Beaver County Section of the Trail
For a Google Map of the North Country Trail thru Beaver County click on this link.
This road walk section of the North Country Trail is 8.8 miles in length connecting the trail at the Edwards Family farm to the next off-road section at the First Energy/McGaffick/Crawford properties, the Kirkwood Farm, the Garrett property at Watts Mill, and PA Gamelands 285. It is a walk through combinations of farm country, residential neighborhoods, and small western PA towns. This roadwalk is blue paint blazed.
The North Country Trail leaves the Edwards farm at the point where old PA RT 60 (now I376) crosses over Edwards Road four miles west of Wampum, PA. The Google map calls Edwards Road along this stretch “Kenforest Road” but the NCTA official map refers to it as Edwards, as do the street signs in the area. I’m inclined to let the Edwards have their road since they live there and have for a long, long time. There is no access to I376 at this point. After leaving the Edwards property turn left onto Edwards (Kenforest) Road and pass under the I376 bridge. At the .8 mile mark there is a stop sign at which you will turn right and continue along Edwards Road. At .7 of a mile past the stop sign (1.5 cumulative from the Edwards Farm trail head) you will reach the intersection of Edwards Road and Britton School Road. Turn left onto Britton School Road at this intersection and proceed up the hill .3 of a mile until another stop sign is encountered at the intersection of Britton School and Roslyn Roads. Turn right onto Roslyn Road, crossing over the Pennsylvania Turnpike on brand-new bridge (with North-Country-Trail-Blue painted chainlink pedestrian guards). Follow Roslyn Road .5 miles to State Rt 168. The asphalt on Roslyn Road gives way to gravel as you get closer to Rt. 168. At Route 168 you will have done 2.3 miles of the road walk.
Turn left onto PA Rt 168 and it is a 3.8 mile walk from this point to the intersection of Routes 168 and 551 in the center of Darlington, PA. Along this segment of roadwalk you will encounter the Big Beaver Boro Wetlands (3 miles from the Edwards trailhead), New Galilee Boro (3.6 miles from Edwards trailhead), and a Beaver County Historical Society marker at a cemetary along the right side of the road, describing it as the site of the Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church (4.5 miles from the Edwards trailhead). Arriving at Rts 168 and 551 in the center of Darlington, you will find a couple of convenience stores, a US Post Office, The Greersburg Academy, and just to the south, a restaurant and beer distributor. Weaver’s Market, the grocery store in Darlington has closed as of March 2015. The One Stop Shopper on Route 168 provides less of an assortment but would still suffice for resupply for the long-distance hiker that didn’t want to make the trip to Chippewa, PA to a regular grocery store.
The North Country Trail turns left onto Routes 168 and 551 (they run together for a short while) – which is also known as Old Darlington Rd. Follow Old Darlington Rd. half a mile south out of town, passing a convenience store/gas station at the point where RT 551 cuts off to the left, until Georgetown Rd. is reached coming in from the right hand side. Turn right onto Georgetown Road and follow it for 1.2 miles to its intersection with Louthan Rd. Turn right onto Louthan Rd. and follow it one mile to PA Route 168. Upon reaching Route 168, turn right and the next section of off-road trail is thirty-five yards up the road, cutting off to the left into the woods.
First Energy/McGaffick/Crawford Properties
Start this .6 of a mile of trail by turning off of PA Route 168 and walking up an old, abandoned ATV access two-track – following the blue blazes. The pathway goes up the hillside through the woods and then crosses a cleared power line right-of-way. The trail reenters the woods and works its way westward through former stripmined areas on the McGaffick and Crawford properties. Near the end of this section the trail shares the route with an informal nature trail on the Crawford Family Campground property where there is a bench, which provides a nice place to take a break. This very pleasant off-road woods walk finishes upon reaching Hodgson Rd.
CAMPING NOTE A private campground (Crawford’s) is located on the left-hand side of Hodgson Road below the trail crossing. The Crawfords are very welcoming towards backpackers hiking through the area. The Campground opens in mid April and its season runs until late October.
