Both the Great Shamokin Path and PA85 run for 4.3 miles alongside Cowanshannock Ck, with the rail-trail on the south side and the road on the north.The creek is well wooded, so aside from some road noise, the trail feels isolated. The surface is packed dirt and ballast, often overgrown with grass. It is generally about 20 feet wide. The trail is properly gated and posted against motorized vehicles, with occasional signs marking it as the Great Shamokin Path. However, over time motor vehicles have beaten paths around the gates, and the trail now shows considerable signs of motorized use, especially at the eastern end
The trail follows the route of its namesake, a traditional Indian path that connected the Susquehanna River basin with Kittanning. In this area the Great Shamokin Path followed Cowanshannock Ck. It's a pleasant, though short, ride through woods and small farms with frequent glimpses of the creek. Small wildlife is abundant: On one trip we saw chipmunks, rabbits, a groundhog, ducks, kingfishers, and a wild turkey; many other birds made a constant chirping chatter.
The west end of the trail is at a missing bridge in the middle of a corn field about half a mile west of Kennedell St in Rose Valley. This section of trail is packed cinders, with farm fields on the south, and the back of houses on the north. Near Kennerdell St the trail is under the power lines, between the poles. From Kennerdell St to the parking area at the sewer plant, the trail uses the access road.
East of the parking area, the trail crosses a bridge that can just barely be seen past the end of the sewer plant fence. The trail here is a 20 to 25 foot wide grassy packed dirt strip travelling through woods. A sort distance past the bridge there is a 50 foot grassy hill on the right. This is the dam for a small lake. Climb the hill to see the lake, and perhaps fisherpersons. A little farther on, the trail crosses a new dirt road that leads off to a Phillips gas well.
About a mile from the sewer plant the trail passes through the edge of a small development that appears to have been built as a company town; the originally-identical houses have acquired individual character over the years. At the far edge of town, the trail surface changes from grassy packed dirt to ATV two-track packed cinders, much smoother than the grass. It returns to the woods and passes several very small ponds. It emerges again at a private residence, sharing the railbed with the driveway.
Along the driveway it passes a cooperative fish hatchery, recognizable not only by the sign but also by the aeration cascade that prepares water for the trout. In 75 feet of cascades, the stream changes from orange to clear with algae. Below that there are two 50 foot by 3 foot passage ways filled with 4 to 6 inch fish.
From the hatchery the trail follows the driveway to the road intersection, where the non-motorized trail resumes. The east end of the trail is at the parking lot near a ball field, the NuMine access. This is the official mile zero point.
Plans are in place for more parking and signage along PA85. The trail organization has acquired 7 miles of path from Margaret to Echo, which they hope to develop in the future. This would cross the current trail near its western end.
Vicinity: Directions begin approaching Yatesboro headed east on PA85. To reach this point from Pittsburgh, go north on PA28 through Kittanning. Follow PA28/66 north about 1.5 miles to PA85. Turn right (east) on PA85. You reach the Yatesboro trailhead in about 8.7 miles, NuMine in about 11.9.
Rose Valley trailhead (western): Approaching Rose Valley, watch for an Amish cabinet and furniture store in a big blue building on the right/south. Two small houses past that, turn right onto Kennerdell St, a small gravel road. Go one block to the "T", turn left, cross a small creek and park near at the sewer plant.
Other access: Two other roads crossing PA85 are marked to turn north to Rural Valley and Meredith. If you turn south at either of these intersections you will quickly cross first Cowanshannock Ck and then the trail. There is not much parking at these locations, though.
NuMine trailhead (eastern): On PA85, go about 3 miles east from Yatesboro. Turn south (right) at the intersection where you would turn north (left) to go to NuMine. Immediately cross Cowanshannock Ck, then turn right between the ballfield and the creek. You will soon see the gated trailhead. This is the easier end to identify.
Rest rooms, water: None.
Bike shop, rentals: None, but there is a hardware store in Rural Valley.
Restaurant, groceries: NuMine has a drug store, grocery, and pizza shop. Rural Valley has several restaurants and pizza shops.
Camping, simple lodging: None
Swimming, fishing: Unsupervised swimming in the creek, if it's high enough. Note that the trail is open to public hunting.
Winter sports: Cross-country skiing
Wheelchair access: Not really. The surface is rough, often two-track left by ATVs that circumvent the gates and boulders have been designed to prevent ATV access.
Cowanshannock Creek Watershed Association
PO Box 307
Rural Valley PA 16249-0307
USGS Topographic Maps: Rural Valley.
Text version of 15 Jan 2011 based on personal observation while bicycling Rose Valley 11/2010 to NuMine; 2006 newsletter of trail organization. Conditions may have changed; you are responsible for your own safety. Oldest segment check 11/2010.