|Length||29 mi (47 km)|
|Location||Allegheny County / Washington County, Pennsylvania and Brooke County, West Virginia, USA|
|Trailheads||Walkers Mill, Pennsylvania to Weirton, West Virginia|
|Hazards||Rough terrain from Burgettstown, Pennsylvania to the Pennsylvania/West Virginia state line|
The Panhandle Trail is a rail trail in southern Pennsylvania and the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. It occupies an abandoned railroad corridor that had been known as the Panhandle route which has been converted to a bicycle and walking trail. The rail line covers a distance of 29 miles (47 km) and was abandoned in 1992. The original section of the trail is the West Virginia section, where the trail was called the Harmon Creek Trail, for the adjacent Harmon Creek. When Pennsylvania built its section, both states agreed to call it the Panhandle Trail. Although the Panhandle Trail occupies 29 miles of the Panhandle Route, the remaining portion of the route is owned by the Pittsburgh and Ohio Central Railroad, but it is no longer used.
The rail trail follows the same route as the former Panhandle Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad that connected Pittsburgh to St. Louis and gives the trail its name. It is part of the government funded “Rails to Trails” project. The first mile of the trail officially opened on October 29, 2000. About five months later on March 15, 2001 a group of volunteers was chosen to serve as the Panhandle Trail Association. Their purpose was to establish and manage the passage that would eventually link the Panhandle Trail to the larger Montour Trail. In January 2007 the connector was completed. Though the entire trail is accessible, the trail is paved from McDonald to the Pennsylvania/West Virginia state line. Because the trail is constantly under development there is no official completion date.
The Collier Friends of the Panhandle Trail is an organization that manages a 2.4 miles (3.9 km) portion of the trail beginning at Walkers Mill. Another organization is the Montour Trail Council, who is in charge of a 6.8 miles (10.9 km) section in Allegheny County.
The Panhandle Trail runs 29 miles (47 km) beginning at the Walkers Mill station in Walker’s Mill, Pennsylvania and ending in an area near Weirton, West Virginia. It passes many towns beginning in Harmon Creek and including Colliers, Hanlin, Dinsmore, Burgetstown, Joffre, Bulger, Midway, McDonald, Sturgeon, Noblestown, Oakdale, Rennerdale, and finally Walkers Mill. At the 8.62 miles (13.87 km) mark near McDonald, a one-mile connector links the Panhandle to the larger Montour trail.
The relatively flat trail is covered with crushed limestone, while much of the trail in Washington county is paved. This makes the trail suitable for walking, running, biking, horseback riding, and cross country skiing; however, motorized vehicles are prohibited. Thanks to local geocachers, several caches are available along the trail as well. The Collier Friends of the Panhandle Trail host special events such as the annual Night Walk in October and "Rock the Quarry" which is a two-day festival in the fall that includes music, food, and games. You can even contact The Collier Friends and host your own event at the trail.
There are stations and special areas that serve as access points and provide parking places and also features like permanent restrooms, portable restrooms, shelter houses, picnic tables, vending machines, water fountains, maps, bike racks, and bulletin boards that provide event notifications and maps. In between these areas, many benches as well as a few portable restrooms and picnic tables have been placed along the trail. Nearly every mile has at least four benches (one at every quarter mile) and some have even more. The access points are located at the following places:
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