The designated bicycle trail in Moraine State Park runs on the north and west sides of Lake Arthur, generally between North Shore Dr and the lake. Two very different segments start at the parking lot near the bicycle concession at the northwest corner of the lake. Unlike most of the trails in this guide, these trails wind in and out of trees and up and down small hills. The well-known paved path runs for 7.2 miles to Davis Hollow Marina. A newer unpaved path runs along the west edge of the lake to Muddy Ck, then west to I79 for a total of 1.25 miles.
Moraine State Park Bike Trail
Location Moraine State Park, Butler County
Trailheads Lake Arthur bicycle concession, Davis Hollow marina
Length, Surface 8.4 miles total (7.2 paved, 1.25 crushed limestone)
Character Busy, park setting, mostly sunny,
Usage restrictions Snowmobiles okay on paved trail in season,
Amenities Rest rooms, water, bike rental, food, fishing
Driving time from Pittsburgh 1 hour north
The 10-foot wide paved trail segment begins at the parking lot beside the bicycle concession. It follows the lake clockwise (north and east) for 7.2 miles to Davis Hollow Marina. It starts out alongside North Shore Dr but soon swings away into the woods with broad curves, rolling hills, and occasional views of the lake. After MP3, signs of park activity appear: boating, picnicking, swimming, disc golf, group camping and the parking lots and access roads that support them. The swimming area is near the parking lot at mile 3.7, as is the disc golf course. The sailboat storage and launch area is around mile 4.8. At MP5 the trail enters the woods again for more twists and turns to Davis Hollow marina where at mile 7.2, it emerges next to the building that formerly housed the Marina restaurant and is now (2018) the Moraine Outdoor Center.
The trail is lovely, but the price of the winding trail is an assortment of tight curves, short hills, and poor sight lines. The trail is very popular, so it will have lots of activity any time during the season. It is possible that someone may be standing (once we encountered someone sitting) in the middle of the trail just around a blind corner. Alertness and speed control are required, but not always demonstrated by all trail users.
The unpaved segment of the trail is more intimate than the paved trail; it’s about 6 foot wide on crushed limestone. This trail also starts at the parking lot beside the bicycle concession, on the lake side of the parking lot where the North Country Trail comes out of the woods (foot traffic only in that direction). The North Country Trail and the bike trail share a crushed limestone path for a mile to a bridge across Muddy Ck. The bike trail follows the lake counterclockwise (south and west) to Muddy Ck and then follows Muddy Ck to the western park boundary. Unfortunately, the surface on the hills is often eroded, so the bike handling can be tricky.
From the parking lot the trail begins in open woods with wildflowers and passes the butterfly trail before crossing the McDaniels Launch Area road at 0.7 mi. At this point the trail really shows the results of neglect. Sometimes the crushed limestone surface is just 6 feet wide. On some hills, there is no limestone, just rutted gravel. At McDaniels Launch Area the trail enters woods above a creek, and descends for 0.3 miles to a bridge that carries the US422 off-ramp across Muddy Ck. At this point the bicycle trail appears to go straight across the road on a railroad grade, except it is posted as closed. In 2010 the park map showed it continuing, but the 2015 map does not show that. The North Country Trail turns left/southeast on the road, crosses the creek, and turns right/west again on a service road. This section of the Moraine Bike Trail is a pretty trail, but it requires a lot better bike-handling skills than most trails in this book.
Local history, attractions
During the ice age 14,000 years ago, the Wisconsin Ice Sheet came just this far south, where it dammed Muddy Ck to create a large glacial lake. When the glacier receded the lake burst, and the water it liberated carved the deep gorge a few miles west on Slippery Rock Ck, making major changes to the regional drainage patterns. Geological remnants of glaciation, including the moraine and an esker can still be found in the area. Present-day Lake Arthur is in approximately the same location as the glacial lake.
More recently, this area has been exploited for its minerals: first oil in the late 19th century, then coal. Deep mines predominated in the early 20th century, and the area was strip-mined in the 1940s and 1950s.
A park was proposed in 1951 when a geological survey revealed traces of the glacial lake. Extensive restoration was required to reclaim the land that is now the park. Deep mines were sealed, hundreds of oil and gas wells were plugged, and strip mines were re-contoured. The park opened in 1970.
