From Walkers Mill in Collier Twp near Pittsburgh to Weirton (near Colliers) WV
The Panhandle Trail is the first interstate trail in West Virginia and the second in western Pennsylvania (after Stavich) (described in the Northwest volume of this guide). The trail route follows the former Panhandle Branch RR for 29 miles from Walker’s Mill, in Colliers Township, west of Pittsburgh to Weirton Junction, near Weirton WV. The small town of Colliers WV is not far from the western end of the trail, so the trail is sometimes described as connecting Collier to Colliers. The trail runs through rural areas and small towns, and the wide right of way is about 60% paved with the rest crushed stone.
From the Walkers Mill Trailhead there are at present (2017) 3 mileage systems for the trail. A white post with green lettering which starts with zero at one end of the parking lot, and a brown 4 X 4s with routed numbers that start with zero at the other end of the parking lot, and railroad mileposts which start with zero somewhere in Carnegie, and measure 11.2 miles at the gate from the parking lot to the trail. Since the first two systems do not go beyond 5 miles, this write-up will use railroad miles. The mileage numbers are on a white 8 in, X 12 in. panel with black numbers mounted on a post about 8 feet up.
Location Walker’s Mill PA to Collier WV, in Allegheny and
Washington Counties PA and Brooke County WV.
Trailheads Walker’s Mill, Oakdale, Sturgeon, McDonald, Midway, Joffree, Burgettstown, Colliers
Length, Surface 29 total miles planned; 6.7 miles packed limestone in Allegheny County
17.2 miles paved in Washington County, PA
3.2 miles packed limestone in Brooke County, WV.
Character Uncrowded, rural, sunny, flat
Usage restrictions No motorized vehicles
Driving time from Pittsburgh 30 minutes east to 1 hour 30 minutes
Allegheny County’s 6.7-mile section is from Walker’s Mill Rd (MP11.2) in Collier Twp. to the county line (MP17.2) just west of Laurel Hill Rd in McDonald. It connects seamlessly to 17.2 miles of the paved Washington County section which ends at the state line (MP 35.8) and connects seamlessly to 3.6 miles that end near Weirton (MP40.2).
Beginning at the Walker’s Mill trailhead (MP11.2), the trail almost immediately passes a rock face with a small pond at the bottom. This is one of several ponds left over from a former quarry. The windmill on the south side of the trail is pumping air into the pond to increase its oxygen content. This produces a variety of benefits, including fewer weeds, less algae growth and bottom sediment, better clarity, less odor, and a friendlier environment for fish. This area sometimes used by boy scout encampments and concerts.
Windmill at the Walker Mill Quary
There is a hiking trail at (<<MPxx>>) that crosses the creek and explores the hillside. There is a fossil cleft at MP12.0. Poke around and find a fossil from a long ago era.
Around (<<MPxx>>) during late fall and winter there is visible to the left the 1950’s vintage Nike missile site. After six creek crossings and 3.75 miles, the trail reaches the picnic pavilion and trailhead at Oakdale (<<MPxx>>). The remaining 3.4 miles into McDonald (3 in Allegheny County and 0.4 paved in Washington County) are more developed and closer to Noblestown Rd. The McDonald trailhead (MP18.2) is at the McDonald Trail Station and Meeting House, a trail information and community center on PA980, two blocks from downtown McDonald. Inside there is some of the historical information and photos of the McDonald area.
The next half-mile of trail to Primrose (MP19.7) passes through the bottomlands of Robinson Run. The high McDonald Trestle (MP19.1) that carries the Montour Trail (page PIT-31) over this valley dominates the view here. Just before Primrose there is a junction with the Montour Trail Connector (MP19.5). This side trail follows a railroad connector that provided interchange between the Montour railroad and the Panhandle Branch railroad. It leads to the Montour Trail parking area under the McDonald trestle and then across SR980 and up to the Montour Trail.
At MP22.0 while traversing an old reclaimed strip mine area, there is on the right, up on the hill, a model airplane airport. Often there are model airplanes doing aerobatic maneuvers in the area.
After the last road crossing in Burgettstown (MP27.9), on the right across the ravine, is more of Burgettstown that is a company town. The homes are all the same basic shape and style, although a few have had additions added.
Soon after a deep cut (MP29.3) the trail has a distinct downhill slope to its end (MP40.2) near Weirton WV. This section is rural Pennsylvania woods with an occasional road crossing. There are no services accessible from the trail in this section.
