Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site | 6 TO 10 TRAIL

6 to 10 Trail at Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

6 to 10 Trail at Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

Length: 8 miles, one way
Time: 4 to 6 hours, depends on many options
Difficulty: Moderate if hiking one way, top to bottom

Download Trail Map: sixten-map (PDF)

The 6 to 10 Trail at Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site is a hiking and partial biking trail that covers the ground between Incline 6 near the Visitor Center and Incline 10, the last incline of the railroad before the canal in Hollidaysburg. The main trail is eight miles long, one way. Spur trail options can increase the distance of the hike. The hiking-only portion begins at the Visitor Center and runs for roughly four miles. The lower four miles of the trail are open to bikes. For those wanting to only do the bike portion of the trail, there is a parking area at the start of the bike section (directions are discussed below).

I was extremely excited to hike the 6 to 10 Trail, despite its length. The trail map indicates all sorts of ruins and historic culverts, and if there is one thing I like, it’s old stuff. As it turns out, the Engine House 8 ruins amount to nothing more than a 30 foot stone wall that stands a couple feet tall and is covered in brush. The culverts, which are drainage ditches that the rail line passed over, are either hard to spot or impossible to see. You walk right over many of them without even knowing it, and the ones you are aware of are hard to see because you can’t walk down off the trail to see them. (Since culverts run under the road or bridge, you can’t see them when walking over them. You have to get off the bridge and walk to the lower ground. With the culverts along the trail, the ground below is often so overgrown that there is no easy way to get down to it.) Of six marked culverts I was able to photograph just two, and only one was easy. So, needless to say, I was pretty disappointed. The trail to the Staple Bend Tunnel is the hike I recommend if you want to get the true historical essence of the Allegheny Portage Railroad.

Hiking Options


The most important thing about hiking the 6 to 10 Trail is figuring out a way to hike it, and there are a number of options. First off, it is eight miles one-way, much of which is downhill. For most people, hiking back up, a 16-mile round trip hike, is not feasible. Thus, it is essential to have a ride waiting at the end. On select Sundays during the summer, the park offers Ranger-guided walks of the trail that include a shuttle bus back to the top at the Visitor Center. For information, check the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site’s Calendar web page. In the BY KEYWORD search box type HIKE. There are other Ranger-guided hikes as well, and all require reservations. There is no fee.

Of course a Ranger-guided hike doesn’t do you much good if you can’t make the dates. If you have a car and also have a partner with a car, you can park at both ends of the trail. If you live in the area and have a friend, arrange for this person to pick you up when done. But for those with no hiking partner, or worse, no friends, a two car system or prearranged ride isn’t going to work. Therefore, there is only one solution. Park your car at the end of the trail, which is on Dry Run Road, and ask somebody for a ride to the Visitor Center. Your car will be waiting for you when you finish. Many locals use the trail in this area for exercise or dog walking because it is a wide and flat gravel road towards that end. I was in the Dry Run Road parking lot three times and there was always 2-3 cars parked there. As long as you don’t look like Charles Manson you should be able to get a ride. If it takes money to do so, pay up. It’s only five or so miles to the Visitor Center and $20 ought to peak somebody’s interest. I got lucky and arrived just as a man with his dogs was coming off the trail. I asked if he was going to the Visitor Center, which he was not, and then offered him money to take me there. He wouldn’t hear of it and gave me a ride for free. Turns out he had been hiking the lower part of the trail for years and never even knew there was a Visitor Center.

With the ride settled, the next decision is whether you want to hike the entire eight miles, do part of the trail, or hike the first part and bike the second (I chose the hike/bike option). The biking portion is just a wide gravel path, and hiking such a trail is a bore, so if you have a bike, I suggest using it. There is a parking area where the bike trail starts. Chain your bike to a tree, then continue to the Dry Run Road parking lot at the end of the trail and try to drum up a ride to the Visitor Center (or if you have a ride arranged, head back to the Visitor Center to start the hike).

