The opportunity to ride through a mountain's innards gives Mines and Meadows a special apeal.
Traveling north along Old Route 18, Mines and Meadows ATV Resort
is just a mile or so shy of Wampum city limits. Roughly 40 miles north of Pittsburgh, Wampum has less than 1000 residents, but is home to a very unique ATV riding area. On the western edge of the Beaver River, this private off-road park offers the rare opportunity to ride quads, motorcycles and utility vehicles into the bowels of the earth.
Just how dark is it? Holding my gloves at the chinguard of my Bell helmet, I couldn’t have told otherwise in the impenetrable blackness. Claimed to be well over 100 feet below the surface, it begs the question; does it get darker the further down you go? All I know is that the bright headlights on my Kawasaki Brute Force 750i
were very welcome. For obvious reasons, experiencing the mines is always under the watchful eye of a tour guide who provides historical tidbits in his running narrative. Fixed headlights dance across massive support columns which create a vast network of corridors and individual rooms. Squinting along the fringe of illumination, a helmet light would add much to the ride, so bring one if you can. Claustrophobics will enjoy the tall ceilings and wide passages, often enough for three or more quads to stand abreast. Seeping groundwater keeps the riding area moist, and an occasional droplet of cold liquid will find its way down unsuspecting collars. The muddy track winds increasingly deeper across the edge of a man-made three-acre lake. From there it loops back to the massive entryway timbers and into sunlight’s embrace.
Life underground is difficult for most, but the mushroom industry has found the dark, moist environment to be a perfect home.
Pennsylvania has been a manufacturing powerhouse of the US throughout history, due heavily to its production of coal and oil. But fossil fuels aren’t the only resource Pennsylvanians extract from the ground. This particular mine at M&M Resort dates back to the late 1800s as a producer of limestone for the Crescent Cement Company. Mines are a common feature to the area and not only are used by the occasional ATV riders, but movie crews as well. George A. Romero’s horror film Day of the Dead was filmed in one of the nearby shafts. As the 1984 filmmakers discovered, constant 55-degree temperatures and 80% humidity inside the mines can wreak havoc on electrical equipment, but some operations find the natural elements of underground environs beneficial.
As the national leader in mushroom production, mycology is another popular enterprise in Pennsylvania. Sno-Top Mushroom Company used the mine to produce MOONLIGHT brand fungi before Steve Grinnen purchased the 65-acre parcel of land to form the Underland Development Corporation. Grinnen uses the majority of his 14 underground acres for leased storage, and with such generous space, developed concrete floors and cinderblock walls, it often contains autos, boats and even RVs. A contract with Mines and Meadow’s owner, Bob Svihra, grants roughly a half-mile of undeveloped, pitch-black trail for ATV access.
The trail network above ground is full of interesting things to do.
Being unlike anything I’ve experienced before, it’s easy to focus on the attention-grabbing mine, but in reality, the best stuff is on the surface. With 400 square acres owned by Mines and Meadows, and another 200 available from neighboring properties, the park offers 43 miles of existing multi-use trails. Virtually all the trails have been developed to accommodate ATV use, which means off-road motorcyclists will find a distinct shortage of two-wheeled trails for the time being.
“We had no idea how many motorcycles were out there,” says the enthusiastic Svihra. “We plan to quadruple the amount of motorcycle trails so that they have more areas to ride.”
Fortunately, the Brute Force seemed to be exactly what the park was designed for. Opportunities for slogging through goo and fording ponds and drainages were connected via a multitude of trail types. The mudbog is an interesting feature and the three-tiered hillclimbs provide steep, albeit short, fun. Armed with a trail map, learning to negotiate the park is straightforward. A numerical system labels each course along with a color code to determine level of difficulty similar to what you would find at a ski resort (green, blue, black). In general, the entire network is set up to flow clockwise, which means most trails travel in a single direction. Each is marked with arrows to show the intended direction of travel or whether it is a two-way path. Of the portion we sampled, Number 21 proved to be my favorite. The black-diamond loop is called Rock Scramble, and the technical crawling was enough to test the Kawasaki’s and my skills.
Designed with ATVs in mind, the terrain is well suited to utility quads like the Kawasaki Brute Force 750i.
With 400 square acres owned by Mines and Meadows, and another 200 available from neighboring properties, the park offers 43 miles of existing multi-use trails.
Even though Pennsylvania has a partial helmet law for riding motorcycles on public roads, ATV operators are required to wear a helmet at all times. Svihra and company want riders to have a safe and enjoyable experience so they’ll come back again. Thankfully, it’s about as easy as possible to do so with the park open every day from 9 a.m. until sunset. The resort offers year-round accessibility, ATV rentals and wash stations if you decide to bring your own ride.Permanent RV and tent sites allow for multi-day visits and camping, which isn’t a bad idea considering that I didn’t get to see everything this unique place has to offer in just one day. The basic usage fee is $25 per day for riding access, but weekend, seasonal and annual passes are available as well.
Rating The Mines And Meadows Ride
This score represents the resort’s development as an ATV riding area. From a motorcycle standpoint, the lack of single-track to accommodate two-wheeled riding would reduce the value of the trail network. However, from a quad perspective, the wide variety of terrain provides something challenging and fun for all abilities. Technically, park rules say you can’t ride over 25 mph, but… Frequent markers let riders know where they are and if trails are one-way or two-way traffic. Features like mud bogs, hillclimbs and sprint car track give riders actual destinations which make finding routes as enjoyable as traversing them. As for the mines, it’s not about heart-pounding excitement, but its uniqueness adds a cool factor that will have you telling all your friends about this little place in Wampum, PA.
Foliage and canopy cover are deep enough to limit panoramic views. There isn’t much altitude difference through the park so climbing to scenic vantage points is out of the question. However, riding immersed in a lush forest is nothing to scoff at.
Only 45 minutes from Pittsburg, the roads to Wampum are easy and fast if you take the freeway or scenic, twisty and quaint if you prefer a backroad approach. Regardless, getting to the facility is easy and once there the gravel roads provide access large enough for motorhomes and trailers. RV camping is available and the facilities are being upgraded and expanded.
What’s not to like about the 2009 Kawasaki Brute Force ATV
? Plenty of power, solid handling, 4WD and rugged performance are exactly what utility quads should offer. We tried almost every nasty line we could find and never got stuck. These would have been great during winter months as well with snow only adding to the fun.
If riding through the lush greenery of the Pennsylvania countryside isn’t enough, Mines and Meadows has popular neighbors with BeaveRun Motorsports Complex and Stonecrest Golf Course right next door. BeaveRun’s 1.6-mile main course has 12 turns for motorcycles or sports cars to negotiate. The complex also has a kart track and off-road course with training and race fuel on request. To get out of race mode or just work on your swing, hop the river and enjoy a calming 18 holes at Stonecrest.
Plans for increased trail mileage, expanded RV camping, more 4x4 accessibility, further land acquisitions and possibly boating options on the river are all part of Bob Svihra’s master plan. “What we’re trying to do here is create a real motor-head’s paradise,” says the young-at-heart enthusiast. You might say that it already is, but there’s no arguing that in current form, Mines and Meadows is a place that can turn day into night. That alone makes it a worthy destination for any ATV rider in the Northeast.