Apollo’s Kiski Riverfront / Roaring Run Trails
Southeast of Apollo in Armstrong County
The Apollo’s Kiski Riverfront Trail and the Roaring Run Trail parallel the Kiskiminetas River. Most recently, this corridor served as the route of the Pennsylvania RR Apollo industrial extension track. Markers numbered 2 and 3 on the Roaring Run Trail are mileposts from this railroad. Before the railroad, though, this was the towpath for a section of the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal. The Roaring Run Watershed Association (RRWA) owns about 652 acres of land which is open to the public year round. This trail is part of the IHTC Pittsburgh to Harrisburg Corridor and one of the trails in the Trans Allegheny Trails System (page NE-183).
Apollo’s Kiski Riverfront Trail/Roaring Run Trail
Location Southeast from Apollo, Kiskiminetas Township, Armstrong County
Trailheads North Apollo, Canal St #1, #2, Edmon, Brownstown Rd
Length, Surface 5.0 miles along river (4.0 finished in crushed limestone, 1.0 paved)
2.1 miles along river in town (0.8 crushed limestone, 1.3 on road) Roaring Run Spur 1.4 miles crushed limestone
Character Residential, industrial, open shade along river
Usage restrictions No motorized vehicles, no horses
Driving time from Pittsburgh 50 minutes northeast
The Apollo’s Kiski Riverfront Trail runs 1.5 miles through the west side of Apollo. The Roaring Run Trail runs 5 miles from Canal St just south of Apollo to the edge of Edmon, with a side trail up Roaring Run for 1.3 miles to a trailhead at Brownstown Rd. In Apollo the trail is a mixture of pavement, crushed limestone, and gravel. Roaring Run Trail is finished as a 10-foot crushed limestone path, except for the last 1.0 miles to Edmon, which is a very steep, paved downhill, then uphill, climbing out of the valley to the village on top.
The Apollo’s Kiski Riverfront Trail begins at the North Apollo trailhead near the intersection of Pegtown Av and McCain Av. The trail follows Pegtown Av left/east from the parking lot and almost immediately enters a short unpromising gravel path at the end of Pegtown Av. A sign for Roaring Run Trail offers reassurance. After about a block of gravel path, the trail emerges at the dead end of a paved road that bends around through an abandoned/demolished, overgrown former nuclear processing site. This road goes 0.6 miles to Third St. Here it connects with a crushed limestone path between Kiski Av and Railroad Av for 0.2 miles to PA66. The crosswalk here has pedestrian signals. From the traffic light, the trail continues for another 0.5 miles and stops at a four-car parking lot. From here it is 0.7 miles along the road to the Roaring Run trailhead.
The Roaring Run Trail begins at a parking lot at the end of the small residential community on Canal St. There are picnic tables and a canoe launch site here. Upstream/east from the parking lot many benches dot the trail. The trail enters the woods, with frequent views of the Kiskiminetas River.
The remains of Lock 15 of the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal are near MP1.2. Its associated dam, which was originally 16 feet high, was destroyed in an 1866 flood. Some remnants are visible in the river at low water. The lock was also numbered #2 on the Kiskiminetas River. Here a “guard lock” moved barge traffic from the canal downstream to the upstream 4-mile pool created by the dam. Upstream from the dam, the canal boats used the slackwater pool of the river instead of a separate canal prism. Mules used the riverbank as a towpath. A lockhouse and inn were also located near the mouth of Roaring Run.
The Rock Furnace Trail (MP1.5) climbs vigorously along Roaring Run Ck for 1.3 miles, through Roaring Run Watershed Association’s parcel, to a parking area on Brownstown Rd. The surface is a little rougher than the surface along the main trail. About 0.35 miles up this trail is a wooden suspension bridge that carries the trail across the creek. The adventurous mountain biker can use a nearby ford. This stream is beautiful, with small cascading waterfalls, and an abundance of native plants. It is the gem of the Roaring Run Recreation Area.
A little farther along this side trail (MP6.4) is Biddle Iron Furnace also known as Rock Furnace, one of the first iron furnaces in Western Pennsylvania. It was a “tea-kettle” furnace that operated from 1825 to 1855, using charcoal, crushed limestone, and iron ore from the adjacent hills. It is mostly a pile of rocks now, but with a good imagination the outline of the furnace can be visualized. A model is on display at the Historical Society museum in Tarentum.
Continuing east from Roaring Run on the main trail, at MP2.0 is a site, where the trail group spent some effort at remediation. A sign explains the process. It one time it leaked orange colored water (iron laden) into the river, but changing land contours and adding appropriate plants improved the water so it is no longer orange.
Farther on, the remnants of a coal washing and loading operation are at MP3.2. This extensive operation at one time was very visible, but mining in this area ended long ago, and the plant remains are now hidden by scrub trees and grasses. To see it, follow some of the mountain biking trails that climb the hillside.
The trail forks a quarter-mile later (MP3.58). The left branch goes 0.13 miles to where the road previously crossed the creek on a bridge that is no longer there. The main trail branches right and changes trail surface to paved. It switchbacks down the hill to river level on some steep grades. Check brakes before heading down. A humpback bridge across a small side stream (MP3.82) provides an interesting crossing.
