Running Pittsburgh’s Butler Freeport Trail

Enjoy quiet speed on this cool and scenic Pennsylvania rail trail with a remote feel.

The Butler Freeport Community Trail is the best of all worlds when it comes to a run. The path is crushed limestone, which saves your joints compared to asphalt or cement, but it’s also flat and clear so you don’t have to spend the whole time looking at your feet. Which is the point: Buffalo Creek and the surrounding forest provide a cool and beautiful location for a run.                                                                                                           

The 21-mile path is the ultimate rail trail: a success story of a historic railroad corridor that, after going defunct, has now seen 30 years of revived usage since its conversion to a multi-use recreation trail. Just a 40-minute drive northeast of Pittsburgh, it serves all kinds of outdoor enthusiasts; be ready to share the trail with hikers and cyclists. It’s an area that’s long been traversed, prior to the railroad as the ancestral land of the Erie, Shawnee, Iroquois/Haudenosaunee, and Delaware/Lenape, among others.

The trail itself is mostly flat, with just the subtle grade of the creek. Run in a mostly forested landscape where you will largely parallel and occasionally cross the creek (on bridges). There are trailheads, benches, picnic tables and port-a-potties scattered along the route. Although there are some road crossings, this can feel pretty remote, especially considering how close it is to Pittsburgh.

Recommended Route: Freeport to Buffalo Creek Nature Park

Park at the Laneville trailhead in Freeport at the dead end of Main Street and start running the trail north. This is the most scenic section of the trail, where it closely parallels Buffalo Creek before trending west to follow Little Buffalo Creek. Run in a forest of deciduous trees and evergreen hemlocks, sometimes pinched between rock outcroppings and the creek. It’s 4 miles to Buffalo Creek Nature Park, which was opened in 2021 by the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania. Here you’ll have all the facilities you need, from water to restrooms. If you have time, check out the nature center while you’re there. Return the way you came for an 8-mile out-and-back, or simply continue running north before turning around for a longer distance.

Buffalo Creek Half Marathon

This is the perfect place to train for the annual Buffalo Creek Half Marathon, which takes place on the third Saturday in October. The route follows the Butler Freeport Trail downstream—allowing for some runners to log personal records. Bonus: Fall foliage is at its peak during marathon weekend.  

More Info

Getting There

Less than 40 minutes from Pittsburgh, take state Route 28 north to Freeport, Pa., and then take Freeport Road to Main Street to the Laneville Trailhead.

Refresh & Refuel

Cellar Works Brewing is less than a mile and a half from the trail in Sarver. Try a barbecue chicken pizza and a cocoa bean stout. (Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.)

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.