Extensions of the ride
A 6-mile mountain bike trail rambles through the hills east of the Davis Hollow Marina. It has very steep rocky sections and is definitely not a novice trail. The park cautions that it is for experienced off-road riders in good physical condition who are equipped for off-road riding. It’s not our kind of riding, and it’s noted here only because it’s close by. One trailhead is on Mt Union Rd about a third of a mile north of North Shore Dr, and there are two others on Alexander Ridge Rd.
There is discussion of developing an on-road route to Butler, which would connect this trail to the Butler Freeport Community Trail (page NE-130).
Vicinity: Directions begin on either US422 or I79 headed toward Moraine State Park. Details depend on which direction you are coming from.
Lake Arthur (bicycle rental concession) (western) trailhead:
From the east: Approach the park headed west on US422. About a mile after crossing the lake (and just before the I79 intersection), take the “North Shore” exit from US422. Go a quarter-mile to the “T” intersection with North Shore Dr. Turn right/north and follow signs for 0.8 miles to the bicycle concession and trailhead parking.
From the south: Approach the park headed north on I79. Take the PA488 exit (Portersville, Exit 28) and turn left/west. Go 0.6 miles to US19 in Portersville. Turn right/north on US19, go 0.5 miles, and turn right/northeast on SR4007 (West Park Rd, also numbered TR890). Follow signs for “North Shore Moraine State Park”. Go 2.8 miles on SR4007, crossing I79, US422, and Muddy Ck. Just after crossing the creek, turn right/west and follow signs 0.8 miles to the bicycle concession and parking.
From the west: Approach the park headed east on US422. Turn right/south on US19, go a bit over half a mile to Burnside Rd and turn left/west. Follow Burnside Rd just over a mile to SR4007 (West Park Rd) and turn left/north. Go 0.5 miles on SR4007, crossing US422 and Muddy Ck. Just after the creek crossing, turn right/west and follow signs 0.8 miles to the bicycle concession and trailhead parking.
From the north: Approach the park headed south on I79. Take the US422 exit (Exit 29). Turn right/west and go 1.2 miles to US19 and turn left/south on US19, then proceed as if coming from the west.
Other access: Since the trail lies between North Shore Dr and the lake, practically any parking lot along North Shore Dr provides access, especially the ones at lakeside.
Davis Hollow (eastern) trailhead: Instead of turning into the bicycle concession parking area, continue on the access road, which becomes North Shore Dr. After Mt Union Rd, take the first right/southeast turn and go to the building (a former restaurant, now (2018) the Moraine Outdoor Center) at the end. The trail is just to the right of the building.
Rest rooms, water: Water and rest rooms are available at both trailheads and at the Lakeview Picnic area and the Watts Bay Marina in between.
Bike shop, rentals: No bike shop, but a rental concession operates at the west trailhead daily, from Memorial Day to Labor Day and warm weekends at other times.
Restaurant, groceries: There’s a seasonal snack bar at Lakeview Beach, near MP3.7 and at Davis Marina. The bike rental concession has vending machines.
Camping, simple lodging: No camping in the park. There are eleven cabins for rental in the park. The park office has a list of private campgrounds and hotels in the area.
Swimming, fishing: Swimming in the state park is permitted only at official swimming areas with lifeguards; they issue citations to swimmers at other locations. The north shore swimming area is at Lakeview, near MP3.7. Check the lifeguard schedule in advance if planning to swim. Fishing in the lake features muskellunge, northern pike, striper, largemouth bass, walleye, channel catfish, black crappie, and bluegill.
Winter sports: The cross-country skiing area is on the south side of the lake. Jennings Nature Reserve, not far northeast, has a more extensive cross-country trail system. The bike trail becomes part of the snowmobile trails in the winter, with restrictions on dates and minimum snow depth. There’s also ice fishing, ice boating, ice skating, and sledding when conditions permit.
Wheelchair access: A few short steep hills where the trail dips to cross creeks are probably steeper than ADA grade.
DCNR—Moraine State Park
Maps, guides, other references
The map in the park’s information brochure shows the bike route. Trail maps for the mountain bike area are available at the Park office and the bike rental concession.
USGS Topographic Maps: Portersville, Prospect.
Text version of 2 Jul 2018 based on personal observation while bicycling I79 to bike concession 9/2015, bike concession to Davis marina 2/2017, No firsthand information on mountain biking trails east of Davis Marina. Conditions may have changed; you are responsible for your own safety. Oldest segment check 9/2015.