Last Updated on August 11, 2020 by Jeremy
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Most hiking trails we visit around the city of Pittsburgh are often out-and-back loops that can be completed in just a few hours. For those who want to see all of the Montour Trail, you may need to pack your bags and plan for an extended journey, as this 40-mile trail connects to the roughly 300-mile Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Trails which connects Pittsburgh to Washington DC!
Although we are planning on biking this trail in the future to see it all, in this one we wanted to discuss the sections of the Montour Trail from Coraopolis to Bethel Park (a roughly 30 mile stretch).
What You Can See on the Montour Trail
Starting in Coraopolis at Cliff Mine Road and heading east, there really is a lot to see on this former rail line. This relatively secluded path is perfect for those who want to get out in nature, following a stream, and passing through one of our favorite sections of the trail- the Enlow Tunnel!
This tunnel is a lot of fun to pass through as it has a nice cooling effect thanks to being deep within the hillside as well as a pretty intense breeze passing through most of the time.
As you pass the Panhandle Connector into McDonald, you'll pass over the stunning McDonald Viaduct (one of the longest bridges on the Montour Trail at nearly 1,000 feet long). Continuing through past Cecil, you will pass through a couple of smaller tunnels (be careful in these as one had a lot of water dripping throughout), see trailside gardens, old train cars, historical signs, and more.
As such, there is really a lot to see on this trail every few miles!
Hiking and Biking on the Montour Trail
Most of the Montour Trail is crushed limestone most everywhere except around Bethel Park (which is paved) and has less than a 1% grade, making it perfect for biking and hiking. It is worth noting that the Montour Trail is not a loop, so you will have to turn around on the same path you came in on when returning to your car which may limit how far you decide to walk on this trail.
Towards Coraopolis, the trail has little to no noticeable grade but we did note more potholes (including some that were recently filled in and loose), which should be noted by bikers. From McDonald to Bethel Park the trail is gradually downhill (again, low grade) which makes for a slight slog on the return trip, but the potholes were less noticeable here.
As you proceed further east past Bethel Park, the trail turns back to crushed limestone and has frequent sections where the trail is under construction and requires continuing on surface roads for stretches of 1-2 miles in order to connect up to the trail. The first road we encountered did not have a separate bike lane and was a fair bit hilly and may not be the best to be tackled by everyone. For walkers, we recommend sticking towards the sections between Bethel Park and Coraopolis for the best experience.
Beyond trail conditions, there is little infrastructure found along the trail itself apart from a few benches, tables, and some portable toilets. For those who want to rent bikes, purchase bike parts, or grab a snack, you'll do well to stop at The Tandem Connection in Canonsburg right along the trail as it is the only major shop we have seen along the trail!
The Montour Trail begins near Neville Island and also connects up to the Great Allegheny Passage via the Clairton Connector (at last check, the connector contains a few miles of surface roads). The Cliff Mine Road stretch featuring the Enlow tunnel discussed in this post begins just off of I-376 before the Pittsburgh airport.
The Montour Trail is also one of the features in the amazing book “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Pittsburgh Edition” that we are working through as a part of this series. If you are interested in day hikes near the city we highly recommend picking this one up!