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Farms and pastures surround the Conewago Recreation Trail, but it was the discovery and mining of iron ore that led to the development of the railroad that eventually resulted in this trail. The path rolls northeast from the outskirts of Elizabethtown for about 5 miles to a seamless connection at the Lancaster–Lebanon County line with the Lebanon Valley Rail-Trail. The connecting trail continues nearly 15 miles to Lebanon. Both trails are part of the September 11th National Memorial Trail that connects the World Trade Center, Flight 93, and Pentagon Memorials, and both occupy the former railbed of the Cornwall & Lebanon Railroad, built in 1883 as a private venture to compete with a railroad that already served the iron ore mines in Cornwall. To challenge an established railroad was risky enough; now consider that the new railroad’s owner was Robert Coleman, one of the richest men in Pennsylvania and a cousin of the existing railroad’s president. Lawsuits ensued, and the newcomer’s railroad tracks were torn up at least once.
As it turns out, there was enough business for everyone. Coleman, however, made bad investments elsewhere and eventually lost his railroad; the Pennsylvania Railroad ended up with it in 1918. After Hurricane Agnes washed out portions of the line in 1972, the route fell into disuse, and Lancaster County bought it in 1979 and soon thereafter turned it into a rail-trail.
You can pick up supplies for your trip in Elizabethtown, called E-town by the locals and located about 2 miles southeast of the trailhead. The town’s population has ballooned since the early days of the 20th century, when it was home to a shoe factory and Klein Chocolate (now owned by Mars and making Dove brand chocolate).
To reach the Elizabethtown trailhead from I-283 coming from Harrisburg, take Exit 1A onto PA¿283 E. Go 6.4 miles east, and take the exit toward PA 230/PA 341/Toll House Road. Turn right onto Toll House Road, go 0.1 mile, and turn left onto E. Harrisburg Pike/PA 230. Go 3.1 miles, and turn left into the trailhead parking lot.
To reach the trailhead at Prospect Road/T300 from I-283, take Exit 1A onto PA 283 E. Go 11.5 miles east, and exit toward PA 743 for Hershey/Elizabethtown. Turn left onto PA 743 N/Hershey Road, go 0.5 mile, and turn right onto Beverly Road. Go 0.7 mile, and turn right onto Koser Road. Then go 0.2 mile, and bear left to stay on Koser Road. Go 0.1 mile, and turn left onto PA 241/Mount Gretna Road. Go 1.1 miles, and turn left onto Prospect Road/T300. Go 0.1 mile, and look for parking on either side of Prospect Road, where it intersects with the trail.
Biked the trail on Memorial Day 2023. The surface is still rough and gravelly. Appropriate for fat tires only. Also, the mileage markers are readable only in eastbound direction. This could be a first-class trail if the surface were improved.
Nice topography but trail is tough to ride with larger, non-crushed stone. Was scouting this out for a ride with my wife as we live close to trail. Will opt to drive to Lawn and catch the Lancaster/ Lebanon Trail to reduce the hazard risk
Let me start by saying that I ride this trail a lot as it connects to the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail and the two trails make for a 40 mile round trip. If this trail did not connect to the much nicer Lebanon trail, I doubt that I would ever ride it again. While the trail may be fine for walking, it is a disappointing biking experience. while the scenery is pleasant, the trail surface is at best fair. As the trail has needed repairs, the stone used to do the repairs is much larger than the original surface, (and I'm riding 26x2" tires). There are also several bridges with very rough transitions, again not a problem for walkers but very uncomfortable on the bike. As noted by another, the route 743 road crossing is rough. They resurfaced the road but did not bother to match the trail surface. There are at least two other roads where there is limited visibility, due either a bend in the road or brush growing beside the trail.
This is a very scenic, easy trail. It's great for a quick jaunt, or you can extend it by continuing on the Lebanon Valley rail trail that connects to it. As other reviewers have noted, it could use some fine gravel. Much of the current surface is pretty coarse stone, which was fine for my mountain bike with front shocks and wide tires, but it probably would have jarred my insides loose if I was riding my hybrid bike. And as other reviewers have also noted, crossing Rte. 743 can be dangerous when it's busy. Still, this trail is nicely maintained and I recommend it.
Lots of shade on this trail. Downed trees noted in an earlier review have been cleared. Could really use some fine gravel over much of the trail. Watch the crossing at Route 743. Cars are flying. Steep grades on either side of the former tressel.
The trail surface is in desperate need of a fine layer of gravel to make it a five star trail. Scenery is great, but its past time for some much needed maintenance.
