The Bayfront Connector Trail (Bayfront Bikeway) offers a change of pace from the rural rail-trails that provide most of the traffic-free biking in western Pennsylvania. This paved city trail connects Frontier Park through the Port of Erie to the Penn State Behrend Campus. It runs through the maritime features of the Lake Erie waterfront, some industrial areas, residential neighborhoods, greenways, and a college campus. As is common in urban settings, side streets and driveways interrupt the trail from time to time and require extra attention. The 3.7-mile segment of the trail between Frontier Park and East 6th St is part of both the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail (page NE-16) and Pennsylvania Bike Route Z.
The western section of the trail is called the Bayfront Parkway Trail while the eastern section is called the Bayfront Connector Trail. Sometimes the entire trail is referred to as the Erie Bayfront Trail or the Erie Bayfront Bikeway.
Bayfront Connector Trail / Bayfront Parkway Trail /
Erie Bayfront Bikeway
Location Frontier Park to Behrend College, Erie County
Trailheads Liberty Park, Dobbins Landing, South Pier
Length, Surface 8.5 miles paved
Character Uncrowded, developed, sun and shade, some hills
Usage restrictions No motorized vehicles, no horses
Amenities Rest rooms, water, food, lodging
Driving time from Pittsburgh 2 hours north
The trail begins at the corner of West 6th St and Shawnee St, where it enters Frontier Park as a bike path. The trail goes behind the tennis courts, descends through the park, and comes out as a sidepath alongside the Bayfront Parkway. As the Bayfront Parkway Trail goes through the 1.5 miles of the Bayfront proper, it stays generally between the Bayfront Parkway and the handsome marinas and other attractions of the Bayfront. The Park & Ride lot beside Liberty Park provides parking.
Continuing east along the Bayfront, the trail passes more marinas and the convention center. A block after Sassafras St and just before State St, the trail swings north though a parking lot. At State St, a side trail to the left goes to Dobbins Landing, home of the Bicentennial Tower and some restaurants. However, the main trail continues across State on E Front St for a block to Holland St, passing the Maritime Museum and Flagship Niagara. These attractions are worth a stop. At Holland the trail turns right/south rather than going straight into the bus station. About 50 feet later, it turns left/east on to the bike path and continues past some industrial docks and the obligatory sewer plant.
At Port Access Rd, the Bayfront Parkway turns right, and heads southeast as the Bayfront Connector. The trail crosses Port Access Rd, turns right/south across East Bay Dr, and becomes a sidepath along the Bayfront Connector road. A half a mile later, at East 6th St the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail and PA Bike Route Z turn left/east on 6th St to join the Seaway Trail.
The Bayfront Bikeway continues straight from the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail turnoff at East 6th St for another 4.7 miles to the Penn State Behrend campus. It is a sidepath usually a few feet away from the traffic lanes, with occasional excursions into the woods. For most of the way there is a line of trees between the path and its neighbors. It runs for 4.4 miles through a mixture of commercial, residential, and industrial areas to the edge of the Behrend campus. The most significant such excursion is where Buffalo Rd crosses the Bayfront Connector; here the trail climbs briskly to Buffalo Rd, crosses at grade, and descends as quickly to rejoin the parkway. For about 3 miles the pathway is right alongside the highway. It then enters the Behrend campus and swings into the woods, climbs to a pedestrian bridge across the highway, and enters the network of bike trails going from building to building in the main part of the Behrend campus.
The city of Erie has a PennDot grant for $500,000 for repairing and improving sidewalks around schools. Another $500,000 will go for school zone signage, traffic control devices, and improving crosswalks. All of which will increase pedestrian and bicycle safety.
Extensions of the ride
The next segment to the north along the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail is at Frontier Park. As the route exits the park it joins the Seaway Trail (page NE-29). The Seaway Trail is a bike lane along West 6th St. At Peninsula Dr/PA832 the route turns right/north to go for a short distance on bike lanes to enter Presque Isle State Park and its bike trail.
The next segment to the south along the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail is at East 6th St, headed east on the Seaway Trail (page NE-29). To continue on south on the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail via the Seaway Trail, turn left at East 6th St; bikes go with traffic on the right-hand side of the street.
A network of bikeways runs through the Erie Bayfront, running down most of the piers to the bay.
From May through mid-October when the weather permits, water taxi service runs between Dobbins Landing and Liberty Park on the Bayfront and Waterworks at Presque Isle State Park. In 2018 the fare is $7 one way, $10 round trip. No extra charge for bicycles.
A mile-long spur trail parallels Port Access Rd to South Pier, where there is a short walking trail along the channel leading out of Presque Isle Bay with views of the North Pier lighthouse and Coast Guard station.
To arrange parking for a multiday trip on the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail, check with Erie’s Port Security at 814-455-7557. Alert them that the car will be there, and they can suggest the most secure location in the Bayfront area.
Pennsylvania Bike Route Z runs all the way across the thumb of Pennsylvania that stretches north to the Lake Erie Shoreline. Its route is the same as the Great Lakes Seaway Trail except in Erie, where it follows the Bayfront Bikeway. The Pennsylvania Bike Routes often follow main highways and we generally do not find them congenial to biking.
Vicinity: Follow I79 north to Erie. To reach this point from Pittsburgh, go north on I79.
Liberty Park on the Bayfront trailhead: At the end of I79 take Exit 183A on to the Bayfront Parkway. Shortly after the first marina, turn left into the Park and Ride lot.
Dobbins Landing trailhead: At the end of I79 take Exit 183A. This will put you on Bayfront Parkway. Turn left at the stoplight at State St, toward Dobbins Landing. There is free parking on the right, near the Maritime Museum and the trail.
South Pier trailhead: At the end of I79 take Exit 183A on to the Bayfront Parkway. Continue along the waterfront for about 2.5 miles. Turn left at the stoplight at Port Access Rd. Go 1 mile to parking at the end of the spur trail that runs out to South Pier.
Rest rooms, water: Rest rooms and water at Park and Ride lot at Liberty Park.
Bike shop, rentals: Bike shops in Erie.
Restaurant, groceries: Restaurants at Dobbins Landing and in Erie.
Camping, simple lodging: Motels and cottages on PA832 near the Presque Isle State Park entrance. Other motels and camping in and near Erie.
Swimming, fishing: Swimming in Presque Isle State Park. Fishing charters from Port of Erie.
Winter sports: None.
Wheelchair access: Good.
Erie-Western Pennsylvania Port Authority
208 East Bayfront Parkway, Suite 201
Erie, PA 16507
Maps, guides, other references
USGS Topographic Maps: Erie South, Erie North, Harborcreek.
Text version of 6 Jul 2018 based on personal observation while bicycling Frontier Park to Behrend College 10/2015, driving around Behrend Campus 10/2015, report from trail group 10/2010, trail brochure 2009. Conditions may have changed; you are responsible for your own safety. Oldest segment check 10/2015.