The Lebanon Valley Rail-Trail takes you on a journey into Pennsylvania Dutch country. Running along the corridor of the old Cornwall-Lebanon Railroad, the 14.5-mile trail lets you experience the beauty of farmland and forest, visit landmarks of the area's historical heritage and sample the wide array of outdoor recreation that the region has to offer.
The railroad began operations in the 1880s and was built by Robert H. Coleman who received $1.2 million from the profits of Cornwall Furnace on his twenty-first birthday. The stock of the railroad was acquired by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1913.
Well-maintained by volunteers, the trail features both a crushed stone path and a parallel equestrian path surfaced with dirt and wood chips. Proceeding south from the city of Lebanon, the trail shares a utility corridor until it passes under Zinns Mill Road. Rounding a bend, you'll come to the Cornwall trailhead, which has a large parking area. The Cornwall Iron Furnace National Historic Site, remnants of a Revolutionary War era iron foundry, is a short distance from the trail (www.cornwallironfurnace.org). The only charcoal cold blast iron furnace in the Western Hemisphere, the Cornwall Iron Furnace began operations in 1742 and was in use until 1883.
Just south of the furnace the trail crosses a historic 130-foot iron-truss bridge. Here the trail begins a gentle climb and enters woodlands. Stay on the trail in this state game land area and be aware of the dates of Pennsylvania hunting seasons. Near the top of the ridge, the trail shares a private drive for 0.25 mile; this shared use is well marked. Once you reach the top of the ridge you are close to the village of Mount Gretna, a colorful town boasting Victorian cottages and a summer playhouse. Located on a wooded ridge top, the Mount Gretna area is a popular destination for hikers, mountain bikers, boaters and families coming to swim in Conewago Lake. It's worth hopping off the trail to visit the village, and perhaps get something to eat at one of the area restaurants or browse through the craft shops. The Mt. Gretna Theater produces performances during June and July. A connecting trail, Mount Greta Spur, will take you into the village (www.mtgretna.com).
Beyond Mount Gretna, the Lebanon Valley Rail-Trail slips through woodlands on a gentle downgrade to the Colebrook trailhead. South of Colebrook, the trail moves into fields surrounded by farms. The Horseshoe Trail, used by hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers, intersects the Lebanon Valley trail about 1 mile south of the Colebrook Trailhead. The Lebanon Valley trail continues through rich Lebanon County farmland to the village of Lawn, where you can stop and browse small retail businesses. Another trailhead provides access here, too. The trail continues through farmland and past horse farms to the Lancaster County line, where it joins the 5.1-mile Conewago Recreational Trail
There is a new trailhead near the Lebanon Daily News building, between S. 8th and S. 9th streets. To reach the trailhead in Lebanon, take State Route 72 North from US Route 322. Turn right at Oak Street. Proceed two blocks and turn right on 8th Street. The trailhead is on your right near the intersection with Poplar Street.
To reach the Cornwall trailhead from US Route 322 in Cornwall, turn onto Boyd Street, which becomes Cornwall Road. Turn left onto Freeman Drive (State Route 419). The trailhead is on the left.