A long, very, very steep hill, begins at MP4.2, climbs up to a parking lot just outside the village of Edmon (MP4.6). If planning to head back, be sure and check brakes again before descending.
Long a victim of industrial pollution, especially mine runoff, the Kiskiminetas River is making a comeback. There is good fishing at a big hole near the mouth of Roaring Run (MP1.6) and at MP2.1.
Local history, attractions
The Roaring Run Watershed Association (RRWA) is identifying and marking the remaining traces of the Pennsylvania Mainline Canal and documenting the canal remains in Armstrong County for the National Register of Historic Places. There are still survey stones and other remains from the canal era along the trail. The easiest survey stones to find are near an interpretive sign at the Canal St trailhead.
In the 1960s, Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC), Apollo’s main employer, was producing highly enriched uranium in a facility just north of town. The plant shut down in 1983 and shortly thereafter several city blocks were bulldozed and carted off-site. The company was fined for losing track of hundreds of pounds of radioactive material. A short portion of the trail is on a road that used to go past the plant.
The owners of the Kovalchick Corporation learned about converting railroad grades to trails in 1989 when Roaring Run Watershed approached them about donating this corridor. In 1984, they had acquired the route along Kiskiminetas River for salvage. After salvage, they donated the land to the Ghost Town Trail.
Extensions of the ride
The next segment to the west along the IHTC Pittsburgh to Harrisburg Corridor will eventually follow the Kiskiminetas River to the Allegheny River and then to the Freeport Hub (page NE-10) where 9 trails intersect, then follow the Three Rivers Heritage Trail (page NE-115) to Pittsburgh.
The next segment to the east along the IHTC Pittsburgh to Harrisburg Corridor is the West Penn Trail (page NE-195) near Saltsburg about 6 miles following the Kiskiminetas River.
The Roaring Run Watershed’s property also includes mountain biking. At many points between MP1.5 and MP3.5 mountain biking trails with signs branch off the crushed limestone trail. These head up and around the old slag heaps left over from when coaling was active in the area.
The Roaring Run Watershed Association is working to protect the entire watershed of Roaring Run. They have extended the trail along Roaring Run to Brownstown Rd. They have regular volunteer activities to maintain the trail and develop amenities.
There is hope is to complete the 6-mile “missing link” between the end of the Roaring Run Trail in Edmon and the West Penn Trail, a Conemaugh Valley Conservancy project, thereby connecting a trail from Apollo to near Blairsville and beyond.
Vicinity: Directions begin at the intersection of PA380 and PA66. To reach this point from Pittsburgh, take US22 east to PA286 and PA286 to PA380.
North Apollo (northeastern) trailheads: From PA380 take the exit ramp to PA66 North and go 4.3 miles to Apollo. Entering Apollo just after crossing the Kiskiminetas River on PA66, turn left/north at the first stoplight on to N Warren Av/PA66. Go 0.7 miles and turn left/west on McCain St. Go 30 feet and turn left/south into the parking lot.
Canal St trailheads #1 and #2: From PA380 take the exit ramp to PA66 North and go 4.3 miles to Apollo. Entering Apollo just after crossing the Kiskiminetas River on PA66, turn right/south at the first stoplight on to Kiski Av. Follow this road through town. About half a mile from the stoplight there are a few parking spaces near the end of the Apollo’s Kiski Riverfront Trail (trailhead #1). Continue and take the right fork into Canal St instead of going up the hill. The road dead-ends in the trailhead parking lot 1.2 miles from the traffic light in Apollo (trailhead #2).
Edmon (southwestern) trailhead: Go east on PA380 for 4.0 miles. Turn left/north on PA819 and go 1.2 miles. When PA819 turns right, continue straight ahead/east on PA981 and go 0.4 miles. Take the first left/north on Main St and go 0.4 miles. At the bridge, turn left/north and cross the Kiskiminetas River. At the “T”, turn left/west on High St and follow it around to the parking lot. The trail starts here with a very, very steep downhill, check brakes and plan for the climb on the return.
Rest rooms, water: Sweet Smelling Toilet at the Canal St trailhead.
Bike shop, rentals: None, though there is basic hardware at stores in Apollo.
Restaurant, groceries: Within sight of the traffic light in Apollo.
Camping, simple lodging: None.
Swimming, fishing: The Kiskiminetas River runs right next to the trail. There is good fishing at MP2 and the big hole at the mouth of Roaring Run (MP1.6)(near the trail bridge). Fisherfolk report bass, catfish, drum, suckers, etc. The river often has swift currents and deep holes, and the trail managers discourage swimming. Canoe-Kayak rental in Saltsburg and Leechburg; canoe access at Canal St parking lot.
Wheelchair access: Okay for the 3.75 miles to the very steep switchbacks.
Roaring Run Watershed Association
PO Box 333
Apollo, PA 15613
Maps, guides, other references
Roaring Run Recreation Area Brochure
USGS Topographic Maps: Vandergrift, Avonmore.
Text version of 10 Aug 2018, Bicycling Canal St trailhead to Edmon 7/2018, driving Canal St trailhead #1 to Canal St trailhead #2 7/2018, bicycling Canal St trailhead #2 to North Apollo 8/2017, Trail group information 3/2018. Conditions may have changed; you are responsible for your own safety. Oldest segment check 8/2017.