Staycation destination: Westmoreland Heritage Trail |

Staycation destination: Westmoreland Heritage Trail

Patrick Varine
Stephanie Traeger | Tribune-Review
Sunlight dapples the Westmoreland Heritage Trail through Murrysville.
Stephanie Traeger | Tribune-Review
The Westmoreland Heritage Trail runs from Trafford to Export, and from Delmont to Saltsburg, with one section remaining to connect all 22 miles.
Stephanie Traeger | Tribune-Review
A white-tailed doe looks over its shoulder near the Westmoreland Heritage Trail in Murrysville.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
A millipede lives dangerously, curled up along the Westmoreland Heritage Trail in Trafford on July 31, 2019.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
A view looking west up the Turtle Creek Gorge, along the Westmoreland Heritage Trail in Trafford.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
A cyclist heads west along the Westmoreland Heritage Trail in Trafford on Wednesday, July 31, 2019.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
Karen Cimino of Level Green and her grandson Atlas enjoy ice cream from the Parkside Creamery, near the western terminus of the Westmoreland Heritage Trail, on Wednesday, July 31, 2019.
An illustration from an April 1886 issue of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper shows workers rushing to battle the gas well fire noted in the historic marker along Route 22. The illustration hangs in the Murrysville Municipa Building on Sardis Road.
A Pennsylvania Historic Marker notes the Haymaker gas well near the intersection of Route 22 and Reed Boulevard. The actual well location is near the former railroad tracks, now the Westmoreland Heritage Trail.
The new section of the Westmoreland Heritage Trail will run past the former Turtle Creek Railroad caboose that has been restored both inside and out by the Export Historical Society.
Mike Mance, right, and Jim Cotter, both of Export, stand in the fully-restored 1939 caboose during the Export’s Ethnic Food & Music Festival on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016.
Export Mayor Mike Calder (left) Jim Norris (center), and Councilwoman Melanie Litz photographed in the recently restored caboose located in downtown Export sits on the tracks at the Kennedy Avenue/Lincoln Avenue on Monday, Aug. 1, 2016.

The Westmoreland Heritage Trail offers cyclists a chance to see the county’s natural beauty and rich history, all while getting some exercise.

While a section connecting Export and Delmont has yet to be completed — that section presents the difficult problem of how to safely cross Route 66 — with a little off-trail riding, cyclists can travel from Turtle Creek near Trafford’s B-Y Park to the Conemaugh River in Saltsburg, with plenty to see along the way.

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Since this is a “staycation” after all, you may as well start the day the sweet way with a treat from the Parkside Creamery, accessible via a ramp from the trail. The creamery has been open since 2012 and features a variety of ice cream flavors and desserts.

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From Trafford, the trail follows along Turtle Creek into the Turtle Creek Gorge, a steep-sided, forested valley running for about 5 miles into Murrysville. The gorge is the primary natural area along this section of the trail.

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Once in Murrysville, the trail runs past the former site (now bearing a Pennsylvania Historic Marker) of the Haymaker Gas Well near the intersection of Route 22 and Reed Boulevard. It was the first gas well in the county, and one of the world’s most productive. It caught fire in 1881, burning for several years. It was later brought under control and the gas was piped to Pittsburgh. The trail also runs near another site bearing a historic marker: Forbes Road, named for Brigadier Gen. John Forbes, who built the road during the French and Indian War, one of two main land routes the British cut through the Appalachian wilderness.

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On Aug. 17, a cyclist could start at the Roberts Trail Access on Route 22 in Murrysville, to catch the 10:30 a.m. opening for the western side of the new section, then ride to downtown Export, where at noon a second grand opening will take place on its eastern side at the annual Export Ethnic Food & Music Festival. This section of trail runs roughly parallel to Route 22 near several businesses and restaurants ideal for a little shopping and lunch. At the Export grand opening, trail riders can see the former Turtle Creek Valley Railroad caboose that has been restored both inside and out by the Export Historical Society.

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There is currently a gap in the trail between Export and Delmont, but those wanting to continue onward don’t have far to go: hit Old William Penn Highway, Greensburg Street, Freeport Street and Athena Drive through Delmont to hop back onto the eastern end of the trail, which runs all the way to Saltsburg across the Conemaugh. From there, cyclists can connect with the West Penn Trail, part of the vast Trans Allegeny Network of trails that includes the Blairsville Riverfront Trail, the Hoodlebug Trail to Indiana and the Ghost Town Trail to Ebensburg.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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