ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Pedaling Across the Allegheny River on the Sandy Creek Trail near Franklin, PA

Updated on February 4, 2018
The Belmar Bridge across the Allegheny River.
The Belmar Bridge across the Allegheny River. | Source

A Great Hike or Bike Ride to See the Fall Foliage

Just 5 miles south of Franklin, PA, and stretching from Fisherman's Cove in the west to Van in the east, the Sandy Creek Trail includes a nearly quarter mile long railroad tunnel, an updated railroad trestle, the Belmar Bridge, and several smaller bridges.

This a wonderful hike or bike ride in the spring, summer, or fall. It was particularly beautiful on a warm sunny October afternoon with fall foliage in full bloom.

Winding its way through beautiful Pennsylvania forest and crossing the Allegheny River, the terrain is essentially a flat asphalt-paved surface that makes for a rather easy ride for bikers of all ages. While the total length of the trial is 12 miles, the highlights can be enjoyed in an easy 3 mile ride (6 mile round trip).

Part of the Allegheny Valley Trail Association, the Sandy Creek Trail crosses the much longer Allegheny River Trail. Together the Allegheny River and Samuel Justus Trails stretch almost 40 miles from Oil City, PA to Emlenton, PA. The Allegheny Valley Trail is much longer and has more tunnels, but few if any other trails can beat the Sandy Creek Trail for interesting features in such a short distance.

The Sandy Creek Trail "crosses" the Allegheny River Trail, but don't look for an intersection. The "crossing" occurs just east of the Belmar Bridge. The Sandy Creek Trail actually crosses over the Allegheny River Trail. There are signs marking the way down to the Allegheny River Trail, but to get there you will have to get your bike down a set of steps (to help, there is a ramp for your bike). While the Sandy Creek Trail runs along the west bank of the Allegheny River west of the Belmar Bridge, the Allegheny River Trail runs along the eastern bank just east of the bridge.

View from the Belmar Bridge of Sandy Creek entering the Allegheny River
View from the Belmar Bridge of Sandy Creek entering the Allegheny River | Source
View of the Belmar Bridge from the Allegheny River Trail
View of the Belmar Bridge from the Allegheny River Trail | Source

The Belmar Bridge

Built 1907 by oilman Charles Miller and railroad man John D. Rockefeller, the 1385 foot long Belmar Bridge over the Allegheny River was intended to serve as a link between New York and Chicago. Ultimately though, it was used to transport coal from the area to Ashtabula, OH and Lake Erie. Made pedestrian-safe with a wooden deck and railings, great views of the river valley can be enjoyed from the bridge in all seasons.

After crossing the Belmar Bridge, there are 3 trestles before the Sandy Creek Tunnel and 2 more after the tunnel as you head east toward the Rockland Road Parking Area. As you can see from the pictures the Belmar Bridge and all of the trestles are well re-enforced and safe to ride a bike or walk across.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Sandy Creek Trail in fallSandy Creek Tunnel entranceSandy Creek in FallFall colors along Sandy Creek TrailRocks and fall colors along Sandy Creek TrailSandy Creek Trail Trestle
Sandy Creek Trail in fall
Sandy Creek Trail in fall | Source
Sandy Creek Tunnel entrance
Sandy Creek Tunnel entrance | Source
Sandy Creek in Fall
Sandy Creek in Fall | Source
Fall colors along Sandy Creek Trail
Fall colors along Sandy Creek Trail | Source
Rocks and fall colors along Sandy Creek Trail
Rocks and fall colors along Sandy Creek Trail | Source
Sandy Creek Trail Trestle
Sandy Creek Trail Trestle | Source

The Sandy Creek Tunnel

Also known as the Mays Mills or Deep Valley Tunnel, the Sandy Creek Tunnel is almost 1000 feet long. Well re-enforced trestles lead to the tunnel from both directions.

Cement lined and essentially dry, there are reflectors down the middle and along the side walls. The tunnel is straight with a slight downward grade from east to west.

In the top picture of the tunnel you get the sense that this is a tunnel inside a tunnel because it is. The original tunnel was unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists. To restore the crumbling 30 by 30 foot tunnel, workers built a 12 by 13 foot concrete tunnel inside of it. Over 250,000 old tires were placed between the two tunnels to cushion the inner tunnel. Besides finding a use for over a quarter of a million old tires, the technique decreased the cost of the tunnel restoration.

