Along Ohio River from South Wheeling to Short Creek and along Wheeling Ck from Wheeling to Elm Grove in Ohio County WV
Located in the northern panhandle of West Virginia, these trails are almost in western Pennsylvania. Two trails form a T-shaped asphalt-paved system with a main stem (Ohio River Trail) of 11.3 miles along the Ohio River and a 4.8-mile trail (Wheeling Creek Trail) eastward along Wheeling Ck to Elm Grove. The core of the trail lies in urban Wheeling, and its three legs reach out into the suburbs and beyond. We’re used to meeting friendly people along trails, and the folks here have been particularly congenial. This trail has been around for a while and the pavement is showing its age (2016). There are cracks that cross the asphalt every 20 to 30 feet. Repairs are planned for the early summer of 2017.
Wheeling Heritage Trails
Location Along Ohio River and Wheeling Ck in Richland, Triadelphia,
and Ritchie Townships and cities of Wheeling and Bethlehem, WV
Trailheads Elm Grove, Wheeling, Pike Island Dam
Length, Surface 16 miles paved; 11.2 miles along Ohio River, 4.1 miles along Wheeling Ck,
7 miles on city street bike lanes
Character busy, urban, sunny, nearly flat
Usage restrictions No motorized vehicles, no horses
Amenities Rest rooms, water, bike rental, food, lodging, fishing
Driving time from Pittsburgh 1 hour 10 minutes southwest
The Wheeling Heritage Trail (sometimes called the Ohio River Trail) starts at 48th St in South Wheeling and runs 2.2 miles to the mouth of Wheeling Creek near the Wesbanco Arena, then another 9 miles north past the Pike Island Lock and Dam to the county line at Short Creek. Here it connects to the Brooke County Pioneer Trail. (Page SW-<<XX>>) and then the Yankee Trail (Page SW-XX) forming a <<20.5>> mile continuous trail to Wellsburg.
In South Wheeling this trail begins behind the Benwood Plaza Shopping Center, at the corner of 48th and Water St. Here the trail is mostly residential with a few older industrial buildings. At 40th St is the Mail Pouch Factory where they made cigars. At 36th St is the right field of the local ball field. As it passes under the I470 bridge it becomes more industrial, passing a wastewater treatment plant (a standard feature of rail-trails) and then a former railroad yard. At 23rd St (the last opportunity before Wheeling Creek) a crossover leads 2 blocks to the City Center Market, where an old-fashioned market building offers food and restrooms. The trail in this area is richly supported with interpretive signage.
The trail crosses into Wheeling on a wood-decked bridge and continues past the Wesbanco Arena into the Heritage Port of Wheeling. The on-road section of the Wheeling Creek Trail connects at this point, and you have great views of the Wheeling Suspension Bridge. This was the longest bridge in the world when it was constructed in 1849. It was also the first bridge across the Ohio River, serving as “gateway to the west”; when it opened, the toll was 10 cents for a man and a horse. It is now a National Civil Engineering Landmark, a National Historic Landmark, and the most significant pre-Civil war engineering structure in the country.
Near the north end of the Heritage Port waterfront development, the trail splits, with the most obvious branch going left and dead-ending at the amphitheater. The trail, however, jogs up to the right, staying near the street as it passes the amphitheater, an assortment of memorials, and an elaborate playground. Past the playground the trail is well below street level, with the Ohio River on one side and a stone wall on the other; the Victorian Old Town is just above. Shortly after going under the Wheeling Suspension Bridge the trail goes under the modern I70 Bridge. Frequent stairs and ramps provide access to local businesses and food.
Wheeling shades into North Wheeling, and the trail runs between new apartment buildings and a marina, with a few restaurants nearby. Then WV2, River Rd, runs close to the river, squeezing the trail between the road and the light industrial businesses that border the river. At mile 4.2 where the trail climbs 10’ or so to road level, River Room Café has stairs to the trail. There is one more 10’ hill where the trail jogs from the former railroad grade to highway level to go around obstacles.
