FATMAP difficulty grade
The Kennerdell Tract of the Clear Creek State Forest is an isolated patch of protected woodlands laced by a network of historic singletrack trails.
Don't expect to find mountain bike-optimized trails in what is essentially a random forest in a northwestern PA backwater.
Instead, this is old-school singletrack riding, with no concessions at all made to bicycle use. The trails start off marshy and rutted out, with the routine equestrian traffic readily apparent.
Even on dry days, prepare to get muddy as you splash through deep mud holes with no drainage whatsoever.
After a little pedaling, the trail drops quickly into the first steep, rocky, off-camber descent, then rockets straight up the next hill.
Now you'll get a sense of what you're in for: unexpected tech, off-camber corners, and some tricky bike handling. Just like mountain biking used to be. Arguably the gem of the entire trail system is the stretch of singletrack along the bluffs on the Window and Rock Oak trails.
Due to their better location high on a bluff, the trails drain better and are much drier, are narrower and less eroded, and traverse through a stunning swath of forest.
The bluffs that you're riding on top of range in height from 20 feet to well over 50 feet.
Through the trees, you'll even be able to glimpse the Allegheny river far below you.
This stretch of singletrack is worth the price of admission alone. Take another look at the river far below you.
If you decide to tackle the long version of the loop, you'll have to descend all the way down to the river, and then climb all the way back up to roughly your current elevation.
Since departing the parking lot, there haven't been any extended climbs or descents...
but if you drop down to the river, there definitely will be! Before descending to the river on the long loop, you'll do some squirreling through the woods on trails that appear to be rake-and-ride additions from local mountain bikers.
Keep your expectations low, and get ready for a fast descent down to the river! The descent to the river marked here unfortunately just blasts down an old dirt road.
While you can easily reach mach-chicken speeds, this isn't a fun singletrack downhill.
While there may be some singletrack trails that do reach the river, the trail markings on this end of the trail system are very poor, and some of the trails get so overgrown that they can become impassable. Once down at the Allegheny's elevation, take a dogleg left on the doubletrack-turned-singletrack.
This extra dogleg will lead you to an ancient abandoned farm site.
Here, you can see the old fields that are slowly being reclaimed by the forest, an old shed, a rusted-out tractor, and other farming machinery.
It's a cool dash of history on this unique backcountry ride that can only be reached by bike, horseback, or foot. Retrace your tracks to the bottom of the descent, and then keep following the trail along the Allegheny.
Eventually, a few fantastic views of the river will open up, providing a beautiful reward for the work that's about to ensue. The route pops out of the forest, traverses a dirt road between a bunch of vacation homes, and then reaches the punch-in-the-gut that you've been waiting for: the climb back to the top.
The climb to the top follows an abandoned road that's now gated and no longer used for vehicle traffic.
It cuts straight up to a maintained dirt road that will take you back to your starting point.
The climb is steep, but at least it's over quick! Finish your ride on the graded gravel road, and voila: you've explored the Kennerdell Tract.