The state line (MP35.1) is marked by a welcome sign, a railroad marker, and the end of the paved trail. The 3.1-mile West Virginia section is limestone and reflects the more rugged topography of that state. The railroad shared a narrow valley bottom with the creek, Harmon Creek Rd, and an occasional row of houses or industrial plant, and the village of Colliers Joffre (<<MPxx>>). An old-fashioned swimming hole, complete with rope swing, is nestled near the trail near (<<MPxx>>). The trail deadends a mile past the parking area under the US22 Bridge (<<MPxx>>).
Extensions of the ride
At MP19.5 there is a crossover trail that connects to the 50-mile-long Montour Trail (page NP-9).
The Walker’s Mill trailhead is less than half an hour from Pittsburgh, so we often combine the eastern end of the Panhandle with rides on medium- to low-traffic roads. We can find such roads by heading north from Oakdale or McDonald. We climb over a former strip mine, pick up the Montour Trail near Beagle Club Rd and return via McDonald. Alternatively, we can cross the Montour Trail and work our way back through Candor and Midway.
The Montour Trail south of McDonald also provides access to some pleasant riding in the Cherry Valley area, with a return via Midway or Joffre and the Panhandle Trail.
These on-road extensions involve light to moderate traffic. The back roads provide a wealth of opportunities for riders with road-riding skills; take a map and explore (carefully).
The Panhandle is an important link in a growing network of traffic-free recreational trails. It will provide a link from the Pittsburgh area to the emerging West Virginia-Ohio system.
There is a potential connection from the current western end, on to the Ohio River and then south to connect up with the Yankee Trail (described in the Southwest Volume of this guide). in Wellsburg. The Yankee Trail connects to the Brooke Pioneer Trail(described in the Southwest volume of this guide), which connects to the Wheeling Trail system.
There is hope to extend the eastern end of the trail into Carnegie and beyond.
Vicinity: Directions begin headed west on US22/30 (Parkway West) from Pittsburgh.
Eastern (PA) trailheads: Take I79 south from the Parkway West, and then take the first exit (Carnegie, exit 57).
Walker’s Mill: At the bottom of the ramp turn right on Noblestown Rd. After a mile and a half on Noblestown Rd, turn left on Walkers Mill Rd, toward the Collier Twp Municipal Building. Follow this road around a couple of corners to trailhead parking on the right and left.
McDonald: At the bottom of the ramp turn right on Noblestown Rd. After a little over 9.5 miles on Noblestown Rd, turn left on PA980. Follow this road for a block across the creek and the trail to parking on the left, in front of the Trail Station and Meeting House.
w trailheads: Take US22 west from the Parkway West.
Burgettstown: Take the SR18 exit, following signs to the First Niagara Pavilion. Continue south on SR18 for 3.0 miles. As you approach Burgettstown the road widens and there is a right hand road at an angle. Take this road and go 0.3 miles to the trail. Parking is on the right just after the road bends. If you miss the side road, you will pass under the trail and start to bend right. Immediately turn right on Bridge St, Go one block and turn left on N Main St. Go one block and turn right. Go one block and you will cross the trail, parking is on the left just past the trail.
Colliers (WV section): Follow US22 into WV and take Exit 3, for Harmon Ck and Cove Road. At the bottom of the ramp, turn left/south. Go 0.3 mile, crossing a bridge over Harmon Ck and the trail. Take the first right, almost a U-turn onto McColl Rd, and descend to stream level. After 0.2 miles, turn right at the sign just before the three house trailers. Trailhead parking is behind the house trailers. Biking under the US22 Bridge leads to one mile of trail that deadends. Heading away from the US22 Bridge leads towards Pittsburgh.
Rest rooms, water: Seasonal chemical toilets at trailheads; rest rooms at Trail Station in McDonald when it’s open
Restaurant, groceries: Restaurants and groceries within a few blocks of the trail in McDonald, Oakdale, Burgettstown and beside trail at Cemetery Hill Rd.
Camping, simple lodging: None.
Swimming, fishing: Possibly in Robinson Run or the quarry pond. In the creek one mile from the WV trailhead.
Winter sports: XC skiing. No snowmobiles.
Wheelchair access: Generally good.
Panhandle Trail Association Panhandle Trail
2520 Hilltop Rd 361 Greenbrier
Oakdale, PA 15071 Weirton WV 26062
Maps, guides, other references
USGS Topographic Maps: Oakdale, Canonsburg, Midway, Clinton, Burgettstown, Avella, Steubenville East, Weirton.
Text version of 18 Mar 2018 based on personal observation while bicycling Walker Mill to Oakdale 7/2019, Oakdale to McDonald 7/2018, McDonald to Burgettstown 12/2019, Burgettstown to State Line 3/2018, State Line to Colliers WV 6/2012. Conditions may have changed; you are responsible for your own safety. Oldest segment check 6/2012.
page blank for oddness