An asphalt surface carries you through farmland and woods along the Mahoning River. The trail corridor originally served the Penn-Ohio interurban trolley line rather than a railroad. Trolleys are more forgiving about gradients than railroads, so the trail has noticeable (but still gentle) slopes. The only scenic drawback is the existing trackage of the Pennsylvania and Lake Erie railroad, especially the switch yard near Struthers. Much of this track has been salvaged, though two tracks are still in use. Most of the trail runs through woods and farms with occasional houses near the trail. In Pennsylvania mileposts have different numbers on opposite sides. One set counts from zero at the State border and the other counts from zero from the Washington Street. The two values will add p to seven. For this write up we will use miles from Washington St.
Stavich Bicycle Trail
Location New Castle PA to Struthers OH, Union and Mahoning Townships in Lawrence
Trailheads New Castle PA, Lowellville OH, Struthers OH
Length, Surface 10.0 measured; 7.0 freshly paved 2009, 3.0 older paved
Character Busy, rural, sunny, flat
Usage restrictions No motorized vehicles; no horses
Amenities Water, food
Driving time from Pittsburgh 1 hour 10 minutes northwest
The trail starts on W Washington St in the outskirts of New Castle and immediately drops 10 ft, passing MP0 30 feet from the road. The trail head parking is 0.2 miles from this start at MP0.2. From the parking lot at the trail head, turn left to travel the 0.2 miles to the start and get EFI (Every Fine inch). Turn right to head towards Lowellville. Just past MP 2.1, a beaver dam is blocking a culvert intake to create a lake and marsh on the north side of the trail. We have seen ducks, geese and other water birds, but have not yet seen the beavers. Around MP1.0 the trail reminds you that this was a trolley track, rather than a railroad. The trail climbs a hill at a much steeper grade then allowed for a railroad. At mile MP7 the trail crosses into Ohio and there are no more mile markers. Renovation of the Pennsylvania section in 2010 left a smooth asphalt surface (2018).
In Ohio, MP7.2 there is a pond with lots of duck weed and an occasional duck. Between MP7.5 and MP8 the trail is on Liberty St in Lowellville, affording an opportunity for lunch in the parklet, across from City Hall on the opposite side of the railroad. You can buy subs at Ross’ Market on Liberty St, a block west of the parklet. Although this short stretch is on roads, traffic is very light and slow, except caution is required at the intersection with 1st St, as traffic coming down the hill is moving pretty fast and there is no stop sign.
Shortly after leaving town, there is a school and sports complex on the right. The trail ends at mile MP10 in a small parking lot overlooking the remains of the Struthers switchyard.
The trail is largely exposed to the sun, making it a good bet for early and late in the season, but a real oven in the summer. Wildflower displays in season are very fine.
Local history, attractions
The trail runs on the path of the former interurban streetcar line that joined Youngstown and New Castle. The John and George Stavich families, together with other local individuals, developed the trail in the early 1980s. Lawrence County is now responsible for upkeep and maintenance of the section in Pennsylvania. The county along with Federal money repaved the trail in November 2009. The remaining three miles in Ohio, which have not been paved recently, are a little bumpy. The Stavich Trail is one of the earliest rail-trails, having been dedicated in June 1983 and improved over time.
The Pennsylvania and Ohio Canal, also known as the “Cross-Cut” Canal, connected the Beaver and Erie Division of the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal with the Ohio and Erie Canal in Ohio. It started at New Castle and ran west on the Mahoning River to Youngstown, Warren, and Akron. Operating from 1840 to 1872, it carried primarily pig iron, iron ore, and passengers.
The trail also follows the route of the even earlier Mahoning Path, an Indian path that connected Beaver to Cayahoga (now Akron). The Delaware word mahoni means “deer lick”. Adding the “-ing” ending makes Mahoning mean “at the deer lick”.
Extensions of the ride
A 1.9-mile loop between the trail and the Mahoning River offers a variation on the route. This road is named East River Rd where it crosses the trail at westbound MP4.2 and Hillsville Rd where it crosses the trail at MP5.7. Turn toward the river at either of these crossings; the road name changes where a side road crosses the river (to make the loop, do not cross the river).
It is possible to loop from the west end of the trail back to Lowellville using roads on the south side of the Mahoning River. From the west end of the trail, go west 1.1 miles on OH289 (Broad St) and turn left on OH616 (Bridge St) and cross the bridge. Go straight at two lights; a short block after the second light take the left fork on Lowellville Rd, continue along the river to Lowellville, and cross the bridge back into Lowellville. Of these 4.7 miles on roads, two miles have moderate traffic and none has good shoulder.
A concept plan suggests extending the trail south along an existing railroad right away to the southern edge of New Castle.
Vicinity: Directions begin on the PA turnpike at the intersection with I376. To reach this point from Pittsburgh, take either take I376 west or take I279 north, I70 north, I76 west.
New Castle trailhead: From the intersection go north on I376 for 12 miles. Take the US224 east exit towards Poland. At the end of the ramp turn left onto State Street and go one block. Turn right on to Wilson Dr and go 0.9 miles. Turn right at the T on to W Washington St and go 0.7 miles to trail head parking on the right. You will pass the end of the trail about 0.2 miles before the parking.
Lowellville trailhead: From the intersection go north on I376 for 12 miles. Take the US224 west. At the end of the ramp turn right onto State Street US224 and go 8.5 miles. At Luva Bella Winery turn right onto Lowellville Rd and go 1.0 mile. Turn right onto Washington St, cross the bridge. Take the second right onto E Liberty St and go 2 blocks plus to the public parking on the right.
Struthers trailhead: From the intersection take I76 (PA Turnpike) west for 17.2 miles. Take the I680 exit north and go 4.4 miles. Take exit 11 for US224 toward Canfield/Poland. Turn right at the bottom of the ramp and go 0.6 miles. Turn left onto OH616 and go 2.5 miles. Turn right in Poland at the church to continue on OH616. Turn left at the T onto Bridge St and cross the river. Take the first right onto Broad St (US224) and go 1.2 miles to trailhead parking on the right. (GPS -80.567, 40.050)
Rest rooms, water: No rest rooms, though you could try Lowellville City Hall, which you pass on Liberty St or the school of there is activity. Seasonal water fountain in park in Lowellville; Ross’ Market will fill your water bottle when you get your sandwich.
Bike shop, rentals: None.
Restaurant, groceries: Carchedi’s in Lowellville, on Water St across the tracks from Ross’ Market is a sit down restaurant (closed Sundays). In 2018 there were also two bars: one on Liberty St, and one on Water St. The trail is on Liberty St; Water St is parallel to Liberty, one block towards the river. Groceries and sub sandwiches at Ross’ Market on Liberty St in Lowellville.
Camping, simple lodging: None
Swimming, fishing: In the Mahoning River, in the highly unlikely event that the water quality is up to your (or the fish’s) standards.
Winter sports: Cross-country skiing.
Wheelchair access: OK
Maps, guides, other references
Trail brochure. “Two states on two wheels: the Stavich Bicycle Trail”
USGS Topographic Maps: Bessemer, Edinburg, Campbell OH.
Text version of 01 Oct based on personal observation while bicycling 9/2018. Conditions may have changed; you are responsible for your own safety. Oldest segment check 9/2018.