There are actually two parking areas where the biking section begins (which is called The Muleshoe, by the way), one right where the bike section starts and one about a mile farther down the trail, which makes the hiking portion of the excursion a five-mile walk for those who want to do more hiking than biking. I parked at this farther location due to not being able to find the first parking lot. Turns out I passed right by it, and I certainly would have parked there if I had it to do all over.

If you are coming from the Visitor Center down Old Hwy 22, the first parking lot is on the right just before the Muleshoe Bridge, the only old-fashion arched bridge you will come to. This land is State Gamelands. If the gate to the park is open, drive to the top of the hill and drop off your bike. If it is closed, which it was when I finally found it after completing the hike—despite being open from “dawn to dusk” as stated on the sign—ignore the “No Parking” along the road and the “No People” allowed on the road up the hill and park you car along the road and walk your bike up the hill. You are out in the middle of nowhere. Chances of a cop coming by during the few minutes it takes for you to walk your bike up the hill and chain it to a tree are slim. If you are there during daylight hours, hopefully the gate will be open.

A parking lot for the biking section of the 6 to 10 Trail is located just north of the Muleshoe Bridge on Old Route 22, Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

A parking lot for the biking section of the 6 to 10 Trail is located just north of the Muleshoe Bridge on Old Route 22, Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

Gate to the 6 to 10 Trail parking lot near Muleshoe Bridge on Old Route 22, Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

Gate to the 6 to 10 Trail parking lot near Muleshoe Bridge on Old Route 22, Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

I passed the first lot by mistake and ended up at the second one, which is about a mile down the bike trail, so I had an extra mile to walk. To find this parking lot, reference the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site trail map that you can download at the top of this page. On Page 2 of the map is a Parking symbol and a Handicap Parking symbol. You need the handicap parking lot, which is no problem because you aren’t really parking, you’re just dropping off a bike.

To get to the second parking area, take Old Route 22 another 2.5 miles farther south of the Muleshoe Bridge to Valley Forge Road (right-hand turn). In less than a mile you will go around a big left-hand curve. Just beyond the curve is a gravel parking area and a gravel road going up a hill that has a paved path running next to it (the 6 to 10 Trail). The parking area at the road is the regular parking lot. To reach the Handicap lot, turn up the dirt road. You will be driving right next to the bike-able portion of the 6 to 10 Trail. Take this road all the way to the end, about one mile. You will pass the Handicap Parking Lot and will know that you are at the end when you come to a gate across the road. Park your bike here and then return to Dry Run Road, or carry out whatever plan you devised for hiking the trail.

Dirt road off of Valley Forge Road to the handicap parking lot for the 6 to 10 Trail at Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

Dirt road off of Valley Forge Road to the handicap parking lot for the 6 to 10 Trail at Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

You can also opt to do the hiking portion only or the biking portion only of the 6 to 10 Trail. The start / end of each is the first parking area near the Muleshoe Bridge.

The 6 to 10 Trail

Trailhead for the 6 to 10 Trail at the Allegheny Portage Rail Road National Historic Site Visitor Center

Trailhead for the 6 to 10 Trail at the Allegheny Portage Rail Road National Historic Site Visitor Center

The 6 to 10 Trail starts at the Engine House 6 exhibit near the Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site Visitor Center. Take the boardwalk at the back of the Visitor Center and walk to the engine house. Here you will find the start of the 6 to 10 Trail, a gravel path that heads downhill as it follows Incline 6. The first stop along the way is the Skew Arch Bridge, which is at the bottom of Incline 6. While most of the trail is free from unmarked side trails, intersections, and other points of confusion, there are a few at the very start of the hike that you need to be aware of.

