Along Shenango River from Big Bend to Kidd's Mill in Mercer County
This trail, like the Tidioute Rec Trek Trail and the Kellettville to Nebraska Trace, is included here chiefly because it appears on lists of rail-trails in Pennsylvania. All three are lovely hiking trails, but mostpeople will find them unrewarding as bicycle trails.
The Shenango Trail runs parallel to the Shenango River, largely along the route of the former Erie Extension Canal. If you pay attention, you'll spot the shape of the canal and occasional remnants of structures. You'll also get nice views of the Shenango River just at the upper end of Shenango Lake. The trail is described as connecting Big Bend with Kidd's Mill, a distance of 7.5 miles. We rode from Big Bend to Hamburg, just under 4 miles, and extended our trip on the low-traffic roads nearby.
If you're familiar with canal trails such as the towpaths of the C&O and the Ohio & Erie Canals, you may be interested in seeing how rapidly the woods reclaim a canal after maintenance ends. The canal prism itself shows up as a depression that's sometimes dry, sometime a creek bed, and sometimes a wetland. You may see the foundations of a few structures such as culverts, but not very much remains. What little there is becomes more noticeable as you approach Hamburg.
The trail is mostly single-track. It's fairly level except for short steep hills at stream and pipeline crossings. The single-track is often interrupted by fallen trees or partly buried pipes. Riding it on a bicycle requires solid intermediate mountain biking skills, though if you're comfortable on easy single-track you can probably make do with a strong self-preservation instinct that identifies problem spots early enough to get off and walk.
From the Corps of Engineers parking area at Big Bend, cross the road and enter the trail through the wooden gateway. The trail here is typical of most of the route – single-track through open woods and shoulder-high growth. In a quarter-mile you'll pass under the road. Look across the river here to see a boat launching area. A hundred yards later you reach the first of many creek crossings. This one features a suspension bridge two planks wide and an option to ford the creek. A typical crossing is a rigid 3-plank wooden bridge one or two steps up from the trail. At many of the crossings, the soft banks of the creek may persuade you to lift your bike to the bridge.
Shenango Lake is a Pennsylvania Important Bird Area. When the 3500-acre lake is held at low water in late summer and fall, there are many acres of shallow mudflats along the shore, making it one of the state's best stopping points for migratory birds. It's a good place to see great egrets, bald eagle, osprey, and American pipit.
Vicinity: Directions begin in Mercer, headed west on PA258 fromUS19.
Big Bend trailhead: From the intersection of PA258 and US19, follow PA258 northwest for 4.5 miles to Valley Rd. Turn right on Valley Rd and go northwest 1.5 miles to North Bend Rd. Turn left on North Bend Rd, then immediately left into the parking lot. The trailhead is across North Bend Rd from the other end of the parking lot.
New Hamburg trailhead: From the intersection of PA258 and US19, follow PA258 northwest for 4.5 miles to Valley Rd. Turn right on Valley Rdand go northwest 3.9 miles to McDowell Rd. Turn right on McDowell Rd and go north 0.7 miles to Schaller Rd. In one mile bear right on Hamburg Rd for 0.3 miles, crossing the Shenango River. Turn right into parking.
Kidd's Mill trailhead: From the intersection of PA258 and US19, follow PA258 northwest for a little more than 11 miles to PA18. Turn right on PA18 and go north 4.8 miles to 7th St.Turn right on 7th St and go 0.8 miles. Just after crossing the Shenango River turn right into the Kidd's Mill parking lot and look for the trailhead.
None on the trail