John C. Oliver Multi-Purpose Loop Trail


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John C. Oliver Multi-Purpose Loop Trail Facts

States: Pennsylvania
Counties: Mercer
Length: 12 miles
Trail end points: Lake Wilhelm Rd. and Creek Rd.
Trail surfaces: Asphalt
Trail category: Greenway/Non-RT
ID: 6032686
Trail activities: Bike, Fishing, Wheelchair Accessible, Snowmobiling, Walking, Cross Country Skiing

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John C. Oliver Multi-Purpose Loop Trail Description

The John C. Oliver Multi-Purpose Loop Trail is a centerpiece of Maurice K. Goddard State Park, which spans more than 2,000 acres in northwestern Pennsylvania. The paved, off-road trail traces the northern and southern shores of the park’s Lake Wilhelm and on-road connections at either end complete a pleasant, largely wooded loop around the lake. In 2015, the trail was named in honor of the first secretary of the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

The trail on the lake's north side contains several sharp bends and short, steep runs that may more challenging for some, but there's a payoff with scenic vistas overlooking the water. Also, keep a look out for the many types of birds, such as geese, eagles, and ospreys, as well as other wildlife, that call the area home. Picnic areas are abundant and restrooms can be found at each of the four boat launches around the lake, which is popular for fishing.

In winter, snowmobiles are restricted to the north side of the lake and cross country skiers may use the south side.

Parking and Trail Access

The address of Maurice K. Goddard State Park is 684 Lake Wilhelm Road in Sandy Lake and the main parking area is on this roadway between the bridge and the park office. Additional parking lots are available at each of the park's four boat launches (along both shores) and at the park's marina.

John C. Oliver Multi-Purpose Loop Trail Reviews

One of the nicest days weather wise we've had in about 6 weeks! Took advantage of the 60 degree temp and hit the trail. Always a great ride, the trail offers flat open areas and some hills.
Some restrooms are open along the trail.

It's been cold for quite a while now but one Sunday the temps got up into the 40's and a lot of people took advantage of the trail that day. Cyclists, walkers, and runners. It was good to see that many people out. Most of the restrooms are closed for the Winter but there are still a few open. The marina is empty as all the boats were removed. Saw 2 different bald eagles.

Excellent trail that winds up and down and through the woods, lakeside and open areas. Short steep climbs, a few sharp turns...lots of gear changes.


Fall ride in November, the day before it snowed! Nice day out and there were others taking advantage of the great weather.
The marina is closed, all the watercraft has been removed.
Restrooms along the trail, some are closed, some remain open year around. They are noted at the restrooms. If one is closed, go to the next one.

Very nice ride around lake.

Beat the July heat on this trail! Mainly shaded throughout the wooded areas of the park.

The trail goes around the lake. Most of it is rolling wooded with some open areas. Not much of a lake breeze but even with temps in the upper 80's, the trail is enjoyable since it's so well shaded.

Bring water. If you do need more, they sell it at the Marina. They also sell ice cream, snacks and other cold beverages. Sometimes hot food is available, check with the first.

The greenery is in full swing, so much of the trail is shaded. There are some open areas. Saw fisherman and picnic goers. Just a nice trail and the park is beautiful, and free.

Trail is paved. Flush toilets along the route.

We saw the Osprey in the nest. And one of the Eagles in a tree across the road. See photo's.

We are new to riding as we just bought bikes this year. I must say this is our second time here this year and we love it. Nice paved paths, a few challenging hills and beautiful sceneries. We saw 2 eagles and 2 osprey today. If you look straight across on the causeway you'll see an eagles nest too!

Had the opportunity to participate in a half marathon on this trail. Event held every April. Challenging trail for runners. It was a sunny but windy and cool day. A few cyclists out. Runners and walkers enjoying the park. Trout opens soon!

We took advantage of the 55 degree temps and headed
to Goddard State Park for a ride on the John C. Oliver multi-purpose trail.
Also gave us the opportunity to scope out the trail for the Half-Marathon which will take place in April. Sponsored by Mercer County Trails Association.
The trail was mainly clear except for a few snowy-icy spots. There was a thin layer of ice on the Lake (Wilhelm). The Eagles were out and about. We saw one in flight and later 2 of them on the ice.
Most of the heated restrooms with flush toilets were open.

Nice fall ride in the park along the lake. Leaves
were very pretty. Always a nice ride on this trail.

We frequent this trail because we enjoy it. It's never a boring ride. Yes it is hilly, but it's a challenge!

