The Oil City Trail offers a tour of historic Oil City. The trail begins where the McClintock Trail (page NE-62) meets Seneca St at the north end of Oil City. It goes through Oil City, mostly on city streets, to the city owned boat launch on the south side of town. From there it continues between the railroad and the river to the Oil City Wastewater Treatment Plant plant and the beginning of the Samuel Justus Trail (page NE-72. This trail is part of the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail (page NE-15).
Oil City Trail
Location Oil City, Venango County
Trailheads Oil City Sewer Plant, Oil City Boat Launch, Oil City Memorial Landing
Length, Surface 3 miles total (1.0 busy city streets, 1.0 residential streets, 1.0 paved)
Character City streets, flat, uncrowded
Usage restrictions None
Amenities Rest rooms, water, food, lodging, fishing
Driving time from Pittsburgh 1 hour 45 minutes north
The northern mile of the trail is mostly on city streets in Oil City, the middle mile is on residential streets, and the southern mile is on paved trail. Because of one-way streets in Oil City, the southbound and northbound routes between the McClintock Trail and the city boat launch are different. The signage is mostly good (Aug 2017) in both directions.
Southbound the route turns left/south from the McClintock Trail on to Seneca St, following sharrows for 0.6 miles to Sycamore St, where it turns right/west for a short block, then left/south. A block later it turns right/west to cross the Oil City Downtown Bridge on the walkway next to the railroad tracks. After crossing this bridge it follows the railroad tracks, first on one side then the other to US62/Petroleum St. At US62 it turns left/south toward the road bridge, staying for a short distance on the sidewalk. At the curb cut in the sidewalk it crosses the road (be careful) and turns left/south into the bike lane on the opposite side of US62. This crossing is mid-block, so it may preferable to continue on the sidewalk and cross at the other end of the bridge, where there is a traffic light. After crossing the bridge, the route continues on Petroleum St for three blocks before taking the right/west on West First St. Notice the grand houses along this street left over from the oil boom. In another half mile, the route turns right/north on Wyllis St, descending steeply for two blocks to the Oil City Boat Launch parking area. The trail is 1.9 miles in this direction.
We also describe the northbound route from the Oil City Boat Launch parking area because it uses different streets, though it also crosses US62 and the Oil City Downtown bridges. Exiting the parking area, the trail immediately turns left/east on Front St and continues to US62/Petroleum St. A traffic light here facilities the crossing of US62 and left/north turn into the bike lane on the bridge, though caution is required for auto traffic in the intersection. At the end of the bridge, at the end of the jersey barriers, the route hops over to the sidewalk at the mid-block curb cut. It follows the road on the sidewalk for a short distance to the railroad tracks, where it turns right/west and follows the railroad tracks, first on one side then the other.
The trail continues across the Oil City Downtown Bridge on the walkway next to the railroad tracks. Immediately after crossing the bridge the trail turns right/south across the tracks and drops down a short grade into the parking lot for the Justus Park. It continues through the parking lot, under the bridge, and climbs the ramp to Elm St. There is a very tight left-right zig at the top of the ramp. At the McDonalds the trail continues straight on Elm St for two short blocks and one long block to the “T” intersection with Duncomb St. As the trail approaches Duncomb St, it crosses from the right lane into the left lane to facilitate the left/west turn on to Duncomb. It turns left/west on Duncomb, goes a block, and then turns right/north on Seneca St. About 0.4 miles later, just before the Route 8 bridge, the trail turns right/east on to the dike and the beginning of the McClintock Trail (page NE-62). The trail is 2 miles in this direction.
South of the Oil City Boat Launch the same trail serves both the northbound and southbound traffic. The trail leaves the parking lot at the south end of the lot. A quarter-mile from the parking lot, just past the end of the chain link fence, the remains of a rod-line power system sits beside the trail. An interpretive sign explains how a single engine could power a dozen or more pumps with rods running across the oilfield. The transfer collar was covered in vegetation in Aug 2015, but fully visible in March 2017 (seasonal, or depending on the volunteers). A reconstruction of a working transfer collar is visible, in action at Drake Well Museum near Titusville.
