Turtle And Brush Creeks

  • 35-50 miles (or more) round-trip
  • Flat or rolling to Irwin via 130 & 993; more hilly in other parts
  • Medium traffic to Trafford; light traffic afterwards
  • This is an enjoyable, open-ended ride along a creek valley east of Pittsburgh. Scenically, it gives a good sampling of Pittsburgh-area sights: a still-operating steel mill outside Braddock, the historic main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad (still frequently used by both freight and passenger trains), some old towns, and (at least past Trafford) a creek in a mostly rural setting.

    Start out by taking your favorite route to Braddock Avenue in Braddock, below the east end of the Rankin Bridge. (The most straightforward way to get there from where I live is to cross the Homestead bridge, turn left on route 837 through Homestead, then cross the Rankin bridge and exit right immediately afterwards. Alternatively, just take Forbes to Braddock Avenue, and then follow that south through Swissvale and into Braddock.)

    Follow Braddock Avenue south through the town. Braddock evidently enjoyed better days when steel was stronger here. Just past the town, though, you will reach US Steel's Edgar Thomson/Mon Valley works, which is still in operation.

    A little while after, the road will start to curve upward and to the left to start following Turtle Creek. Shortly after it starts doing this, you'll see a pulloff on the right, a good place to stop if you like train-watching. You're now in the middle of the Turtle Creek junction. To the east (inland) is the main line of the Pennsylvania railroad, heading to Altoona, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia. Down the Mon (back the way you came) go the trains to Pittsburgh and west. Up the Mon (toward McKeesport) go trains headed south, to places like Washington, D.C. There's also a short spur for the US Steel works itself. In any case, you usually won't have to wait very long until you see a train heading down at least one of these lines.

    Continue east underneath a high concrete bridge, and down into the town of Turtle Creek. Stay on Braddock Avenue instead of getting onto route 130, which is a highway-like bypass of the town. Continue through the town so as to stay on the north side of the creek and the main rail line. Eventually, you'll get dumped onto route 130, but by that point 130 will have settled down into a two-lane road anyway.

    Follow route 130 east through Pitcairn and past the Orange Belt, until you reach Trafford, the beginning of Westmoreland County. If you want to continue (and you probably do, since the next stretch is one of the nicest), turn right onto route 993 south. Follow this as it winds along the creek and the rail line for several miles. Since you're following a creek, the road only has a few hills, none of them serious, once you get out of town.

    Eventually, you'll reach an intersection by the town of Irwin, where 993 turns right into the town. Make the turn onto Main Street and go into town. This is a good place to forage for food and drink.

    Route 993 continues east on Third Street (turn left at the top of the hill you climb to enter Irwin; the turn is NOT marked.) Follow the road as it more or less stays parallel with the rail line. In a couple of miles, 993 will turn left, cutting north to join route 130. You can follow it to cut off the loop, or you can continue straight, and go through Penn and eventually hit the largish town of Jeannette. (Follow the "To PA Turnpike" signs until you get to the Jeannette business district.) Now might be another good time to stop and forage if you haven't done so already.

    If you're feeling like a longer bike ride, the small city of Greensburg is only five miles farther east. I haven't gone that far, but it looks like your best bet to minimize hills is to cut north on Fourth Street or Second Street to join route 130, and follow that east to Greensburg. (There is a brief initial hill, but then the road follows a creek for some time.) There's also a less-trafficked, but possibly hillier, road on the north side of the railroad tracks, running parallel. (Don't take Charters or Agnew Road out of town, at least not past the point they leave the railroad tracks; they'll just take you to US 30, which is not at all designed for bikes.)

    However far you decide to go, you can come back on route 130. (From Jeannette, take Fourth north a short distance.) It's a bit hillier than 993 is, but the scenery can be interesting (it includes some open fields) and there are no real killer hills. You may, however, wish to bypass the very last hill that Trafford rests on; to do so, hang a right when the road curves to the left after a long downslope. This will bypass Trafford altogether, and eventually put you on route 130 near the Orange Belt.) Once you get past Trafford, just retrace your steps back.

    Last updated 25-May-92 by John Ockerbloom (spok@cs.cmu.edu)