Nice loop around the lake. Picnic areas and restrooms (flush toilets) every few miles or so. You can ride your bikes across the dam.

We saw the Eagle in a tree near the park entrance. We've seen him before so we know where to look.

The marina offers boat rentals if you are up for that.

Just an all around nice trail, pretty lake and great park.

Recently name the John C. Oliver multi-purpose trail.

As always, here in Pennsylvania, our State Parks do not charge for admission or parking!

We found this trail on TrailLink while looking for a trail to ride on a return trip from Erie. We are typically rail trail riders in part because of the gentle slopes. At our age, mid 50's, we're not so much interested in ascending a steep path to the top of a hill as we are in having a nice ride along a scenic trail. Although other reviews have stated that this is not a rail trail, we decided to give it a try anyway. I have to say that we made the correct decision. We immensely enjoyed the trail and found it to be somewhat of a self propelled roller coaster ride around the lake. Very exhilarating! Yes, we had to drop down to the small ring a couple of times to get up some of the hills, but most of the time inertia and a little pedaling was sufficient. Effort well worth the return on the downhill sides. To sum it up, I would say that this trail is a lot like a small scale version of some of the back roads in north central Pennsylvania, winding and a little hilly. But not too hilly. Highly recommended!


We rode in early July. The park ranger was out on the trail as well. We saw the Osprey in the nest. The trail goes all the way around the lake. Across from the causeway is a swamp and Eagles live in there. There were some birdwatchers and with their help, we were able to spot the Eagle. Nice State Park trail with boating, fishing and hiking as well as picnic shelters. The marina offers cold beverages and snacks for sale. Got a slushie!

12 Mile trail loops around Lake Wilhelm in Goddard State Park. Trail is a variety of through the woods, out in the open, level and hilly.
Two parking areas. One at the marina and another near the park office. Since it's a loop, you can park at either end. Park has shelters and picnic areas. Great place to spend the day.
Every April there is a half-marathon and 5k on the trail for Mercer County Trails association.
Pizza places in nearby Sandy Lake. A winery near the park as well. Just an all around great park offering this awesome trail.
Park has fishing and boating. Also bird watching.
5 star trail every time!

The trail loops around Lake Wilhelm. It is far from flat! Rolling terrain, some level, some hilly. Nice variety. you can stop and look at the lake. There are rest rooms and picnic areas. Some areas of the trail are wooded, some out in the open. You can ride across the dam. We saw numerous birds. Nice trail for family. Pack a picnic lunch.

We tried this trail after a suggestion from a friend, what a great find. This has become our favorite loop. We started at the bike trail sign right past the marina. The trail is well shady with great views of the lake. The birds are beautiful will all kinds of blue birds and purple marten boxes along the trails. The hills are all like little roller coasters. If you get up enough speed going down you'll make it up the other side with no effort at all. A few of the hills have a bridge in the valley that's a little bumpy to go over at full speed. Once you cross over the dam you'll travel on park roads for a few miles but the traffic has never been bad. There are two really steep hills on the south side, I've made them up a few time, I've walked a few times. Once you come to the marina it's a little tricky as to where the trail goes, you'll have to travel on the park road to get back to the bike parking lot. Overall this trail is great and one we've recommended to everyone and have been back to do multiple times!

Love it! This is a smooth trail with lots of shade and a big loop. It's fairly well marked. It is NOT a rail trail. It has short steep hills and short steep drops and plenty of curves. Parts of it feel like a roller coaster ride. I rode it about a month ago and returned today (7.21.13) to go the opposite direction. Do be careful -- we saw one nasty crash due to sliding at high speed on moss at the edge of the trail. I'm not particularly good at hills so I have to push a bit (3 times today) but that's okay. Remember that you are circling a lake and bring bug spray.

This is a great trail though we have not done the whole trail, just a few miles here and there. Both on bicycle and running. There are several different places to access the trail. This trail provides a great workout whether it's running or biking. It's pretty to see in the Fall, nice in the Summer as well, sections are shaded, sections are in the sun. All around great trail if you are up for a non flat trail!

