Biking – our new(ish) family pastime

I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was 7.   I pretty much taught myself and managed to get by.  I remember a few accidents here and there but according to my family there was the “Great Boardwalk Massacre of 1991”.  We had rented bikes on vacation in Wildwood and everything was fine and dandy until we took them up on the crowded boardwalk.  Needless to say, my biking skills didn’t actually kill anyone that day but I’m sure a few people had their lives flash before their eyes.

Fast forward to now – my family has started biking over the past few years.   Our three older children are biking on their own and the youngest is in a bike trailer that my husband pulls (although I’m not confident this will work much longer as he just got his training wheels off and wants to ride independently).  Despite the initial yelling and screaming of sheer torture when we announce our plans to go biking, they are soon pedaling their way to happiness when we hit the trails.  We’re getting exercise, we’re together, enjoying nature and sightseeing – it’s a winning combination for all!

Being new to the family biking scene, we’ve found a few places we love and wanted to share with others – whether a family new to biking or a seasoned pro, or even an independent rider wanting to check out some cool places – I hope you will enjoy these as much as we do!

  1.  The Three Rivers Heritage Trail  (Millvale, PA)
    • Why we like it?
      • Biking on picturesque trails along side the Allegheny River to the Point and North Shore.  You will feel at peace in the city – om 🙂
      • Food trucks, beer, and music.  Need I say more?  Not to mention there are a lot of great restaurants you can stop at along the trail including: Rivertowne Brewery, Burgatory, The Foundry, Southern Tier Brewery and more.
      • Your kids will thank you when you let them cool off at the water steps!
      • Check out scenic views of downtown Pittsburgh, the North Shore including PNC Park, Heinz Field, the Carnegie Science Center, the beautiful bridges, the Point (you can bike across the bridge to Point State Park) and much more.  Wave hello as the Just Ducky tours waddle by!
      • This one is a mosly flat crushed stone trail with some small inclines but I’d rate it easy/moderate for small kids.
    • Tips:
      • It is usually less crowded on week days.  If you do go on a weekend, try to go early or just expect to go a little slower on the trails.
      • Dress your kids with a bathing suit underneath so they can play at the water steps.
      • If you start at the beginning in Millvale and go just past the Carnegie Science Center, the distance is 4 miles.  Its easy to lose track and go farther when you are taking in the sights.  Just remember with kids – you have to ride back which makes it a full 8 mile trip.
      • If you ride at night, make sure your bike has a lamp as there are no distinct lights along the trail.
      • There are bathrooms at the food truck area and portable ones in several other locations.
  2. Roaring Run Trail (Apollo, PA)
    • Why we like it?
      • Leave the city behind for the peace and quiet along the quiet Kiski river (minus the screaming kids of course).  There are also some neat sights along the way – small waterfalls and the remains of an old Iron furnace.
      • This trail has a decent amount of flat with small slow grades – which make it pretty good for small children and husbands pulling heavy bike trailers.  It is also crushed stone.
      • There are mountain bike and hiking trails as well for the more adventurous 😉
    • Tips:
      • We had a little trouble finding it the first time we went – follow these instructions for parking and trail access:
        • Take the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Exit 75 for New Stanton. Follow the turnpike Route 66 extension to its end in Delmont. Follow Route 66 North from Delmont to Apollo. After crossing the bridge in Apollo, turn right on Kiski Avenue. Follow Kiski Ave. for 0.7 mile, which then turns into Canal Road. Proceed to the marked trailhead parking at the end of the road.
      • There are portable bathrooms – just bring hand sanitizer.
  3. Westmoreland Heritage Trail (Export, PA)
    • Why we like it?
      • Also known as the Slickville trail because it runs through there before heading onto Saltsburg, this one is a scenic wooded trail with wildlife and maybe even a waterfall or two.  Its 9 miles.  There’s also a 5.9 mile extension closer to Duff park that they hope to eventually connect to this one.
      • There are some bigger hills when you get to the road intersections every couple of miles or so.  This might make it more difficult for small kids (they might have to walk their bikes up the hills).  However, it could give you more of a workout so that’s a plus.
      • They are hoping to connect from Saltsburg to the GAP trail and then you’d be able to bike for days!
    • Tips:
      • Parking is located at:
        • State Rte 1034, Export, PA 15632  (aka Athena Dr ext)
      • Tons of places off 22 if you work up an appetite after!
  4. The GAP (Greater Allegheny Passage) trail
    • Why we like it?
      • This is a 150 mile trail that begins in Pittsburgh (downtown) wraps over to the South Side then heads out into the country.  You have an amazing diverse trip on your hands.  You can take it all the way to the end in Washington, DC stopping at b&b’s or camping along the way.
      • The areas we have ridden are flat and crushed stone making it easy for kids.
      • There are a ton of access points in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas.  We have mostly utilized it while out near Ohiopyle.
    • Tips:
      • Check out the GAP website to pick your path!
      • I’d love to try this someday – Noble Invention Bike Touring.  They offer bike tour vacation packages to make your trip comfortable and memorable!

Other great sites to check out for more information on local trails:

TrailLink

AllTrails

Happy Trails!

Jamie

 

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