Rail-Trail: Shawmut Trail

Looking back towards the trailhead

I am NOT a fan of rain. And this past weekend brought many heavy downpours. But that doesn’t stop me from wanting to get out. The challenge becomes finding something that the rain can’t impact. A grass trail, for example, will probably be a muddy mess.

I do like rail-trails. They’re usually flat, you’re not going to stumble over many tree roots, and you can often catch glimpses of history while on them. The number of rail-trails is increasing as railroad companies close down underused tracks and people look for walking trails.

Thanks to Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, I found the Shawmut Trail which is located in Smethport, PA. It’s a multi-purpose, accessible trail that runs for approximately 0.6 miles. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Smethport experienced its own Gilded Age thanks to the oil, lumber and railroad industries. The Shawmut Trail is located on the former Shawmut Grade Railroad and opened in 2014.

cowsWith the threat of rain looming over us, we ventured out from the trailhead across from Hamlin Lake Park. Moto, of course, loved it as there were lots of new smells. We did have to keep him away from the electric fence separating the trail from nearby cattle. I appreciated the crushed stone surface and benches.

View of the McKean County Poor Farm

At the end of the trail, a Warren Truss bridge leads across Marvin Creek to the former McKean County Poor Farm. The farm was opened in 1884 as a place to house and feed the needy. While the county operated it, the residents ran the place and provided food for themselves, elderly neighbors and also the county jail. Poor farms were phased out in the 1930s as part of the New Deal. The site is now home to a couple of County departments, and a local farmer also uses the land for the aforementioned cows.

It appears as though the trail could go further but it was gated and looked overgrown. We turned around and made it back to the car just before the heavens opened. For lunch, we went west on Route 6 and stopped at the Mt. Jewett Family Tastee Freeze. There, we sheltered at covered picnic tables and ate good quality food for about the same price as fast food. Moto was happy with his fries.

The Shawmut Trail is maintained by the Potato Creek Trail Association, which also takes care of a couple of other trails in the vicinity.

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