Kirkwood Farm/PA Gamelands 285/Garrett Property – Hodgson Road to PA Route 251 – PA/OH Border
As of this writing (December 2013) the next three miles of this segment are not certified but the trail is completed and walkable, with bridges installed and paint blazing in place. With the hard work of the Wampum Chapter members and immeasurable assistance from Student Conservation Association crews in 2009 and 2011 and volunteers from Chippewa’s Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in 2010, the treadway has been grubbed and sidehill has been completed along its length. This 6.3 mile segment of the North Country Trail is on property owned by Carol Kirkwood, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and Dennis and Cathy Garrett.
Begin this off-road section by following a gas pipeline onto the Kirkwood Farm and then follow the blazes to the right into the woods. The trail ascends a low hill, descends into a dip and crosses an old logging road, then ascends slightly again until the top of a ridge that parallels the North Fork of the Little Beaver Creek is reached. The trail turns westward at this point and follows the ridgetop. At .6 of a mile from Hodgson Rd. the trail begins to descend via switchbacks, crossing into PA Gamelands 285 (boundary is denoted by a line of white circle blazes painted on trees) until at approximately .75 of a mile from the road the bottom of the hill and Painter Run is reached. Cross over the run via the two bridges in place and upon ascending the next hillside the hiker will notice yellow, rectangular blazes on a trail coming in from the left. This half-mile spur trail leads to the Game Commission parking area at Sterling Rd. where there is room to park at least ten vehicles. Trail Alert May 2015 – There is oil and gas pipeline work going on in this area and the access trail to Sterling Rd. was impacted by the tree clearing. As of right now this trail is impassable. The NCT can be reached from the Sterling Rd. parking area by proceeding along the double track to either: A) A game lands double track coming in from the right hand side a short distance beyond the former access trail, which will take to around Indian Rock Hill, or B) Hippie Bridge, about .8 of a mile from the Sterling Rd. gate. Taking a right on the NCT will take you to Indian Rock, taking a left will lead you to Watt’s Mill. Passing this spur trail and continuing on the NCT a Game Commission double track is reached a short distance further along.
Cross the double track and skirt the west side of the bottom of Indian Rock Hill (also known as Painter’s Knob) for three hundred yards until a T in the trail is reached. Straight ahead is the North Fork of Little Beaver Creek, and to the right is a yellow-blazed spur trail that leads to the top of Indian Rock Hill and Indian Rock. The reason for the carving on this rock is unknown, as well as the identity of the carver. Local historians suggest it was a farmer or farmhand creating a bird feeder. Others suggest it was an Indian, or even someone working in the area when it was stripmined years ago. The course of the North Country Trail is to the left at the T at the bottom of the hill, following the blue blazes and following the creek westward.
Follow the blue blazes westward for .25 of a mile until the old iron bridge is reached. This bridge was rehabilitated by the PA Game Commission in 2013 and now provides a safe crossing of the North Fork of Little Beaver Creek. At this point a left turn onto the Game Commission double track will take the hiker .6 of a mile to the Sterling Rd. parking area, and a right turn (across the bridge) leads to the Game Commission parking area .4 of a mile away along Cannelton Rd. There is a trailhead parking area sign along Cannelton Rd., designating access to the North Country Trail. Thanks to the crew with the PGC for the hard work they put in on this project which allows easier access to the North Country Trail.
Following the blue blazes and continuing westward, the next mile of North Country Trail traces through this old clay strip mine area in Gamelands 285, crossing numerous spring-fed streams, skirting private-property inholdings, bypassing numerous beaver dams (both abandoned and active) and winding through two separate groves of very pleasant hemlock trees. The trail courses up and down the hillside to avoid the swampy patches near Little Beaver Creek and the ones created by the beavers. At the 2 mile mark (from Hodgson Rd.) the trail crosses a small stream just below a beautiful five-foot waterfall by means of a footbridge built from the timbers of a 100-year old barn that was formerly on property in Darlington owned by Mrs. Garrett’s father. The trail rejoins the North Fork of Little Beaver Creek shortly after the waterfall area and runs parallel for a distance. At the 2.1 mile mark the North Country Trail crosses out of the Gamelands and is routed onto the Garrett property. Camping information – Right before crossing the property line there is an access trail to the Watt’s Mill hiking shelter, which cuts off to the left. This Adirondack style shelter overlooks the creek and is available for hikers to use as an overnight spot. All other uses of this shelter and area require the express consent of the property owner. At the shelter there is a picnic table and fire ring, and there is some level ground up behind the shelter structure that can be used to pitch a tent. There is no potable water nearby so if water from the creek is used it should be treated.