While a flashlight or bike headlight can be helpful, they usually aren't absolutely necessary for this ride. This is one ride where you can always see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Caution: If you have sunglasses on, for your safety, remove them before entering the tunnel.

The Sandy Creek Tunnel, also known as the Mays Mills or Deep Valley Tunnel (Belmar Bridge Side)
The Sandy Creek Tunnel, also known as the Mays Mills or Deep Valley Tunnel (Belmar Bridge Side) | Source
Inside the Sandy Crek Tunnel
Inside the Sandy Crek Tunnel | Source

Trailheads and Parking

If you don't have the time (or energy) to ride the whole trail, the best features (the Belmar Bridge and the tunnel) can be experienced on the 3 miles of trail between Belmar Village and Rockland Road.

Note: Unfortunately, good things are not easy to come by. None of the trailheads are particularly easy to find.

  • Belmar Trailhead:

Access and parking is 3 miles south of Franklin, PA off U.S. Route 8. Turn east on to Pone Lane and continue past the Franklin High School to Belmar Road. Turn right and follow Belmar Road down the hill. At the foot of the hill (with the bridge in sight), the parking area is on the right. Great place to start for a 5-6 mile round-trip that includes the Belmar bridge and the tunnel. GPS N 41 19.983 W 79 46.467

  • Rockland Road Trailhead:

Take U.S. Route 322 to its intersection with Route 257 in Cranberry, PA (at the Cranberry Mall). Turn south on Route 257 and travel about 3 miles. Turn right on to the access road just after you cross over the old railroad grade (and just before you cross East Sandy Creek). Also, a great place to start for a round-trip to experience the bridge and tunnel. GPS N 40 18.983 W 79 43.417

  • Fisherman's Cove (West-end) Trailhead:

From I-80, take old U.S. Route 8 north (north of Barkelyville) or from Franklin, take new U.S. Route 8 south. Just before new Route 8 becomes a divided highway (traveling south) turn east on to a dirt road at the end of the Pecan Bridge (Sign for Seneca Hills Bible Camp). Turn right at the foot of the hill and travel about 3 miles on the dirt road. At a sharp right turn, the trail is just ahead. Park along the road. GPS N 41 19.583 W 79 50.933

  • Van (East-end) Trailhead:

From U.S. Route 322 in Van, PA, turn west onto Tarklin Hill Road and travel about 1/2 mile to the parking area. GPS N 41 18.950 W 79 39.267

A
Belmar Bridge, Sandy Creek Trail:
Nettles Ln, Franklin, PA 16323, USA

get directions

The parking area for the Belmar Bridge is on the right just before the road bears to the left to become Nettles Lane

Facilities

The trail is in a remote area with limited if any facilities. You should plan on bringing your own snacks and water. There are picnic tables near the Belmar Bridge Parking Area just west of the Belmar Bridge.

Be responsible, carry out what you carry in. Whenever riding a bike, a helmet is always a good idea for everyone. Sunscreen and bug repellant should be considered on sunny warm days. A flash light or bike headlight for the tunnel as well as a cell phone for emergencies are just a few things that you may also want to have with you.

Help Support the Trail

All of the trails in the Allegheny Valley Trails Association (AVTA), including the Sandy Creek Trail, depend on volunteer workers and donations to acquire, develop, and maintain the trails that we all enjoy. Please consider making a donation to one of these organizations so that you and others can continue to to enjoy the trails for years to come.

© 2012 bankscottage

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • bankscottage profile imageAUTHOR

      bankscottage 

      6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thanks. Glad you liked. I spend time in the summer in Maine. Hope to write about something's around me including Acadia.

    • bankscottage profile imageAUTHOR

      bankscottage 

      6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      If you are in the area, it is a great ride for kids. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 

      6 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Great Hub! Lots of great detail and photos - thanks for sharing!

    • sholland10 profile image

      Susan Holland 

      6 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      Hi BanksCottage! This looks like a beautiful place for biking and walking. I love the history you give for the landmarks, too! I love PA! It is a beautiful state. Votes and shares! :-)

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)