After another quarter-mile, the trail arrives at Darr St where it jogs left and then right before the railroad tracks, and changes trail surface from paved to tar and chip. Just after the jog, on the right is the power company practice yard, with lots of telephone poles with different configurations at the top. A half mile later the trail arrives at the parking lot for the Oil City Wastewater Treatment Plant. Then in 0.3 miles the Oil City trail ends at the far end of the parking lot (MP129.1) where it connects with the Samuel Justus Trail (page NE-72).
Local history, attractions
The commercial district of Oil City is rich with interesting architecture. The city of Oil City has encouraged artists to take up residence. Many restaurant and shops have entrances on the parallel streets of Elm and Seneca. Along West First street there are a number of grand houses built during the oil boom times.
The Allegheny Valley RR was established to serve the oil industry, reaching Oil City in 1868. In 1910, it was incorporated in the Pennsylvania RR system, and it later became part of Conrail. Service ended in 1984.
This trail is in the Oil Region National Heritage Area (oilheritage.org), which includes all of Venango County, plus the towns of Titusville, Hydetown, and Oil Creek Township in Crawford County.tells the story of Colonel Edwin Drake drilling the world’s first successful oil well in 1859, which changed the course of industry, society, and politics in the modern world. The Oil Region contains many remnants of the oil industry, as well as historic valley settlements shaped by native and immigrant populations.
Extensions of the ride
The next segment to the north along the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail is a seamless connection to the McClintock Trail (page NE-62). The route turns off of Seneca St onto the dike of this trail.
The next segment to the south along the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail is a seamless connection to the Samuel Justus Trail (page NE-72) at the waste water treatment plant.
There are hopes to reroute the trail onto the old railroad grade and off busy Front St and W 1st St, but given ownership issues and costs it may not happen in the near term.
Vicinity: Directions begin headed north on US62/PA8 from the bridge over French Ck in Franklin. To reach this point from Pittsburgh, go north on I79, east on I80, and north on PA8 to Franklin.
Oil City Memorial Landing (northern) trailhead: In Franklin, continue on US62/PA8 for 7.3 miles to the outskirts of Oil City. Follow the PA8 Bypass, i.e. do not turn right as PA8 crosses Oil Ck. Go 0.7 miles to the stop sign where the bypass rejoins PA8. Continue north on PA8 for 400 feet and just after crossing the trail turn right/south down into the Oil City Memorial Landing Trailhead. This parking lot is also the southern trailhead for the McClintock Trail (page NE-62).
Oil City Boat Launch trailhead: In Franklin, continue on US62/PA8 for 7.3 miles to the outskirts of Oil City. Follow US62 North when it turns right to cross Allegheny River. After crossing the river, turn right at the second light on West 1st St (SR3025). Go 0.5 miles to Wyllis St. Turn right/northwest and go two blocks to the parking lot for the PA Fish and Boat Commission access area on the south side of Oil City.
Oil City Sewer Plant (southern) trailhead: In Franklin, continue on US62/PA8 for 7.3 miles to the outskirts of Oil City. Follow US62 North when it turns right to cross Allegheny River. After crossing the river, turn right at the second light on West 1st St (SR3025). Go 1.6 miles to the trail turnoff, which is marked “Samuel Justus Trail” and “Wastewater Treatment Plant” (this is across from the entrance to Venango Campus of Clarion College). Turn right and follow the road along the wastewater treatment plant to park near the Samuel Justus trailhead. This parking lot is also the northern trailhead for the Samuel Justis Trail (page NE-72).
Rest rooms, water: none.
Bike shop, rentals: none.
Restaurant, groceries: Several restaurants, stores in Oil City.
Camping, simple lodging: Several motels/hotels in Oil City.
Swimming, fishing: The Allegheny River has strong currents and power boats.
Winter sports: none.
Wheelchair access: On roads, some sidewalk.
Oil Regional Trail Alliance
217 Elm St
Oil City, PA 16301-1412
814-677-3152 for information
Maps, guides, other references
Trail brochure, Recreational Trails in the Oil Region, by Oil Region Alliance & Allegheny Valley Trails Association.
USGS Topographic Maps: Oil City.
Text version of 20 Jul 2018 based on personal observation while bicycling through Oil City 3/2017. Conditions may have changed; you are responsible for your own safety. Oldest segment check 3/2017.
1 Sharrows - Shared Lane Markings. A street marking painted in the travel lane consisting of a bicycle with chevrons above it, to indicate where people should preferably cycle.