911 National Memorial Trail: Johnstown to Hollidaysburg

This history-packed ride contains a number of activities and nationally significant sites unrivaled by all but the most urban biking experiences. In 1889, a neglected dam burst, releasing a 40 foot wall of water that sped through the Conemaugh River valley into Johnstown, leaving more than 2,000 people dead in it's wake. The Johnstown Flood Museum provides a historical perspective of the once thriving industrial town, and the resilience of the local community in the days and years after the flood.

The 11 mile Path of the Flood Trail provides an off-road trip, upstream into the history of this event. Signage at each town, or former town--some were not rebuilt after the flood--includes photos and dramatic minute-to-minute descriptions of the tragic event. The trail also passes through the first railroad tunnel ever constructed in the United States (Staple Bend Tunnel).

While many bike trails have a familiar terrain and back story, a bike ride on the rarely used Path of the Flood Trail is guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience. The Johnstown Flood National Memorial, operated by the National Park Service, is located off of the eastern trail head. This memorial includes the site of the levee that broke, sending the flood waters cascading on their fatal journey towards Johnstown.

The ride east to the Portage Station Museum in Portage PA (with many food options) includes a few miles on moderate/heavily traveled roads, the reward being one of the largest model railroads in western Pennsylvania, recreating the "main line" of the Pennsylvania Railroad through the Horseshoe Curve and the Gallitzin Tunnels. Railroad history, and railroad tourism is a large draw to this part of the state, with other sites located off of the official trail route including the Railroaders Memorial Museum in nearby Altoona.  However, staying on the official route brings bikers on a back road climb into Cresson, home to one of the most unusual motels in the country. The Station Inn attracts railroad enthusiasts from around the world to see the more than 70 trains that pass by each day.

Multiple food options are available in Cresson, which is close to the next "must see" stop on this segment, the Allegheny Portage Railway, National Historic Site. This marks the last connection to the (no longer operating) Pennsylvania Main Line Canal. Opened in 1834 "the portage" (an engineering marvel; a rail line on a steep incline) completed the first direct connection for shipping and passengers between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The unusually named "Six to Ten" Trail can only be hiked near the Allegheny Portage Railroad, but for the section between (Muleshoe to Foot of Ten; two more great names) the biking is both permitted and spectacular.  Given the effort to bring goods and passenger up the mountainside (thus the need for the Portage Railroad and the various inclines to the east of today's national historic site) it is not surprising that the bike ride west to east (into Hollidaysburg) involves a steep descent that can be done quickly and safely on route 22. When biking east to west, maximizing the use of the 6-10 trail is recommended Hollidaysburg has multiple lodging and food possibilities, both down town and on the main roads leading into town along the official route.

To note: some localities are improving the route in their jurisdictions; the map may lag behind some of these update.

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67.467 km / 41.922 mi

Total Distance

679 m / 2,226 ft

Total Ascent

755 m / 2,477 ft

Total Descent

714 m / 2,344 ft

Highest Point

Ride type:
Sightseeing
Mountain biking
Road riding
Commuter
Kid friendly
Rail Trail
Gravel
Various
Difficulty: Intermediate (Red)
Ride Duration: Full day
Fitness Level: High
Terrain:
Shared Bike Path - Paved
Shared Bike Path - Dirt
On-Road Bike Lane
On-Road
Off-Road - Fire Trail
Off-Road - Rail Trail
Off-Road - Single Track
Off-Road - Downhill
Trail Signage: Average
Mobile Coverage: Excellent
Estimated Distance: 67.0
Elevation Gain: 1664
Services:
Water
Food
First Aid
Toilets
Bike hire
Carparking
Bike servicing
Accessible by bike
Accessible by car
Accessible by public transport
Accessible by shuttle / uber
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