The MA & PA Heritage Trail is found in two segments (about 2 miles apart) through the wooded parks of Maryland's Bel Air and Forest Hill communities. The folksy sounding name actually stands for the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad, which screamed through the Harford County countryside, heralding industrial progress of the early 1900s. Today, a new kind of progress is evident in the sound of twittering birds and babbling brooks on the long-deserted rail line. This refreshing natural oasis found on the MA & PA Heritage Trail lures visitors and residents of the neighborhoods just steps from the path.
If you plan to travel both portions, use a map to determine the best on-road route between the two segments. Both have ample parking and are easy to navigate, with a surface of stone dust and some paving on slopes in the town of Bel Air.
The southern segment, in Bel Air, weaves through old stands of native trees, rising and falling with the dips of the landscape. For 3.3 miles it travels past streams, over bridges and through the forest between Heavenly Waters Park and Edgeley Grove Farm at Annie's Playground. This lovely green space provides a protected natural environment and a perfect setting for a stroll or jog.
In Forest Hill the rail-trail meanders for 1.7 miles between Friend's Park off Jarrettville Road and Blake's Venture near Bynum Road and Melrose Lane. The trail passes among the forest past an enchanting marsh teeming with wildlife, and through tidy developments of suburban homes, a light industrial area and a recreational field.
North or south, the community parks framing the endpoints of the MA & PA Heritage Trail beckon you to slow down, enjoy a picnic or watch the sun go down.
Parking and Trail Access
To reach the northern end point of the Bel Air section from I-95 Exit 77B, take SR 24N toward Bel Air. Turn right on Baltimore Pike/US-1BR then turn left on Archer St. Drive. Turn right on Thomas St. and make immediate left on Williams St. Go about 0.5 mile to trail parking lot on left. There is parking at the southern end point at Edgeley Grove and Annie's Playground (864 Smith Lane, Fallston, MD).
To access the northern end point of the Forest Hill segment, take SR 24 north from Bel Air to East West Hwy (SR 23) and turn left. Go about 2 miles and turn right on Rock Spring Road (SR 24). Follow this for about 0.5 mile and turn left onto East Jarrettville Road; look for Friends Park on the left and turn left into the park. Follow the drive past the pond and up the rise to the trailhead. To reach the Melrose Lane end point, take Rock Spring Road to Bynum Road and turn northeast. Where Bynum curves east, turn left on Melrose Lane then left again into the parking area just a few hundreds yards farther.
From long-abandoned railway to suburban trailway
The second and better developed of the two (thus far) trail projects currently being developed along the old Maryland the Pennsylvania Railroad line (the much shorter Red Lion Mile is being constructed along a section in Red Lion, PA), the Ma & Pa Heritage ...
Trail has been extended
This write up is old information.
The Belair section of the trail is now 3.29 miles and goes from the Williams Street parking lot to Annie's Playground. This section of the trail has some good elevation changes and is through some nice wooded areas.