The discovery of anthracite coal in the Tremont area of Pennsylvania shaped commerce and development well into the 1800s. The Union Canal was constructed in the 1820s to connect the Schuylkill and Susquehanna rivers and improve transport of anthracite coal. A branch canal was constructed from Lebanon to Pine Grove through what is now Swatara State Park. The flood of 1862 destroyed the branch. By then because the LebanonTremont Branch of the Reading Railroad on the opposite bank of Swatara Creek served all transport needs, the canal was never repaired.
The Swatara Rail-Trail stretches 10 miles along Swatara Creek, from Pine Grove almost to Lickdale, revealing remnants of both the canal and the railroad along the way. Even though the path is somewhat close to Interstate 81, the lush forest surroundings and rugged trail surface create a sense of remoteness perfect for the adventure lover.
Swatara State Park covers more than 3,500 acres of land but has no formal entrance or recreation center. The park's main activities are paddling and fishing in the Swatara Creek that flows through it. The woodlands surrounding the creek and rail-trail provide good cover for deer and fowl in this hunting area, popular among the local population. Although the trail starts and ends outside the park's boundaries, the majority is within it.
Some islands in the creek have primitive campsites, but the park remains undeveloped. It doesn't have signs or facilities. The park's office is located at Memorial Lake State Park about 10 miles south on Interstate 81. Trail maintenance is limited to mowing and drainage infill with large stones. Volunteers have placed wood mileage markers along the trail, but there is no other signage.
At one section the trail is an unused paved road. Nearby, a few miles north, the Stony Valley Railroad Grade
offers another backcountry treat; an extended day or weekend excursion on both trails may be in order. The trail also connects to the Appalachian Trail near Inwood.
The Swatara Trail ends in the long grass behind the Hampton Inn along I-81, with several food services nearby.
To reach the Lickdale Campground trailhead, travel north on Interstate 81 from Harrisburg about 20 miles to Exit 90. Follow the signs for Lebanon. At the first stoplight, continue straight then immediately turn left into the private campground parking lot. Parking and trailhead access are to the right of and behind the camp store. The trail leads out of the parking area to the north and is heavy ballast for the first 100 yards because the campground traffic uses it. The only parking for this trail is at private Lickdale Campground off I-81.
There is no formal access at the northeast endpoint, but the trail can be accessed at the grassy area below the Hampton Inn parking lot off Exit 100 along Interstate 81.
Spent a couple of hours on the Swatara Rail trail today 5/21/13.
It received a partial facelift last summer. On the south end (Lickdale) there is a new parking area and a resurfaced trail. The improvements include a loop trail, creek access for boaters, ...
http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/ucmprd1/groups/public/documents/news/DCNR_009829.pdf News for Immediate Release Jan. 27, 2012 Swatara State Park Targeted for Trail Installation, Other Improvements Harrisburg – A long-awaited construction project that will ...
Dec 13th, 2011 - Damage from Ireane and Lee -- Trail Repaired arround Interstate Bridges.
The short length of trail that was closed because of strom damage has been repaired. Nice work.
Still numerous sections of partial wash-out on other parts ...