The Valley Forge to Philadelphia segment of the Schuylkill River Trail stretches 27 miles along the historic Schuylkill River, from downtown Philadelphia at the Philadelphia Museum of Art out to Montgomery County and Valley Forge National Historic Park. In Philadelphia, the trail uses Fairmount Park trails and the Manayunk Canal towpath. In Montgomery County, the trail follows a former Pennsylvania Railroad line. The trail is the spine of the Schuylkill River Heritage Corridor, a five-county area designated as both a State and National Heritage Area.
Originally conceived of by the Fairmount Park Commission, the trail route grew to include many municipalities. Montgomery County constructed the trail from the Philadelphia City line to Valley Forge National Historical Park. The Chester County Department of Parks and Recreation is currently planning the section between Phoenixville and Pottstown. The Schuylkill River Greenway Association is working on the sections from the Montgomery County line to Birdsboro and from Gibraltar into Reading. And finally, the Schuylkill River Development Corporation is managing the trail construction from the Water Works in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park and along the tidal section of the Schuylkill River, known as Schuylkill Banks. The Schuylkill River Greenway Association has detailed maps of each section along with construction up-dates on their website.
The river was once a major transportation resource that played a key role in the region's development. Evidence of several centuries of industrial use remain where river and canal navigation, quarrying of limestone and iron ore, and production of iron and steel have succeeded each other as mainstays of the region's economy.
Today the trail is a busy commuter route during rush hour. This trail's asphalt tread is somewhat narrower than that of many of the new trails—caution, as well as rail-trail etiquette, should be heeded. This section runs parallel to the Schuylkill River, with numerous access points at businesses and public transit. In Norristown, the trail connects with the 30th Street train station in downtown Philadelphia. There, the trail also connects with the spectacular Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk that travels over the water, 50 feet from the shoreline.
At Betzwood, just outside Valley Forge National Park, the trail provides a direct link to the 19.5-mile Perkiomen Trail and will eventually access the Cross County Trail in Conshohocken and the Chester Valley Trail in Norristown. Future development of the Schuylkill River Trail will extend it along the entire length of the Schuylkill River, more than 140 miles, from its confluence with the Delaware River to its headwaters in Schuylkill County.
Visit the other Schuylkill River Trail segments: Thun Trail, Bartram Trail, and the Phoenixville to Pottstown segment.
To reach the trailhead and parking at Valley Forge National Historical Park, take the Pennsylvania Turnpike (Interstate 76) to Valley Forge, Exit 326. Take US 422 west to the Audubon/Trooper Exit and turn left off the exit ramp. You'll find parking for the Schuylkill River Trail at the Betzwood Picnic area just ahead.
To reach the Philadelphia trailhead, head west from Center City in Philadelphia on Walnut Street. Turn left on 23rd Street, right on Spruce Street and right on South 25th Street. Before having to turn right on Locust Street, look to the left; there is a pathway to the trailhead reachable by crossing the railroad tracks at an at-grade crossing. There is no dedicated parking for this trailhead.