 0.8 mile, the trail emerges at the upper Sky View Rd parking area. Turn left, go a tenth of a mile down the hill, and turn right. You're now on the railroad grade again. In another tenth of a mile, pass through a small parking area, duck under a gate, and follow the trail along the railroad grade. The trail continues fairly level for another mile or so, then starts a 3-mile climb to the ridge. Toward the end of this mile the surface gets very rough. At the somewhat precarious crossing of Little Run, we decided the surface was rougher than our taste, and we turned back.
We haven't had a chance to ride Pike Run Trail yet. It starts at Mountain Streams Trail 0.4 mile above the Camp Run parking area. It runs southeast, then south for about 2 miles, emerging on PA31 above Pike Run Country Club. The map suggests that most of the 300' climb is in the first mile.
The trails in this area are built on grades that once served the Blair Brothers sawmill in Kregar. The railroad along Indian Creek was used only to haul lumber from the sawmill to market. The grades east of PA381 were narrow gauge lines for shay locomotives to haul logs to the sawmill.
All of the trail is in Forbes State Forest. State Forest rules for bicycles allow bikes on all roads and trails (but only on roads and trails) unless they're specifically posted as closed.
Camp Run Rd, Aukerman Rd, and Sky View Rd are narrow dirt township roads. They have very little motor vehicle traffic, and they're too rough and steep for the cars to be going very fast. You may enjoy extending your ride with these roads.
Vicinity: Directions begin headed north on PA381 from its intersection with PA31 east of Jones Mills. To reach this point from Pittsburgh, take the PA Turnpike to Donegal and go east on PA31 for 2.8 miles, then turn north on PA381. Note that this is 0.6 miles east of the intersection where PA381 goes south from PA31.
Blair Brothers trailhead: From the junction of 381 and PA31, follow PA381 north for less than a tenth of a mile. Parking is on the left side of the road just before the bridge across Indian Creek or on the right just after you cross the bridge.
Camp Run trailhead: From the junction of 381 and PA31, follow PA381 north for 0.6 mile. Turn right on Camp Run Rd. Parking is about a tenth of a mile up this road on the left.
Kregar trailhead: From the junction of 381 and PA31, follow PA381 north for 2.8 miles. Turn right on Sky View Rd. Follow Sky View Rd down to the creek and start up the hill. There are two parking areas. For the first, go 0.5 miles from PA381, turn left on the marked side road, go 0.1 mile on the side road. For the second, go 0.6 miles from PA381 to parking on the right.
Rest rooms, water: None
Bike shop, rentals: None
Restaurant, groceries: Restaurants and groceries along PA31 between Jones Mills and Donegal.
Swimming, fishing: Cold water fishing in Indian Creek
Winter sports: Cross-country skiing, snowmobiling
Wheelchair access: Trails are probably too rough for most wheelchairs
Forbes State Forest, District 4
PO Box 519
Laughlintown PA 15655-0519
USGS Topographic Maps: Seven Springs.
Text version from 2002 edition. Conditions will have changed; you are responsible for your own safety.