5 Best Mountain Biking Trails in Pennsylvania
Known in official circles as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the state of Pennsylvania is situated in the mid-Atlantic and northern regions of the United States—a location which provides mountain biking enthusiasts a wealth of great riding opportunities.
Pennsylvania is bordered by the states of New Jersey to the east; New York to the north; Maryland to the south; Ohio to the west; West Virginia to the southwest; and Delaware to the southeast. It also borders Lake Erie and the Canadian province of Ontario to the northwest; and plays host to the Appalachian Mountains, which run through the middle of the state. Pennsylvania’s proximity to so many other U.S. states, a Canadian province and a large body of water in Lake Erie makes it extremely diverse in terms of topography and terrain, providing superb riding opportunities for cyclists of all ages and skill levels.
In the following article we will profile five of Pennsylvania’s most popular and well-ridden trails, and provide an in-depth description of each trail and their various characteristics.
Moraine State Park
Situated in the quaint and historic town of New Castle, Moraine State Park features a seven mile mountain biking trail that is appropriately rated “advanced or expert;” a course intended for very experienced riders only.
Among the many unique features of the trail at Moraine State Park are the massive deposits of smooth glacial stone found at the trailhead, where the ride commences amid the rounded boulders. The course roughly follows the power lines high above at the onset, before it ultimately transforms into a narrow single track route, one that is simply loaded with technical challenges and obstacles. Some of these challenging impediments include rocks of various sizes, roots, high-walled berms, switchbacks and some really awesome jumps that allow riders to catch some “Big Air” at various parts of the ride.
The trail at Moraine State Park is the direct result of an ongoing and amazing effort by the town’s local riders, who have volunteered many hours to design and build this popular course, and who continue their volunteer efforts to this day by consistently working to maintain the route within the framework of the state park in which it is located.
With one of the most interesting names of all the trails we will profile here, Cowbell Hollow has long been a must-ride locale in this beautiful region. Situated in the great and very historic town of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, this eight mile intermediate-rated course is located in a mountainous region known as Bald Eagle, and includes all the great technical challenges you would expect to find in such an admired mountain biking park.
The Cowbell Hollow Trail is intended to be ridden from west to east, although this is not a hard and fast rule, as many riders have been known to tackle the course in the opposite direction. The route commences from an access road near a large community garden planted by the Wild Turkey Federation, a local conservation group. From here the trail rapidly descends into a drainage area where it bisects a popular hiking trail. Signage at this point instructs riders to remain straight at this intersection, and soon the course converts into a hard-packed single track as it begins to climb the route’s largest hill.
At the apex of this crest, the Cowbell Hollow Trail turns into a fast and exciting downhill course that is flanked by shrubs and large trees on each side. After this exhilarating descent the trail begins to meander through some of the most pristine woodlands the state of Pennsylvania has to offer. Riders will encounter a number of bridges along this portion of the course—bridges that ultimately lead them back to the starting point.
Needless to say, the climb, drops, challenges, and beautiful scenery associated with the Cowbell Hollow Trail has made it one of the most well-loved courses in the state.
Located in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, the mountain biking park that hosts the Allegrippis Trails was designed by mountain bikers, for mountain bikers, and was built by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA). The 30-mile intermediate-rated system of trails is situated at Raytown Lake and is widely considered one of the premier single track mountain biking trail systems in the entire Eastern half of the United States.
Every mile of the Allegrippis Trails was built and expertly designed for a wide variety of recreational uses, In addition to mountain biking, the Allegrippis Trails are also open to hikers, trail runners, and snowshoeing and cross-country ski enthusiasts (in the winter).
The Allegrippis Trails were intentionally arranged as a stacked loop, giving cyclists the opportunity to arrange a route of their own choosing—as long or as short as they wish, and as technical or easy as they desire. Riders can access the trails at one of two points: the Seven Points Entrance Station or Bakers Hollow Road, just before you get to the Susquehannock campground.
The Allegrippis Trails are open year round, although riders are advised to contact the “Friends of Raytown Lake” to get information regarding trail conditions before heading to the park, particularly in the winter months and in periods of inclement weather.
Located near the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, one of the largest and most vibrant areas of the state, North Park hosts a number of excellent mountain biking trails, together spanning nearly 40 miles in pure single track terrain. Rated as some of the finest and most well-maintained trails in the area, the North Park courses offer local residents /mountain biking enthusiasts a convenient respite from the hustle and bustle of downtown Pittsburgh.
North Park is home to a number of great cross country courses designed for more experienced riders, as well as some wide and meandering fire roads that are ideal for newbie riders looking to perfect a variety of skills. However, the majority of the North Park courses are single track in nature and design, forming a continuous loop that is briefly intersected by narrower trails designed for hiking.
Although there is very little elevation gain (or loss) associated with the North Park trails, the courses do offer some great technical challenges, including, but not limited to, side hill berms, rock gardens of various sizes and formations; jumps, drops, bridges and more. To access the main trail at the park, simply ride towards the “Koto Buki Connector Trail” that ultimately takes you to “Denny’s Trail,” rated the signature course for this park and the trail that continues to draw local and out-of-town riders looking for an exciting challenge
Nockamixon State Park
Located in the relatively small town of Ottsville, Pennsylvania, Nockamixon State Park features a variety of challenging courses designed with every level of rider in mind. With routes rated from beginner to intermediate to advanced—in terms of aerobic difficulty and trail construction—the courses here are designed in a stacked loop configuration, effectively giving riders a potentially limitless number of riding options and opportunities.
The ten-plus miles of trails at Nockamixon State Park can be divided between the “Northern Loops” and the “Southern Loops.” The Northern Loops are intended mainly for beginner riders, family groups and individuals merely looking to take in the area’s breathtaking scenery. They are characterized by wide and meandering trails, easy creek crossings, and only a slight change in elevation, up or down.
The intermediate-rated (to advanced) Southern Loop Trails are a bit more difficult to navigate, featuring obstacles that include short, steep gully crossings; a variety of protruding rocks; several log jumps; drops; and switchbacks.
All in all, the various trails at Nockamixon State Park represent some of the best mountain biking terrain the region has to offer. And because of its proximity to one of the state’s most populated regions, the park has fast become home to one of the most oft-travelled collection of routes in the area.