Rochester and Rochester Road

  • About 55 miles round-trip (w/ shorter routes described)
  • A few hills, but mostly flat or gently sloping
  • Moderate traffic to Green Belt, light traffic to Conway, heavier traffic on 65
  • Riders who like going to Ambridge or other points northwest, but are wondering whether there is a viable way there besides just going along the Ohio, will find this route of interest. It runs along Rochester Road, which goes northwest roughly parallel to the Ohio (but some miles away from it) and is surprisingly flat for an "inland" route. The ride I describe will take you all the way to Rochester, the northernmost extent of the Ohio River, where the Beaver River flows into it. But you can also cut off earlier for shorter trips to Sewickley and Ambridge if you prefer. Once you're past West View, you're in some nice rural countryside, with farms, nurseries, parks, and other vistas along the route.

    The route starts in Millvale, which can be reached from the 40th or 62nd Street bridges over the Allegheny River. (See the Bridges file for directions on how to get there.) Follow the Blue Belt north along Babcock Boulevard. When you reach a T-intersection a mile or two north of Millvale, turn right to stay on Babock. (The Blue Belt goes left.) Continue on Babcock as it goes under McKnight Road, past a mini-golf course, and past Cemetery Road ("To 279"). A short while later, you'll see a road fork off to the left. Turn onto it; this is Rochester Road.

    You'll continue along a flat stretch which after a while begins to climb. The first significant hill climbs up to route 19, then makes a long, windy drop down the other side. When you see signs and a fork for the Green Belt, stay to the right and merge onto the Green Belt clockwise. Then continue straight at the four-way intersection where the Green Belt turns right.

    Continue northward on Rochester (sometimes known as Lowries Run Road). You'll climb another hill up to the bridge crossing over I-79, and then make another long descent. At the bottom of the hill, when you see a nursery on the right, the road curves left to join the Orange Belt. After a further descent, the Orange Belt will turn left. In one shorter version of this ride, you could also turn left here, and follow the Orange Belt through Sewickley Hills into Sewickley. (You'll see lots of fancy houses toward the end of this stretch.) But if you'd rather continue, keep going straight to stay on Rochester.

    Follow the road for a few more miles, and you'll pass a park on the left. A short distance later, you'll hit the Red Belt. Continue straight on the Red Belt. If you want to go to Ambridge, just follow the Red Belt all the way to Beaver Road (the last cross-street before the Red Belt ends on route 65) and turn right to go into Ambridge. (If you'd like to continue onto Rochester, you can still visit Ambridge on the way back, though.)

    If you want to go to Conway and Rochester, you'll want to follow the Red Belt a short way, then turn right onto Conway Wallrose Road, which comes up shortly after a Pennzoil service garage. This will take you through the township of Economy, and eventually involves another hill or two. (But once you've climbed up, you'll be on the top of a short ridgeline, with some nice views to the north and south at various points.) Follow the road past route 989 and into Conway.

    Conway is the home of one of the largest freight yards in this area; it's Conrail's main switching yard for trains going west of Pittsburgh. If you're a rail-fan, you can get a bird's eye view of the yard from Conway at the top of the last hill down the river. (The main road takes a sharp left; continue straight onto a side road and follow it to the end, where you can see over the bluff down into the yard and the Ohio river.) The main road continues down all the way to Route 65, where you get another look at the yard at a lower level.

    At this point, there isn't much room between the river (or the yard) and the bluffs on the bank, so the only river road to Rochester is route 65. (Beaver Road merged into Route 65 a couple of miles upriver from Conway.) Fortunately, it's less trafficked than it is near Pittsburgh, but it's still not particularly fun, though doable. You can avoid one stretch by getting off at the "To Freedom" signs, and following an avenue through Freedom, running parallel to 65 almost to East Rochester. After that, you'll have to merge onto 65 again, and get off a couple of miles later, at Rochester.

    Rochester is at the bend in the Ohio where it turns west and south, the direction it continues in more or less all the way to the Mississippi. The Beaver River also flows in at the west of Rochester. There's a bridge over the Beaver north of a Giant Eagle shopping plaza, which leads to a nice little riverside promenade on the western bank. (When I rode there, there were also boaters and fishers all over both rivers.) The towns of Beaver and Beaver Falls are a few miles away.

    To return, cross the Ohio at the bridge in Rochester (this is route 18, though the road is not particularly well marked.) You'll enter the sister town of Monaca. At the next T-intersection, turn left onto Pennsylvania Avenue. (This leads you past a parklet with an interesting-looking fountain.) Eventually this road turns into route 51 south, which here is a pretty barren but low-traffic 4-lane. (Cars go fast, but since there aren't many of them, they'll give you plenty of room.) If you go south on route 51 for several miles, you'll pass Aliquippa, then come to the bridge crossing the Ohio to Ambridge. Cross here, unless you want to deal with a large hill a few miles further down 51.

    In Ambridge, turn right on Merchant Street, one of the main commercial streets through town. (You'll pass the Ambridge Bike Shop along this street.) Eventually Merchant turns into Beaver Rd. near the county line. From here, just follow the route back to Pittsburgh that's described in the "ohio-valley" route.

    Last updated 5-Jul-92 by John Ockerbloom (