Soon enough the trail enters the residential community of Warwood, where many of the yards beside the trail are attractively landscaped. Several side roads cross the trail in this area. In contrast to the practice on many trails, the trail traffic has the right of way; vehicle traffic must stop. As you pass the Middle School at Viking Drive, there are signs for food and shops.
North of Warwood the trail runs through open countryside between the road and the river with superb views of the river until it arrives at Pike Island Lock and Dam, 6 miles north of Wheeling. Pike Island Lock and Dam provides an observation deck from which you can watch boat traffic on the Ohio River pass through the locks. Security fencing only appears to block access to the observation platform and restrooms, but a public sidewalk to these facilities remains open.
North of Pike Island Dam the trail continues parallel to WV2 for another 2 miles to a coal silo, where coal from a mine up on the hill is brought down for loading into barges. The trail continues another .6 mile to Short Creek, where it joins the Brooke County Pioneer Trail. See page <<xx>>.
The other branch of the trail goes up Wheeling Ck from the downtown riverfront to Elm Grove. It is known, unsurprisingly, as the Wheeling Creek Trail. It will eventually start from the Ohio River Trail in the Heritage Port, near the Wesbanco Arena. For now, there’s a 0.7-mile gap on city streets. This has been marked with bike lanes, but street repaving has eradicated the lane markings in several places. The eastbound routing of the on-road segment goes around the Wesbanco Arena, along South St to 18th St with a couple of nasty intersections with traffic, up an alley between 17th and 18th, then left on Eoff St for a block, then right to 17th St and out 17th to Wood St, where the finished trail starts. The westbound route from 17th and Wood goes west a block on 17th, then diverges from the eastbound route by turning north (right) on Jacob St and left/west on 14th St, which leads directly to the trail intersection near the Visitor Center.
The finished part of Wheeling Creek Trail begins at the corner of 17th St and Wood St, running on a bench above limited-access US250. After a block behind residences, the trail crosses a trestle and shares a short gorge with the creek and the highway. Soon the trail swings over the highway and creek and enters a tunnel—one of the few lighted tunnels in this area. The trail emerges from the tunnel alongside the creek and I70. One intersection remains, but it’s a complicated corner involving traffic getting on and off I70 with right hand turns coming from behind the trail. There are pedestrian buttons to activate a walk/ride signal segment, Use them. Soon the highway crosses to the other side of the creek and exercise stations of a Parcourse appear beside the trail. The highway becomes less obtrusive, though you don’t escape its billboards and noise. For now (2014), the trail ends at a dead end street at the edge of Elm Grove, 4.1 miles from 17th and Wood.
Extensions of the Ride
2.6 miles past the Pike Island Dam the Wheeling Heritage Trail ends and joins seamlessly with the Brook County Trail (See page <<xx>>. The Brook Trail continues for 6.9 miles where it connects to the Yankee Trail. The Yankee Trail continues northward for 2.3 miles through the town of Wellsburg.
Active development of this trail continues. Plans call for possibly extending the East Wheeling Trail 34 miles to Washington PA as the National Pike Trail. On the north stem along the Ohio, the trail connects seamlessly to the Brooke County Pioneer Trail to Wellsburg. From Wellsburg there is a gap of 9.2 miles to the west end of the Panhandle Tail which connects to Pittsburgh, and Washington, DC
There is also a Wheeling Heritage Trail Expansion Plan that would incorporate the former Wheeling Terminal Railway into the Trail Network. This would add 15 to 20 additional miles of trail network in Wheeling, making several loop trips possible. It would add several tunnels, overlooks, and access to some natural features. << check on this >>
Vicinity: Directions begin headed westbound on I70 at the PA-WV state line. To reach this point from Pittsburgh, go south on I79 to Washington PA, then west on I70.
Elm Grove trailhead (eastern): From the PA-WV state line, continue west on I70 for 8.6 miles to Exit 5B, Elm Grove, and turn left/west at the bottom of the ramp to go westbound on US40, headed to WV88. In a quarter of a mile, go straight on WV88 south, toward Bethlehem where US40 and WV88 North turn right. Continue on WV88 south for 0.4 miles, passing Bridge St Plaza. Just as you come to Elm Terrace Shopping Center on the left and WV88 starts up hill, turn sharp right on Junior Av. Go 0.2 miles on Junior Av and turn left on Lava Av. This is the third left, just before you reach a school. Continue 0.4 miles on Lava Av to trailhead parking on the right across the street from the Rehab Center, just before the skateboard park.
