Shenango Trail

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 most readers of this guide people 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.

Shenango Trail

Location                                                               Big Bend to Kidd's Mill in Jefferson, Delaware, and
                                                                                                      Pymatuning Townships, Mercer County

Trailheads                                                                                     Big Bend, New Hamburg, Kidd's Mill

Length, Surface                                                                                                 7.5 miles, dirt single-track

Character   Little used, rural, shady, many short steep hills

Usage restrictions                                                                                                    No motorized vehicles

Amenities                                                                                                                                                 None

Driving time from Pittsburgh                                                                   1 hour 45 minutes northwest

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.

<<more -- typical crossing is 3-plank rigid wooden bridge, some areas kept open by ATVs, one section distinctly overgrown, two junctions of Shenango and Towpath, white blazes, canal not really visible to near the end, exit to parking lot, where the asphalt goes, how to get to other side.>>

The topo map shows the extension canal at least as far as Greenville <<look up where it went. Also figure out relation to Towpath Trail up northeast of Pymatuning>>

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.

Extensions of the ride

We rode from Big Bend to New Hamburg on the trail, then added this extension on 11.5 miles of low-traffic roads. From the end of the trail in New Hamburg, turn right to the parking lot. Leave the parking lot via the trail, crossing a closed bridge and turning right at the paved road (Hamburg Rd). Instead of turning off the road on the trail, go a few yards more and turn left on River Rd. Follow River Rd over gently rolling hills for 3.7 miles to Kidd's Mill Rd. Turn left on Kidd's Mill Rd (some traffic here) for 300 yards and turn left into the Kidd's Mill Park parking lot. Go through the parking lot to the Kidd's Mill covered bridge, which is closed to automobiles but open to bikes and pedestrians. Cross the bridge and climb the hill to the main road. Immediately turn sharp left on Crestview Rd. Climb gently on Crestview and then enjoy the downhill for 2.3 miles to Hamburg Rd. Bear left on Hamburg Rd for 1.5 miles. Before crossing the Shenango River (which would take you back to the New Hamburg trailhead), turn right on Creek Rd (the name changes to S River Rd after a couple of miles). Follow this unpaved road along the Shenango River for 3.1 miles to the T intersection at Valley Rd. Turn left on Valley (it's called Rutledge to the right) and go 0.4 miles to the Big Bend parking lot.

Access points

Vicinity: Directions begin in Mercer, headed west on PA258 from its intersection with US19. For the first four blocks this is also US62; turn right on PA258 when the roads diverge. To reach this point from Pittsburgh, follow I79 to I80, go west on I80 one exit t US19, then go north on US19.

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 Rd (the name will change to Rutledge Rd) and 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. <<check topo for new parking lot entry>>

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. (it's called Colt Rd on the other side). 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.

Amenities

None on the trail

Rest rooms, water: None

Bike shop, rentals: None

Restaurant, groceries: Along US62

Camping, simple lodging: Along US62; dispersed camping in Allegheny National Forest

Swimming, fishing: None