Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on November 22, 2023.
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We've been on almost all of the bike trails in Pittsburgh, and have to admit, the Ghost Town Trail starting in Black Lick, PA (about an hour east of Pittsburgh) may be our favorite we've been to so far.
This trail covers 46 miles (~10 miles of which are on an extension trail) from Black Lick to Ebensburg. During our first visit, we hit up the first 25 miles of this route (turning around on the main trail in Nanty Glo) and saw so many beautiful sights.
As an added bonus, this trail was quite an easy ride!
Stunning Views on the Ghost Town Trail
The Ghost Town Trail has a number of sights that you can see along its route, and below we wanted to summarize a few of our favorites in the first 25 miles that we rode.
As you depart Black Lick, you'll find the aptly named Black Lick Creek flowing alongside the bike trail for many, many miles. The beautiful creek flows gently along rocks and boulders and has a fairly strong orange tint to it due to the acid mine drainage that flows into it (as a result of the coal mining that took place nearby).
The first several miles of this trail is almost entirely creek views. Along the way the trail has a clearing where you can look down onto the creek and also see a pretty Ghost Town Trail mural as well.
Things gradually change as you get closer to Dilltown with even more scenic views, coal deposits, and passing through a spot where the rocks rise up high around you on both sides- make for an eerily dark and quiet spot (you'll know it when you see it, be sure to stop for a moment to listen to the lack of sound).
Continuing east you reach a split in the trail and veer right to stay on the main path through Vintondale. Here you'll see the remains of the Eliza iron furnace as well as a memorial to miners and a beautiful mosaic map of the town. After that you'll head uphill towards Nanty Glo and see some natural wetlands for acid mine drainage treatment and, as you go even higher, have views out over a creek with some rather large boulders in it as well.
Truly a lot to see!
Biking on the Ghost Town Trail
Like most rail trails in the area, the Ghost Town Trail is comprised of crushed limestone and gravel. For the most part the trail is relatively well maintained and apart from a tree root or large rock here or there it is a fairly easy-to-ride-on trail.
The thing that is most interesting about this trail is that it does not have rolling hills- it is simply one gradual hill. Heading east, at least on the 25 miles we rode starting from Black Lick, you are consistently working your way up. The first 20-miles or so are roughly 1% in grade, and the next 4-5 miles into Nanty Glo was a bit steeper (I'd be shocked if it was more than 2-3%).
On one hand, you can look at this and think it sounds awful. But when biking it, we felt like it helped keep us in a groove because there was never any real dreaded hill we had to climb at any point other than the incline around miles 20-24. But on the other hand, you can look at it from the reverse as the ride back to Black Lick is almost entirely downhill.
This is most noticeable in the larger grade around mile markers 20-24, and of course, if you take a 50-mile ride like we did 1% down, at times, can still be a struggle. But what we really like about this trail is that it is a good one for those who want to push themselves for a new distance record. Just keep going up a bit further, and the return trip will be much, much easier compared to others nearby (again, still a challenge due to distance, but easier).
For those who do not want to tackle the 2-3% grade hill, we'd recommend turning around just after Vintondale (a mile or two past the Eliza Furnace). This is just a few miles after the fork in the trail where you veer right to stay on the main path (when we return, we'll check out the extension trail to the left).
Overall, riding on the Ghost Town Trail is simply fun. It is a fairly steady up the entire way eastbound, but this helps makes the ride much, much easier on the return. Throw in the stellar views and you have a trail and you can see why this one may be our favorite yet!
The Ghost Town Trail starts in Black Lick, PA, at Saylor Park located at 1284 Old Indiana Road. The park is also the terminus for the nearby Hoodlebug Trail (10 miles) which runs to Indiana, PA. A few shops are located along the trail, most notably in Diltown where a B&B is also present. Several public toilets were also found along the trail as well.