An hour northeast of Pittsburgh lies the Butler-Freeport Community Trail. Less traveled than its competitors, this trail’s scenery is as rich as its history.
The stagecoaches that ran between Butler and Freeport were abandoned in 1871, in favor of the new Butler Branch Railroad, operated by the Western Pennsylvania Railroad Company. As a result of the burgeoning economy brought about by the railroad, communities like Cabot, Sarver, and Great Belt sprang up almost overnight.
Peaceful and serene, the clamor of the trail’s industrious past remains all but forgotten. Remnants from this vast period of industrial achievement, including old stone foundations, small dams, and fragments of brick kilns can be found along the trail today.
One of many former railroad beds converted to multiple-use trails, the surface of this trail alternates between crushed limestone, dirt and asphalt.
The Butler-Freeport Community Trail offers the perfect blend of intriguing scenery mixed with elements of excitement and isolation. Riding through the shaded forest past massive expanses of rock outcroppings, one can’t help but compare the landscape to the Great Allegheny Passage segment that traverses through Ohiopyle.
Another highlight of this trail is the opportunity to stand in awe underneath Freeport’s enormous bridge on Route 28.
The National Audubon Society has designated the Buffalo Creek Valley an Important Bird Area. Engulfed in their quests for food and refuge, it is not uncommon to find rare Cerulean warblers, herons, kingfishers, scarlet tanagers and indigo bunting.
In addition to birds, a diverse range of flora and fauna call this trail home. Be sure to keep an eye out for snakes!
Todd Nature Reserve, another Audubon bird sanctuary, is nearby.
After winding your way through the picturesque wooded valley of the Buffalo Creek Gorge, it’s not uncommon to spot a fisherman in waders.
Shortly after crossing the Monroe Bridge, a seasonal waterfall appears on your left.
Could we have finished the entire 21 miles of this trail? Absolutely! After working our way north from Freeport to Cabot, we were delighted to discover that the trail has a slight incline heading south from Butler. Mile after mile flew by with little effort. At this point, turning around and pedaling another 21 miles back may not be as difficult as you would think!
Currently, work is underway to connect the Butler end of the trail with Father Marinaro Park. Expected to be complete by year’s end, this will extend the trail by .6 miles.
If a ride on this trail is in your future, keep in mind that construction under the Buffalo Street Bridge on Route 128 closes the trail prematurely in Freeport.