The first public meeting to discuss creating a rail-trail using the defunct Montour Railroad right-of-way was held in 1989. A core group of 15 people attended, and some are still active volunteers with Montour Trail Council. In 1991, MTC purchased the railroad right-of-way. 2019 marked the Council’s 30th anniversary, celebrating three decades of hiking, biking, and recreation.
The first of many MTC volunteer “trail-blazing” work sessions was held in 1992 to clear out brush, trash, and railroad ties. The first section opened that year was a 4-mile stretch near Cecil. A 5-mile stretch near Moon/Robinson opened for use in 1993. MTC members at that time believed that it would take three years to complete the trail.
In 1992, the Trail was awarded the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Award.
The Montour Trail received a Three Rivers Environmental Award in 1994 in the category of Community-Social Organization. That same year, the MTC obtained two 100-foot-long truss bridges to replace Montour Railroad structures lost to unwanted removals.
In 2000, the Quicksilver Bridge was installed, an incredible achievement undertaken by Trail volunteers.
Trail improvements in 2003 included the 970-foot-long McDonald Viaduct — a $1.8 million outlay.
The first Annual Tour the Montour bike ride was staged in 2003. Today, it is the MTC’s largest fundraising event.
In 2004, the Montour Trail was designated a National Recreational Trail, an honor bestowed on existing trails that connect people to local resources and improve quality of life.
MTC completed and opened the connector between the Montour and Panhandle trails in 2007. It built three bridges in the highly prized Cecil section and asphalt-paved the rough National Tunnel floor the following year. Lighting was installed inside that tunnel — the Trail’s longest — in 2012.
The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy named the Montour Trail its Trail of the Month in March 2015.
In 2016, the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition began developing a 1,500-mile trail network through America’s Rust Belt and industrial Appalachia, which includes the Montour Trail within its framework.
In 2017, the Montour Trail was named Pennsylvania’s Trail of the Year, citing its quality, benefits to the region, and strong volunteer network and partnerships. That same year, the Montour Trail was named a part of U.S. Bicycle Route 50, which runs east-west and, when completed, will span the country.
In 2019 through 2022, readers of Pittsburgh Magazine named the Montour Trail Best in the ‘Burgh in the hiking/biking category.
The Covid pandemic of 2020-2022 brought unusually high traffic to the Trail, calling resurfacing crews into action in Cecil, Peters Township, and Fort Cherry. A half-mile of new mainline trail was installed in South Park Township, reducing on-road detours to under 5 miles. To ensure users’ health and safety, many events were canceled or staged virtually.
Today, the MTC continues to complete the Trail as it gains new right of way or where replacement structures are required — at a cost of $18,000 in materials to resurface a mile of existing trail, as much as $2 million to renovate a viaduct.
Learn the details about MTC’s efforts to build the rail-trail.