After just a few minutes on the trail you will come to an intersection with a gravel road. You can see Old Route 22 just a few hundred feet to your right. Across the highway is the Skew Arch Bridge, so you will logically turn right on the gravel road, cross Old 22, and get to the bridge. While you can do this, you won’t actually be following the 6 to 10 Trail. To stay on the trail as it was intended, take a left at the gravel road, and a few minutes later you will see the spot where the 6 to 10 Trail pops back into the woods (it will be on your right). A few minutes more and you will come to Old 22 and the Skew Arch Bridge. Ultimately, either way you end up at the bridge, but if you want hike the entire trail, this is the way to go.

Skew Arch Bridge at Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

Skew Arch Bridge at Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

There is one more point of confusion, again at the Skew Arch Bridge. The trail actually has you walk over the bridge, and once across you will come to the southbound lane of Old 22 (the two-lane highway splits to go around the bridge). To get back on the trail, cross the road and walk up the highway along the shoulder, and in a short distance you will find the entrance back onto the 6 to 10 Trail.

Pick up the 6 to 10 Trail north of the Skew Arch Bridge after crossing the southbound lane of Old 22, Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

Pick up the 6 to 10 Trail north of the Skew Arch Bridge after crossing the southbound lane of Old 22, Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

For the first two miles the trail is relatively flat. I am assuming this is the level area between the bottom of Incline 6 and the top of Incline 7. I am also assuming that at the 2-Mile Marker the trail has reached the start of Incline 7, because it’s all downhill from here for the next thirty minutes. The latter part of the descent becomes extremely steep and is made more difficult by rocky terrain that is easy to twist an ankle on. This is marked on the trail map as “Moderate Difficulty, Steep Slope.” For young people, downhill means easy, but for an old guy like me, it means heavy pounding on the knees. Remedy this with hiking poles. You can use them like crutches, having your arms support your weight and allowing your feet to land softly on the ground.

The "level" runs from the Skew Arch Bridge to the start of Incline 7 at the 2-mile point of the 6 to 10 Trail at Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

The “level” runs from the Skew Arch Bridge to the start of Incline 7 at the 2-mile point of the 6 to 10 Trail at Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

The downhill hike on the 6 to 10 Trail along Incline 7 finally ends at the level that leads to Incline 8, Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

The downhill hike on the 6 to 10 Trail along Incline 7 finally ends at the level that leads to Incline 8, Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

Once back on the level to Incline 8, as expected, it’s pretty much an easy walk until you arrive at the ruins of Engine House 8. According to the trail map, prior to the engine house is Culvert 1490, but I walked right past it without noticing a thing. It is not marked with any signage, that’s for sure. In contrast, the Engine House 8 site is marked with signage. The ruins themselves are a big disappointment, being nothing more than a wall of about 30 feet in length and only a few feet in height. A decent photo is hard to get during the summer since the ruins are covered with brush. Wood posts mark the corners of the building.

Remains of Engine House 8 as seen along the 6 to 10 Trail at Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

Remains of Engine House 8 as seen along the 6 to 10 Trail at Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

An engine house always marks the start of an incline, and so the trail begins another downhill run. Incline 8 isn’t particularly steep, and in about twenty minutes you will be at the bottom. The trail passes another culvert, #1503, and while marked, you can’t get a decent look at it. I did pass a pile of rocks that were too square to be a natural phenomenon, so I am guessing this is the remains of a retaining wall that is also marked on the map.

Possible remains of a retaining wall near Culvert 1503 on the 6 to 10 Trail at Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

Possible remains of a retaining wall near Culvert 1503 on the 6 to 10 Trail at Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

The bottom of Incline 8 is the location of the first parking lot at Muleshoe Bridge. The trail becomes a wide gravel path from here on out and flows slightly downhill for most of the way, with steeper sections here and there. If you are on a bike, you can probably get to the end of the trail without peddling, but the decline is, with some exceptions, so slight that you won’t be going very fast.

The trail map shows a side trail not far from the parking area that leads to Culvert 1532. I was on a “double lookout” for this and never saw it. So far I was 0 for 3 in the culvert photography department.

