Tanbark Trail

Consensus:    (details)
  5.0 from 3 votes
black  Difficult from 1 vote
Rank: #1 in the Northwestern PA area
#7 in PA, #294 Overall
Views: 3,012. Last 30 days: 79
Condition Details | Update
Featured Ride in the area near Youngsville,
“Classic Old School East Coast singletrack.”
Mike Zobrest on May 27, 2013
Getting There     GPX File     Print
10.216.5 milesKilometers 930’283 m Ascent 1,888’575 m High 3% Avg Grade (2°)
100% Singletrack -929’-283 m Descent 1,655’504 m Low 23% Max Grade (13°)
Beautiful singletrack on a solid rock base, your bike will be cleaner after the ride than before. The only drawback is there is not enough of it, but an out and back will give you 10 miles of singletrack heaven.
Need To Know
Do not proceed on the Tanbark trail after it crosses the Hearts Content Road at the southern end of this map, the other side of the road is the Hickory Creek Wilderness and is off limits to bikes.

Be very careful on any wooden bridges, if they are wet they can be extremely slippery due to the slime that forms from the lack of sunlight, more dangerous than ice.

Once the ferns start covering the trail mid summer, be very careful of logs that were cut just barely clear of the trail by the hiking club, you can get hooked on them since you can't see them.
A beautiful singletrack trail that has that classic technical feel of trails built by the CCC during the Depression. Other than one dip down to a valley bottom, the trail is mostly ridge top riding on top of bedrock. The trail is fast and flowy with occasional rock gardens to challenge even the most experienced rider. Since the trail is so short, everyone generally rides it out and back. The more technical riding and climbing is on the northern half between Rt 337 and the first crossing with the Hearts Content Road.

The trail leaves Sandstone Springs and heads out a ridgetop. You'll come to your first bridge over a wet section, the straight on approach to the bridge has been blocked by a blowdown for at least 10 years so you have to hop up onto the bridge and turn at the same time. After the bridge is the first rock garden, usually obscured by huge ferns.

You'll continue on the ridgetop until you finally reach the drop that starts you down to the only valley bottom on the trail. The top of the drop is unrideable by 90% of the riding population, that is followed by a rock based (sustainable) fall line trail which can be tricky due to its combination of grade and rock garden. From there you'll pass in front of a beautiful group of huge boulders that have broken free of the ridgetop and are slowly working their way downhill.

You'll continue down into the valley through several more tricky, small rock gardens and cross a bridge over the creek at the bottom. Just after the bridge you'll probably miss the right hand turn and dead end into a campsite, just backtrack and look for the trail marker. This is a hemlock valley, so the trail is not as obvious. You'll begin climbing, hit a very difficult rock garden, and then switchback up the other side of the valley to another group of huge boulders. The trail hike-a-bikes up through them. There are some more rock gardens, a sustainable fall line climb, more rocks and eventually you'll come out to cross the Hearts Content Road at the Hickory Creek Wilderness parking lot.

Continue across the road through one of the few wet areas of the trail and then you'll ride a short distance with the trail combined with a wider XC ski trail. At the next intersection there will be a sign directing the Tanbark Trail to the right, take that and head up and over a ridge. As you drop down the ridge you'll come to another less marked intersection, proceed straight across that XC ski trail, through the only other possibly wet section, and at the next T go right and follow the trail over another bridge.

The trail will then do a gentle climb followed by a long flat, then gentle descent to the next trail intersetion. At that intersection proceed straight on the Tanbark Trail and you'll come out on the Hearts Content Road. Do not proceed any further on the Tanbark Trail, from this point the trail goes into designated Wilderness, then onto the North Country Trail which is not open to biking, and then the Minister Creek area which is a Wilderness Study Area and also off limits to bikes.
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5.0 (1)
Some great singletrack that is fairly well maintained, some technical places,...
near Franklin, PA
4.4 (17)
An updated version of the 2002 IMBA Ellicottville Epic ride.
near Little Valley, NY
4.0 (1)
A short but cool loop with great historical and natural features.
near Sheffield, PA

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PHOTOS of Tanbark Trail
  4.0 from 1 vote
Hike-a-bike section (Sheffield, PA)
  3.0 from 3 votes
Tanbark Trail shot (Youngsville, PA)
  3.0 from 3 votes
Big Rocks (Sheffield, PA)
  3.0 from 3 votes
Sandstone springs - good, safe water source (Youngsville, PA)
  3.0 from 3 votes
Fractured ridgetop rock - typical of the area (Sheffield, PA)
  3.0 from 3 votes
The intersection at the far end of Tanbark Trail. (Sheffield, PA)
  2.7 from 3 votes
Singletrack on the Tanbark Trail (Sheffield, PA)
  2.7 from 3 votes
First rock garden after the first bridge. (Youngsville, PA)
  2.7 from 3 votes
Singletrack (Sheffield, PA)
  2.7 from 3 votes
Singletrack (Sheffield, PA)
  2.3 from 3 votes
Typical view down the rail grade. On Ironwood Trail (Sheffield, PA)