Lower Trail (Juniata River Corridor)
Along the Frankstown Branch, Juniata River from Alfarata in Huntingdon County to Williamsburg in Blair County
This valley has served as a transportation corridor since it was part of the Frankstown Path, a major Indian route connecting Harrisburg with Kittanning. In subsequent times it has supported a canal, a railroad, and a highway. The route of the former railroad and canal forms the Lower (rhymes with “flower”) Trail. This trail runs alongside the Frankstown Branch of the Juniata River without road crossings for 11 miles through forest and farmland. The Juniata River here is really a creek, often running in shallow riffles near the trail. Pennsylvania’s “G” route, the central north-south cross-state bicycle touring route, uses the Lower Trail from Alfarata to Williamsburg.
<<Explain relation to Double Burger>>
Lower Trail (Juniata River Corridor)
Location Alfarata to Williamsburg, Porter and Morris Townships in Huntingdon
County; Catherine and Woodbury Townships in Blair County
Trailheads Alfarata, Etna Iron Furnace, Covedale, Williamsburg
Length, Surface 11 miles, packed crushed stone with parallel mowed trail
Character uncrowded, wooded, shady, flat
Usage restrictions Horses ok; no motorized vehicles
Amenities Rest rooms, food
Driving time from Pittsburgh 2 hours 20 minutes east
Within sight of the Alfarata trailhead, the trail crosses under US22 and heads upstream along the Juniata to squeeze through a small gap in Tussey Mountain. The town here is said to be called Water Street because pack trains used the creek bed through the narrow steep gap. At MP 0.8 the Water Street Flea Market beside the trail offers everything from antique tools to Beanie Babies.
Between MP 2 and MP 4 the trail passes remnants of stone quarries. First, you see the foundations of structures used to bring stone down from Owens quarry, which you can see high on the hill. Another mile and a half brings you to Goodman quarry, also marked by concrete foundations. Between the two quarries, the canal channel has become the back channel of the creek, usually separated from the main channel by an island. Here, as with most of the remaining traces of the canal, a good imagination will help you visualize the former structures.
At MP 4.2 the trail crosses Fox Run on a handsome stone arch bridge. A view of this bridge from the creek bed is featured in many trail descriptions. At MPs 4.8 and 5 you cross the Juniata River twice where the railroad took a shortcut across a peninsula. Just past the second bridge you’ll reach the Mt Etna access area, including a bridge over a former mill race. The Mt Etna Iron furnace community is about half a mile from the trail here.
At MP 6.3 the trail passes Canal Lock No 61. The walls of the lock are clearly visible. Another mile brings you to numerous foundations that mark the Juniata Limestone Company and its company town, 7 miles from Alfarata and 4 miles from Williamsburg. From here to Williamsburg the traces of the canal are more frequent, including locks and foundations of locktender’s houses. Other signs of current use—farms and houses—are also more frequent.
The trail is graced by no fewer than four sets of mileage markers: three from railroads and one for the modern trail. The trail is marked from 0 to 11 in both directions in white numbers on brown posts. The railroad markers are black on white. Two such markers (with different numbering systems) are just north of the Williamsburg parking lot, and others appear along the length of the trail.
Local history, attractions
The Frankstown Path, also called the Allegheny Path or Ohio Path, was the major Indian trail across this region. It connected Paxtang (now Harrisburg) with Kittanning and Forks of the Ohio (now Pittsburgh). In this area it followed approximately the same route as US22, and it’s known locally as the Kittanning Path. Hunters, trappers, and pioneers later used this route to reach the frontier.
The canal was built in the 1830’s as part of the Juniata Division of the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal, which connected Philadelphia to Pittsburgh with three canals, a railroad, and the Allegheny Portage Railway, a combination railroad and inclined plane. Traces of this part of the canal can also be seen along Roaring Run Trail. Poor management, floods, and the rise of railroads led to the demise of the canal. As technology gave railroads superiority over canals, the Pennsy RR purchased the entire Mainline Canal system in 1857. In 1879 the Petersburg Branch of the Pennsy was built on this corridor. It operated until 1979 and was abandoned in 1982. In 1990, T. Dean Lower provided funding to purchase the corridor as a rail-trail.
[[Usual stuff about Double Burger]]
In fall of 2019, an extension of the trail will open that connects the Flowing Spring trail head into Canoe Creek State Park. The extension includes an underpass that sends the trail underneath US Route 22, so trail users do not have to cross over the roadway. The project was made possible with a large grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, County of Blair and Frankstown Township Supervisors.
Vicinity: Directions begin headed east on US22 from its intersection with PA36 in Hollidaysburg. To reach this point from Pittsburgh, go east on US22, taking care to stay on US22 as it exits the 4-lane highway and zogs and zags for a few miles in the vicinity of the US220/I99 interchange.
Alfarata (north) trailhead: Follow US22 18.6 miles east from PA36. Turn left on SR4014 toward Alfarata; this turn is 0.7 miles after the intersection of US22 and PA45/453. Go 0.4 miles on SR4014 to trailhead parking.
Mt Etna access point: Follow US22 12.7 miles east from PA36. Turn right on T461 and follow this road to the trailhead near its intersection with SR2017. «unchecked»
Williamsburg (south) trailhead: Follow US22 for 9 miles east from P36. Turn right on PA866 (to Williamsburg). Follow PA866 into town, where it becomes 1st St. Go straight on 1st St when PA866 turns right and go two blocks to parking at the intersection of 1st St and Liberty St. Parking is a total of 3.8 miles from US22.
Rest rooms, water: Chemical toilets at Alfarata, Mt Etna, and Williamsburg trailheads.
Bike shop, rental: : In Williamsburg, Past to Present Trailhead Shop adjacent to trailhead parking.
Restaurant, groceries: In Williamsburg, Past to Present Trailhead Shop adjacent to trailhead parking, and a convenience store a block from trailhead. If the flea market at Water Street is operating, there will probably be snacks there.
Camping, simple lodging: Family cabins at Canoe Creek State Park, just south of Williamsburg on US22.
Swimming, fishing: Swimming in Frankstown Br Juniata R. Fishing quality unknown
Winter sports: Cross-country skiing
Wheelchair access: OK
Rails-to-Trails of Central PA
PO Box 592
Hollidaysburg PA 16648-0592
Membership: $10/year individual, $12/year family
Maps, guides, other references
Trail brochure, available at trailheads
USGS Topographic Maps:
Spruce Creek, Williamsburg.
Text version of 10 Dec 1995. Base on persinal observation while bicycling 12/1995. Conditions will have changed; you are responsible for your own safety. Oldest segment check 12/1995.