Here is more info on specific routes to add to yesterday's comments. If you are not concerned with two short stretches on the road you can do a 13 mile circle starting anywhere and going in either direction. Otherwise you can turn it into two separate circle trips; one on the north (east) side and one on the south (west) side, each about 6 miles one way or 12 miles return. Youker

I highly recommend this trail unless you are uncomfortable with short steep drops and uphills. My wife drove shuttle and I started at the start on the north east side just below the park office by the causeway and near launch site #3. The trail along the north shore of Lake Wilhelm is perfectly paved and does have some short pitches but I only had to walk a couple times. You can get going fast down and use your inertia to get up the rise. It was a lovely spring day and the Spring Beauty Flowers were in abundance. After the dam at the south east end there is about a mile of road with the trail starting again at launch #1. I missed the steep mile where the trail crosses the road when my wife gave me a short one mile shuttle and I finished the 12 miles by bike. The full circle is about a mile more than 12 if you bike the road on the causeway. I found the mileage markers confusing because I did not see where they started counting. Youker

We are very fortunate to have an incredible network of Rails-to-trails' bike trails within a 45 mile radius in N/W Pennsylvania. All are beautiful, but this trail is my favorite, by far. Where most of the trails are built on flat abandoned railroad beds and can be a little boring, this one follows the natural contours of the land providing a much more natural experience, and is a 12 mile loop, so you don't have to turn around at the end and ride back. It is more of a fitness trail with a number of small hills, some fairly steep, and other than the three mile stretch on the Marina side, is probably not suitable for small children or adults who don't want to sweat a little!

Lots of twist, turns short climbs and descents and bridges. Very quiet in the early am. Trail surface is very nice even the small stretch on the road. Loads of geese and geese leftovers. Saw 2 young bald eagles with a parent and actually got to watch them for aa bit roosting n a tree right off the trail.Very underused trail, but all in all i'll be back

This 12 mile run takes riders along a largely wooded path around Lake Whilhelm at Goddard State Park. On a hot summer day it offers a cool ride in a lush and shade covered setting. The trail is a mix of mostly paved asphalt and a packed dirt roadway along a short stretch on the west side of the lake. It would likely rate a 2 on the 5 point trail scale for difficulty, hosting some short climbs and a few twists and turns. It is not unusual to see (or smell) the local wildlife along the ride, especially in the more heavily wooded areas (beware of geese at the dam).

First I want to correct a statement in a previous review. There are public toilets, and probably water, though I didn't look for that, at the picnic / boat launch areas on the lake's southwest side. These are state maintained facilities, and may be closed in winter.

This trail, unlike typical rails to trails examples, has several short steep grades and some sharp bends, including some that have both bends and grades. You may well need to brake on the way down, and will probably need to shift down, or even get off and push on the way up. None of the grades is very long, so, even if you have to get off and push, it won't be a long push. On the north side of the lake, the trail is mostly asphalt paved and quite smooth. Several bridges cross little runs. On the south side, some sections share with park roads, and the paving isn't so pristine there, but not bad. On the very western end, you have to ride along a state highway to cross the lake and complete your loop. The highway shoulders are very wide, the pavement good, for adults or older children, it is no problem at all.

Scenery is very nice and varied. The trail runs both right through the grassy emergency spillway and across the crest of the dam. On top of the dam makes a nice place to stop and rest a few minutes.

It is just about 12 miles around the lake. If you want a longer ride, just do it twice, or three times. Reverse direction to add some variety. There is easy access trail parking at the west end on both north and south sides, where Lake Wilhelm Road, SR 1009, crosses the lake.

Lake Wilhelm bike trail is not a rail trail that is flat and straight. We rode recumbent trikes there and turned around after 3 miles and quit. It's alot of shifting up and down and pulling hills. Were used to a casual ride nothing quite so up and down. If your in to hills then this is your ride. If not, save your time and your bike for another trail.

My wife and I just got back from a weekend of camping near this trail.We have biked quite a few trails this summer and found this trail to be the best thus far.The scenery is spectacular and the trail is very fun to ride.The trail surface is very smooth and well taken care of.There are a few challenging hills on the trail with an abundance of turns which makes for a fun ride.
You will see an abundance of wild flowers birds and other wild life.You can take a picnic lunch as there are many picnic areas on the trail.
No water fountains or restrooms.
The best campground to stay at is camp wilhelm.You can ride your bike straight from the camp to the trail which will add an additional 2 miles to your trip.

The trail offers a nice variety for cross country skiing. Gentle grades along with a few hills will keep your cardiovascular system working. There are many turns as the path follows the shore line. It's a great way to enjoy the quiet whiteness of a winter day.

"Nice bike trail, but would only suggest advanced in-line skaters tackle this trail. Some of the hills are steep and some of the bridges can be challenging."

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