The trail reaches Watts Mill Rd. at the 2.2 mile mark from Hodgson Rd. At Watt’s Mill Road the remains (stonework) of the old mill and the mill keepers house, built in the early 19th century are in evidence, particulary in the winter time when the leaves are off the trees and the weeds have died off. Mrs. Garrett’s father maintained a summer cottage in this area in more-recent years. Another attraction along Watt’s Mill Rd. is the bridge over the North Fork of the Little Beaver Creek, located about 100 yards north (to the right) of where the trail crosses the road. The bridge was built in 1878 by the West Penn Bridge Company and is a good example of the Pratt Pony Truss design used during that period of time. PennDot has closed the bridge to vehicular traffic but walkers can still cross Little Beaver Creek on it.
The North Country Trail crosses over Watt’s Mill Rd. and is blue-blazed and certified for the remaining 4.1 miles of the hike. The trail goes through the Garrett’s old camp property along Little Beaver Creek until reaching PA Game Commission Gamelands 285 at about the .25 mile mark (from Watt’s Mill – 2.45 miles from Hodgson Rd).
Trail Alert April 2015 – In looking at the surveying flags in the woods through the Game Lands we expect that the trail will be impacted by oil and gas pipeline work over the spring and summer. We’ll do our best to keep up with any disruptions in the treadway through the area to keep the trail open. Use caution when walking through.
Upon reaching the Gamelands boundary the trail ascends a hillside on a series of switchbacks and heads generally southwest, skirting feed plots and going through a pleasant area of hemlock trees and (relatively, for this area) large rocks, climbing gradually and in stages. At the two mile mark (from Watt’s Mill Rd.) a vista with a view westward along the creek valley, toward Negley, OH is encountered and is very pleasant. This vista is located in a recent logging clearcut area.
After leaving the clearcut area the trail generally trends southwestward on a very easy-to-walk, evenly contoured bench along the hillside far above Little Beaver Creek. Evidence of the area’s former role as a strip mine is abundant as grown-over tailing piles define the landscape, with tree covered mounds and parallel ridges predominating. At the three-mile mark (from Watt’s Mill, 5 miles from Hodgson Rd) the trail breaks out of the woods along a gas pipeline right-of-way and ascends Booth Hill, a large, grassy area with expansive views of the surrounding countryside. The trail follows the maintained Game Commission two-track up and around the edge of Booth Hill. When the two-track ends follow the blaze posts across the remainder of the hill to the top. The deer are thick up on Booth Hill in the evenings during the summer.
The trail reenters the woods as it leaves the top of Booth Hill, and by a series of gradual descents and switchbacks over the last mile, traversing both single and double-track, reaches PA Rt 251 (Blackhawk Road) and the Pennsylvania/Ohio border. There is room for three vehicles to park alongside Rt. 251 at the trailhead. Parking update Sept 2012 – Unfortunately, the property owners across the road from the trailhead have rescinded their permission for hikers to park along their driveway as it has been blocked several times over the past few months. If additional trail head parking is needed we recommend that you proceed west into OH where there is a wide shoulder (beside the orange safety fence) adjacent to the strip mine – approx. fifty yards to the west of the state line. Please do not park on the property directly across from the trailhead. Thank you!
North Country Trail Map PA-03
This is the southern and western-most extent of the North Country Trail in Pennsylvania. Blue blazes westward along the road lead the hiker into Ohio and on to Sheepskin Hollow and Beaver Creek State Park.