Staycation destination: Westmoreland Heritage Trail
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 .