The Cumberland Valley Rail Trail runs down the middle of its namesake: the Cumberland Valley of Pennsylvania, between the South Mountain and Blue Mountain ridges on the eastern flank of the Appalachians. Stretching from New York State to Alabama, this lush agricultural valley formed a travel corridor for Native Americansand for the Scots-Irish immigrants who began settling here in the mid-1700s.
In the first half of the 19th century railroad companies opened lines along the same route. Among them was the Cumberland Valley Railroad, later owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad and then Conrail, which stopped using the corridor and donated it to The Cumberland Valley Rails-to-Trails Council for development of this breathtaking Trail. Interestingly, the original engineers of the railroad did not want to use this selected route in the first place.
Most of the well-designed trail runs fairly straight through open farmland, with a few dips into woodlands and among some limestone outcroppings. It has good drainage and a firm, crushed-stone tread. On nearby country roads you may see an occasional buggy from the surrounding Amish community. Many Shippensburg University students and residents use the trail for jogging and walking. On the weekends it is active with cyclists.
At the Newville trailhead, where PennDOT runs an instrument calibration facility and maintains a measured course on the trail, a 0.5-mile section is paved with asphalt and concrete. On the western end, the improved section of trail ends at Shippensburg Township Park. The right-of-way continues into the Shippensburg University campus, but it is unimproved and unmarked and includes a steep, dangerous road crossing. There are a few local eateries on the opposite side of the campus at the very end of the right-of-way.
The Cumberland Valley Rails-to-Trails Council hopes to install a crossing bridge in Shippensburg, which will provide a safe route along the entire right-of-way. Other plans are being considered to extend the trail east from Newville to Carlisle, another 11 miles.
Both the Newville and Shippensburg Township Park trailheads include restrooms and parking. The trailhead at the Shippensburg Township Park also accommodates horse trailers.
Parking and Trail Access
To reach the Newville trailhead from the Harrisburg and Carlisle area: From I-81 South take Exit 37 at Newville onto PA Route 233 North. Turn left onto PA Route 533 West. Follow 533 West through town and turn left on Cemetery Road. Follow the road to where it ends at 23 McFarland Street and the parking area.
To reach the Shippensburg Township Park trailhead: Take I-81 to Exit 29 and turn right onto Walnut Bottom Road. Turn left onto King Street (US 11). Turn onto North Queen Street then right onto Britton Road. The park is approximately 0.5 mile ahead on the left.