Allegheny River Trail: Emlenton to Rockland Tunnel

 

The Allegheny River Trail is home to some of the most breathtaking scenery in Western Pennsylvania!  Situated on a bluff above the Allegheny River, this trail provides a majestic backdrop of lush countryside, perfect for hiking or biking.

We chose to bike the trail beginning in Emlenton.

The Allegheny River Trail is 32 miles of flat, smooth asphalt.  The trail follows the bed of the former Allegheny Valley Railroad, established in 1867, to transport black gold from the Oil Creek Valley to Pittsburgh.

This trail sets a dramatic first impression.  A white picket fence adds charm and curb appeal. The Allegheny River is on the left and woodlands are on the right.

 

 

 

Mill Creek Bridge, Circa 1915

The 2,868 foot Rockland Tunnel is one of the trail’s main attractions.  The tunnel is unlit, so you will need to bring a flashlight.

Leading up to the tunnel, you will feel a perceptible drop in temperature.

The tunnel is leaky and inhabited by bats.

Although wildlife was scarce, I did manage to spot a large wasp nest.  I photographed a dragonfly near the tunnel, and caught some turtles sunning themselves on a rock in the river.

Wildflowers and berries flourish along the trail.  Blackberries were ripe for picking!

 

 

A short hike uphill from the Rockland Tunnel is a rather dramatic waterfall known as Freedom Falls.  Located on Shull Run, the falls are over 20 feet tall and 50 feet wide. At the time of our visit, the falls were considered “dry”. It is easy to imagine how impressive they are in the spring after a heavy rain!

 

 

The pool beneath the waterfall is a popular swimming hole.  If you are lucky, you just might catch someone leaping off the top of the falls!

     

Even the area surrounding the waterfall is captivating.

Regrettably, we found ourselves pressed for time and did not get to see the Rockland Furnace, which is a short walk downstream from the falls.  This cold blast, water powered charcoal furnace was built by Andrew McCaslin in 1832.  Unfortunately, McCaslin drowned en-route to Pittsburgh on a barge loaded with pig iron from the furnace.  The furnace remained in operation until it was finally blown out in 1854.

This was one of the best trails we’ve done all year!  We were truly disappointed that we didn’t have time to explore more!  13 miles was not enough to quench our curiosity. We plan to do another stretch of the trail in the future.  Even this part justifies a return visit!

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