The trail runs along Route 865 and connects Roots Crossing to the eastern border of State Gamelands #158 after passing through downtown Bellwood. The majority of the trail has a 2% grade and is very shaded, ensuring that individuals of all experience levels can enjoy the trail comfortably. Currently, 2.25 miles of the trail are complete, though a rockier section suitable for hikers or mountain bikers extends into the gamelands.
Based on the completed portion’s popularity, Hazel Bilka, Executive Director of Bellwood-Antis Community Trust hopes to develop the trail that runs into the gamelands and make it accessible even to those on street bikes.
“We’ve gotten a phenomenal response from local people, in particular. They love it and want us to build more! There’s only one other Rail-Trail [in the area] and that’s in the other end of the county so it’s great to have this one here,” Bilka said.
Bilka, enthusiastic about visitors’ positive responses to the trail, is quick to point out how the trail benefits the community. She recalled one woman who lost 40 pounds by walking on the trail each morning.
The trail also encourages outdoor education. Visitors have reported seeing a variety of wildlife including hawks, turkeys, porcupines, possums, deer, and foxes. The trail runs along a gap in the mountain and provides panoramic views across a reservoir, which fills with Canadian Geese in the spring.
With money from Growing Greener grant funds, DCNR invested $188,000 to the project. The Bellwood-Antis Community Trust and the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy were also partners in the project. The Bells Gap Railroad trail is now one of the conservancy’s nearly 1,500 trails within a 14,000 mile network.