The “shadow” of Mahoning is the one that Punxsutawney Phil, the world-famous groundhog, sees—or does not see—on Groundhog Day when he predicts whether there will be six more weeks of winter. The trail follows Mahoning Ck and Ugly Run for 15.2 miles in southern Jefferson County. It is surfaced in crushed limestone with occasional stretches of pea gravel. An on-road gap of 0.3 miles in Punxsutawney breaks the trail into two segments.
The western leg starts at Fordham (just east of Valier) and runs 8 miles to US119 in Punxsutawney, with a tenth of a mile on low-traffic roads. There is an unsigned 0.3-mile on-road segment in Punxsutawney from US119 to the skate park. The eastern leg starts at the skate park, loops around Gobblers Knob (where Punxy Phil holds forth each spring) and goes up Ugly Run to SR2001 near Winslow with a quarter-mile on road in Cloe. And yes, we did see a real groundhog waddling down the trail, completely indifferent to his shadow.
Mahoning Shadow Trail
Location Through Punxsutawney in Jefferson County
Length, Surface 15.2 miles total (14.4 miles crushed limestone, 0.1 pea gravel,0.7 on road)
Character Uncrowded, wooded, shady, narrow, nearly level
Usage restrictions No motorized vehicles
Amenities Food, lodging
Driving time from Pittsburgh 1 hour 25 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes northeast
The trail begins at a parking area on Fordham Rd, just east of and across Mahoning Ck from Valier. For a mile or so it goes east alongside farms with a few oil storage tanks, then it emerges on the bank of Mahoning Ck. At mile 2.1 a spur trail goes off about 700 feet to the Rose Run access area, then continues as a two-track mountain biking road. At mile 2.7 a 25-foot trail leads up to the road within sight of “#8 Spring”, where people apparently go to fill up water jugs. About MP3.2 the trail swings away from the creek back into woods and farms, crossing Gresock Rd at MP4.1 and returning to the creek at MP4.2.
The next mile and a half is on a bench on the hillside above Mahoning Ck. At MP5.5 a bank of about two dozen coke ovens overlook the trail. There is an interpretive sign, and the brush has been cleared away so that a dozen or so of the ovens are visible and accessible.
Half a mile later the trail passes the sewer plant at Water St. The mile and a half going east from the sewer plant is less remote. It begins by crossing a bridge across Mahoning Ck. After the bridge the trail is on smooth packed cinders beside Mahoning Ck on a bench cut in the hillside with good views across the creek to Punxsutawney. It crosses under PA436 and a railroad bridge, then swings away from the river and crosses under US119 into a residential area, where it ends a block later on Indiana St MP7.5. From here signs mark a bike route along a block of Indiana St, through a building-materials yard, and up onto a paved levee beside Mahoning Ck. The bike route on the levee crosses Penn St (MP8.0), continues along the levee and dumps into the parking lot of the Graystone Court Villas. The official route exits the parking lot and turns right/east on busy US119 for 800 feet. The route then turns left/north on Elk St by the gas station/convenience store. An alternative route crosses US119, passing through the car wash to the alley (Dunlap St). It turns right/east for 800 feet, to just past the backside of the gas station/convenience store, where it turns left/north at the “T” intersection on Elk St. It then goes 1000 feet to the skate park on the right.
At the skate park the trail follows a dirt path around the fenced skating area (about MP8.8), resuming behind the farthest corner. A short uphill trail of pea gravel leads to the railroad grade and the crushed limestone path. A short distance later the crushed limestone turns back to pea gravel for 600 feet before returning to crushed limestone surface. The trail follows Mahoning Ck for 2 miles to PA36. Here it leaves Mahoning Ck to follow Canoe Ck and then Ugly Run. Across the road from the exit of the trail parking lot at Cloe (mile 10.8), a lumberyard occupies the railbed, and the route is straight ahead on Cloe Rossiter Rd for a quarter of a mile. After the lumberyard, the trail resumes to the left of the road. The trail drops from the road, swings right behind a house, becomes wider, crosses under two railroad bridges, and at mile 11.6 crosses Canoe Ck. Here the grade increases, and the trail climbs steadily through open woods with hemlock mixed. At about mile 13.5 there are two road crossings in quick session, and the trail returns to the woods, sometimes on a bench beside a stream, until it ends at to Winslow Rd at mile 15.2. This section has some trespassing ATV traffic, alas.
Vicinity: Directions begin at the intersection of US119 and PA286 northeast of Indiana, headed north on US119. To reach this point from Pittsburgh, go east on US22, then north on US119.
Fordham (western) trailhead: Follow US119 north for about 21.8 miles to PA210 and turn left/west on PA210. Go 1.7 miles and go straight on Valier Dr when PA210 turns left. Go 0.8 miles to Fordham Rd and turn right/east. Go 0.3 miles and just after crossing the creek turn right/south into the trailhead parking.
Rose Run trailhead: Follow US119 north for about 21.8 miles to PA210 and turn left/west on PA210. Go 1.7 miles and go straight on Valier Dr when PA210 turns left. Go 0.8 miles to Fordham Rd and turn right/east. Go 2.4 miles to the trailhead parking on the right. The main trail is about 450 feet down the crushed limestone path.
Water St (sewer plant) trailhead: Follow US119 north or about 23.4 miles and turn left/west on PA436. Go 2.0 miles and make a sharp left/west turn on Perry St. Go 0.3 miles and turn left/south on Delaware Av. Go 0.2 miles, cross the trail and U-turn left/northeast into trailhead parking.
Punxsutawney Skate Park trailhead: Follow US119 north for 25.5 miles to Punxsutawney. In Punxsutawney, go straight on PA36 when US119 turns left just before crossing the river. Take the second left/north on Elk St and follow the Bike Route signs a couple of blocks to the skate park.
Cloe trailhead: Follow US119 north for 25.5 miles to Punxsutawney. In Punxsutawney, go straight on PA36 when US119 turns left just before crossing the river. Follow PA36 for 1.8 miles to Cloe Rossiter Rd. Parking is on the left.
Winslow (eastern) trailhead: Follow US119 north to Punxsutawney. In Punxsutawney, go straight on PA36 when US119 turns left just before crossing the river. Follow PA36 for 4.8 miles to Winslow Rd (SR2011). Turn right/south on Winslow Rd and go 0.6 miles to trailhead parking on the right.
Rest rooms, water: None. Punxsutawney.
Bike shop, rentals: None.
Restaurant, groceries: In Punxsutawney a convenience store close to the trail near the skate park.
Camping, simple lodging: Motels in Punxsutawney.
Swimming, fishing: A blue heron thought Mahoning Ck was worth fishing in.
Winter sports: Cross-country skiing.
Wheelchair: Some stretches of pea gravel.
Punxsutawney Area Rails to Trails Association, Inc.
800-752-PHIL (ya gotta love it!)
Maps, guides, other references
USGS Topographic Maps: Valier, Punxsutawney.
Text version of 10 Jul 2018 based on personal observation while bicycling Fordham to Winslow 7/2018. Conditions may have changed; you are responsible for your own safety. Oldest segment check 7/2018.