If you do some thinking, you might wonder how the trail can be nearly flat for the rest of the way when there is still Incline 9 to deal with. Well, the bike path no longer follows the original Allegheny Portage Railroad route. It follows the New Allegheny Portage Railroad route. In the early 1840s the state of Pennsylvania built a new, more level railroad through and around the mountains between the two canals, taking advantage of the more powerful locomotive technology that had developed since the start of the Pennsylvania Main Line in the early 1830s. The new route bypassed the inclines, putting the original incline railroad out of business.

Bike portion of the 6 to 19 Trail follows the New Allegheny Portage Railroad route and bypasses the steep inclines of the original Allegheny Portage Railroad

Bike portion of the 6 to 19 Trail follows the New Allegheny Portage Railroad route and bypasses the steep inclines of the original Allegheny Portage Railroad

One mile from the first parking lot is the gate where I parked my bike. The trail follows alongside the vehicle road until coming to Valley Forge Road.

The 6 to 10 Trail runs alongside a dirt vehicle road until coming to Valley Forge Road, Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

The 6 to 10 Trail runs alongside a dirt vehicle road until coming to Valley Forge Road, Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

For those on foot, you do have the opportunity to hop back onto the route of the original Allegheny Portage Railroad at the top of Incline 9 and follow it to the bottom. This trail is easy to find (branches off to the left) and there are three culverts along the way, two of which I was finally able to see. No bikes are allowed, but this means riding them, so bikers can push their bikes along the trail. I’m sure that not everybody follows the rules, so if you were to ride on the trail, just make sure you don’t try it on a busy weekend when other hikers are likely to be on the trail as well. I took this trail and pushed my bike. The trail is downhill, as expected, and very rough due to rocks and tree roots.

The first culvert you will come to is 1624. It’s not easy to get a peak at it, and only one side can be seen. I had to jump down onto some sort of wall (a possible dam?) that went across a marshy area. Most of the culvert is hidden by brush and dirt that has piled up over the years.

Culvert 1624 on the 6 to 10 Trail at Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

Culvert 1624 on the 6 to 10 Trail at Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

Culvert 1635 is supposedly just after 1624, but I never saw it. However, I did find Culvert 1656. It is about ten minutes farther down the trail. Be on the lookout for it just after crossing Valley Forge Road. This one is very easy to get a look at.

Culvert 1656 on the 6 to 10 Trail at Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

Culvert 1656 on the 6 to 10 Trail at Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

At the bottom of Incline 9, the trail merges back with the bike trail, and from there it’s a straight shot to the parking lot. There is an intersection with an unnamed road, but just stay straight and cross the road and you’ll be back at your car in minutes. There is supposedly one last culvert along the way, #1692, but again, I passed it without seeing it, though this time more likely due to being in a hurry to finish the trail.

Also, just before the end is an intersection with the Foot of Ten Loop Trail. If you want one last view of a culvert, the best one on both trails, take a left onto the trail (hiking only), make your way to the culvert—you can’t miss it—and then head back to the bike path and continue to the parking lot. If you are pushing a bike, do not attempt to continue around the Foot of Ten Loop Trail, for it gets very narrow is places. This detour adds about a mile to the hike. See the Foot of Ten Trail review for more details.

Culvert 1733 on the Foot of Ten Trail in Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

Culvert 1733 on the Foot of Ten Trail in Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site

It’s hard to estimate the total time it takes to finish the hike because there are many options. It took me 4.5 hours for the hiking / biking combo, but I stop to take a lot of photos. You may also have to factor in another hour for driving around to drop off your bike or cars at both ends of the trail. If you are trying to find a ride back to the Visitor Center from Dry Run Road, who knows how long that will take. I suggest starting early in the morning and dedicating an entire day for the 8-mile hike, regardless of how you plan to do it. The worst that can happen is that you get done earlier than expected.

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Last updated on September 11, 2023
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