Wheeling (downtown): From the PA-WV state line, continue west on I70 for 13.5 miles to Exit 1A, WV2 North. To make this exit gracefully, after exit 1B get into the right lane as you enter the tunnel then take the exit at the west end of the tunnel. At the bottom of the ramp, turn left/south, Follow signs to Downtown and WV2 South; you’ll be on Main St. Continue to 14th St. Turn right on 14th St. A parking garage is on your left as you head down 14th street. Two blocks from Main Street the road bends right/north onto Water Street. The trail is alongside Water Street, between the street and the Waterfront Park. Alternate parking can be found at the meters along Water Street or in the parking lot behind the Wesbanco Arena.
Pike Island Lock & Dam trailhead (northern): From the PA-WV state line, continue west on I70 for 13.5 miles to Exit 1A, WV2, and exit northbound on WV 2. To make this exit gracefully, be in the right lane as you enter the tunnel and take the exit at the west end of the tunnel. At the bottom of the ramp, turn right/north. Follow signs for Pike Island; you’ll wind up northbound on WV2. Follow WV2 for 6 miles to Pike Island Lock and Dam; turn left into the parking lot. The dam is easy to spot from a distance because of the overhead structure.
South Wheeling trailhead (South): From the Pa-WV state line, continue west on I70 for about 9 miles to Exit 5A, I470, and exit westbound on I470. Go 3.0 miles on I470 and exit southbound on US250/WV2. Continue 1.5 miles on US250/WV2 to the first exit. At the intersection turn right/west and go under the railroad tracks. Continue on Boggs Run Road, which turns into Marshall Street, continue for about 4 or 5 blocks and turn left/west on 48th Street. Park where 48th St dead-ends at the end of the trail.
Rest rooms, water: Rest rooms and water at the Pike Island Lock and Dam overlook dawn to dusk unless security concerns close them down and at City Center Market in South Wheeling. Chemical toilets at the skateboard park at the Elm Grove trailhead and at several ball fields within sight of the trail.
Bike shop, rental: None near the trail. Quick Service Bicycle Shop, 710 N Lincoln Ave, Bridgeport, Ohio 43912, 740-635-3700, about 1.5 miles from Wesbanco Arena. Wheelcraft, Ltd, 2187 National Rd., Wheeling, WV 26003, 304-242-2100, out near the I70/I470 interchange, about 4.5 miles from Wesbanco Arena.
Restaurant, groceries: This is, for the most part, an urban trail. There are many places to get food within a few blocks of the trail. The most convenient is at the north end of Wheeling 1.8 miles north of the amphitheater is River Room Café. Our favorite now is Centre Market 0.5 miles south of the amphitheater, between 23rd and 22nd Sts two short blocks directly away from the trail on 23rd St, where there is a sign for “Food, Shops, Restroom”.
Camping, simple lodging: Many motels near Wheeling and Elm Grove.
Swimming, fishing: Fishing in Ohio River and Wheeling Ck. We have no information on water quality in either.
Wheelchair access: Trailheads OK. A few short steep grades where trail deviates from railroad grade.
Wheeling Heritage Trail Partners
P.O. Box 350
Wheeling, WV 26003
(304) 232-3087 - fax: (304) 232-3092
Maps, guides, other references
Adventure Guide to WV Rail Trails, from the WV Rails-to-Trails Council, PO Box 8889, South Charleston, WV 25303-0889, (304) 722-6558.
USGS Topographic Maps: Wheeling WV-OH, Tiltonsville OH-WV.
Text version of 19 Dec 2014 based on personal observation while bicycling South Wheeling to Wesbanco Arena 11/2019, Wesbanco Arena to Lock and Dam 11/2018; Lock and Dam to Wellsburg 4/2016; Elm Grove to Washington St 11/2019. Washington St to Wesbanco Arena 11/2018. Conditions may have changed; you are responsible for your own safety. Oldest segment check 12/2016.