The Lower Trail runs for almost 17 miles from near Canoe Creek State Park in Blair County northeastward to near Alexandria in Huntingdon County. The trail has a rolled crushed limestone surface except for a 2 mile asphalt section through the Borough of Williamsburg and running northeastward. The trail is extremely flat with only a slightly noticeable grade when riding from east to west. The Lower Trail is open year-round for hiking, biking, horseback riding, bird watching and photography and, in the winter months, cross country skiing and snowshoeing (any non-motorized use).
Much of the Lower Trail, paralleling the Frankstown Branch of the Juniata River, was part of the original towpath of the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal which operated in the mid 1800’s. Following the end of the canal era, the Pennsylvania Railroad took over the property and developed the Petersburg Branch of the PRR on this alignment. In 1979, the rail corridor was abandoned. Over the next 8 years, the rails were sold for scrap and the corridor put up for sale. In 1989, Rails to Trails of Central Pennsylvania Inc. purchased the first 11 miles of the Lower Trail from Williamsburg to Alfarata from the Penn Central Corp. Another 5 ½ mile extension was added in 2004.
The trail's name rhymes with "flower" and honors the memory of the wife and son of the late trail benefactor, T. Dean Lower.
When traveling along the trail, either by foot or bike, you can see many remnants of the canal era, including remains of locks and foundations of lock tenders' houses, as well as the historical Mt. Etna iron plantation area. There are a number of bridge crossings of the Juniata River and one covered bridge over the tail race of a historic mill stream. Remains of tipples and massive concrete rock crushers from abandoned stone quarries along the trail hint of the once industrial nature of the now-unbroken forest beside the river.
The trail supports many different plant and animal species and the Audubon Society has identified portions of the Lower Trail as “Important Birding Areas.” A number of Bald Eagles and Osprey have been spotted along the trail. There are also many beautiful and some rare plant species along the trail. The Lower Trail is part of the Mid State Trail and the Pittsburgh-to-Harrisburg Main Line Canal Greenway and has been designated a National Recreation Trail by the National Park Service. It is a beautiful, very family-friendly rural trail through wooded areas with few road crossings and provides access to the adjacent Juniata River Water Trail.
- Length: 16.5 miles in length
- Trail surface(s): 85% crushed rolled limestone, 15% paved
- Trailheads: Trailheads are called "Stations" because when the railroad ran, there were station stops there.
Directions from US Route 22
- Alfarata Station: Turn North onto Main Street toward Alfarata between Waterstreet and US Route 22 bridge crossing the Juniata River, proceed approximately 0.2 miles; trailhead is on the Right.
- Mt. Etna Station: Turn onto Polecat Hollow Road, (located halfway between Waterstreet and Route 866 along US Route 22), turn Right off of US Route 22 if traveling east, turn left off of Route 22 if traveling west). Travel to the end of Polecat Hollow Rd, then turn left onto Fox Hollow Road 0.1 mile; trailhead is on the Right.
- Covedale Station: Turn east on Yellow Springs Road, then left on Cross Valley Road, then right onto Fox Run Road, then left onto Overlook Road to the trailhead.
- Williamsburg Station: Turn onto Route 866 at the base of Short Mountain, travel into the town of Williamsburg. At the first stop sign, proceed straight for two blocks; trail head is on the left.
- Grannas Station: Turn east on PA Route 866, turn right onto Lower Piney Creek Road immediately after crossing the metal truss bridge, then turn right into the trailhead.
- Flowing Spring Station: Turn southeast onto Flowing Spring Road. Cross the bridge, then follow the road back a short distance. A sign will direct you to the left back a gravel road to the parking area.
Have you visited our family of TransAllegheny Trails, many of which were featured in a recent Rails to Trails Conservancy Greenway Bike Sojourn? Consider Route 22 as the spine of a regional trail system running from ridges to rivers, and you can plan a trip around several trails working toward connectivity.