The Heritage Rail Trail County Park winds for more than 22 miles through urban and rural landscapes between the city of York and the Maryland state line. It connects Maryland's Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail with the historic district of York, PA. The trail has blue stone dust on top of a crusted stone base and is well-suited for hybrid bikes.
The trail starts in York behind a replication of the town's colonial courthouse. Heading south, the trail passes through an urban landscape along the banks of Codorus Creek. After a little more than 1 mile, the trail leaves the city and enters the countryside, where the trail is flanked by fields and forests.
About 1.5 miles south of the Brillhart Station trailhead is the 370-foot-long Howard Tunnel. At milepost 11, the borough of Seven Valleys provides an opportunity for refreshments at the cafe, tavern or wine shop. About 0.5 mile farther south is the restored Hanover Junction train station. The station has been restored to appear as it did in 1863.
The next 4 miles of the trail run through farmlands and along the banks of Codorus Creek. The Heritage Rail Trail passes through Glen Rock, Railroad and New Freedom over the next 9 miles, each town providing opportunities to explore the area's rich history. From New Freedom's restored railroad station, it is just 1.5 miles to the Mason-Dixon Line and the connection to Maryland's 21-mile Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail, which was formerly known as the Northern Central Railroad Trail.
A northern extension of the Heritage Rail Trail County Park has been opening in phases since 2007. Currently, 2 miles of greenway not yet connected to the original rail-trail are open between John C. Rudy County Park and Crist Memorial Fields in East Manchester Township, just north of York. Within the next few years, the gap is planned to be filled; eventually, trail users will be able to travel uninterrupted from New Freedom, through York, to John C. Rudy County Park.
In June 2013, Steam Into History began running its train adjacent to the trail. The steam locomotive is a Civil War-era replica built from scratch. Tourists experience history come alive as they ride the train through Pennsylvania’s lush York County countryside. Each round-trip journey between New Freedom and Hanover Junction is different; riders may encounter narrators sharing the history of the area, reenactors in period costume (look for Old Abe on special occasions) or musicians playing 19th-century tunes. A stop at Hanover Junction allows time to explore the museum inside the refurbished train station, the very place where President Lincoln changed trains on his trip to give his famed “Gettysburg Address” in 1863.
To reach the York trailhead from Interstate 83, take Exit 22 (North George Street). Follow North George Street south for approximately 3 miles. Turn right to West Philadelphia Street. Go 2 blocks and turn right onto Pershing Avenue. Parking for trail users is on the west side of the street.
To reach the New Freedom trailhead from Interstate 83, take Exit 4 (Shrewsbury). Go west on State Route 851. Turn left onto Main Street. At the next traffic light, Constitution Avenue, turn right. Turn right onto Franklin Street. Turn right onto Front Street. Parking is on the north side of the train station.