Very nice trail. Gravel, well maintained! Beautiful scenery.
We rode Sunday, May 2. Don't start your ride until Old Hershey Road. Numerous trees were across the trail the first mile and 1/2. I think there may have been 5. There was also one that you had to ride under. The trail wasn't in the best condition. A fair amount of loose gravel in some spots. Your best bet would be to stick to the Lebanon Valley Trail until they clean this up. It was in better condition.
We rode from the Lebanon Valley trail onto the Conewago trail on March 27th. There were two trees partially blocking the trail between mile marker 5 and 3, there were 2 trees across the trail that we were able to carry our bikes over between mm 3 and 2.5 and there was a large tree totally blocking the trail near mm 2. I don't know if there was more storm damage as we could not get past the down tree near mile marker 2. FYI, the Lebanon Valley trail was clear from mile 0 to at least mile 14.
Trail head is on Route 230. Great parking there. You can also park on 743 but very poor choice. Lot is small and if other vehicles are there, very difficult to turn around. You do not want to back out onto 743 because it is heavily traveled and traffic moves fast.
Nicely maintained trail, scenery from farmhands to woods. Some shade but open areas too. I parked at the Market St lot, (ample parking). About 1 1/4 miles in there is a little rock “canyon” and you can start to hear the river.
This was my very first Rail Trail I have ever completed since I bought my new bicycle. It was a blast! There was a lot of beautiful country land, farm animals, rock walls, and a creek that looked like it might have some trout in it. The parking spot Google maps had taken me to was a spot right off of highway 743 which I do not recommend. It was too close to the highway and dips down which made it very nerve-racking to back up and out of right into the busy highway. I suggest finding the very beginning of the trail for better parking.
I am also a Pokemon Go fan, and I play when I'm out trailing. There was 2 Gyms, about 3 or 4 Pokestops along the way, and tons of Pokemon spawning.
I highly recommend this trail for beginners. It was very easy.
I really enjoy this trail. multiple parking areas makes it easy to do in sections. the crossing at 743 is hazardous, particularly when the road is busy, rush hour, etc. also lacks facilities and benches.
I rode the Conewago trail this Past Sunday, July 23rd. It happens that I had just bought a new bike at Rails to Trails Bicycle Shop http://www.railstotrail.com/ located at the trail junction with Old Hershey Road. First I proceeded north to the Lancaster/Lebanon County line passing by a series of farms. There are several local road crossings and alternate trail heads along the route. At the county line the trail continues, becoming the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail which extends another 15 miles northeast. It is reasonable to pair the two for a longer ride and I have done so on several occasions. This time however I turned around and proceeded at a comfortable 7-8 mph pace back past the rails to trails bike shop and then south for another few miles through similar farmland and wooded areas. There is a stream to the one side for a half mile or so and it is nice for pictures. The stream is down about 20 feet and there is no guard rail, you just have to be careful. The trail ends in a county recreation area and there are a few picnic tables if you'd like to take a rest. I recommend this trail because there are both healthy wooded sections and also wide open vistas; farmers fields and also meadows for animal grazing. The local populace is very friendly as well!
Started at Mt. Gretna then rode towards Middletown. Was on this trail, then another for a total of 20 miles (full trip)-Just can't remember the name of the other trail but it connected right into this one. It was a wonderful ride. The trail was in very good condition and was very enjoyable. A few places to stop and have a lunch if you wanted to.
The former crosswalk across RT743 was paved over last fall.
Now difficult to cross highway. Larger stones on approach sort of force a dismount. Then trail users have lost the 'protection' of a painted crosswalk across the busy (fast) highway.
Overall the trails great. There are a few sections that need repair and there is a lack of facilities along the trail,
some washed out areas were "repaired" but are very rough to ride over. Other than that a great trail.
If you start at the trail head in Elizabethtown at route 230 and ride both the Conawego and the Lebanon Valley section of these trails the round trip will take you 40 miles. I did 30 round trip and stopped at 15 mile mark as the trail was under construction and I do not ride roads. This trail is nice I did not give it 5 stars because of the dangerous street crossings on the Conawego section. The first crossing is at Route 743 a super busy road with fast moving traffic and no signal to assist in crossing. And the second is as stated in the trail description, Mill road crossing. They say there used to be a bridge for the train but was taken down. It should have been replaced with another bridge as the ascent and decent from both sides are steep and Mill Road has a blind curve so that when crossing, the people using the trail can not see any vehicles approaching. With the number of people using this trail, it is only a matter of time till someone is hit. The Lebanon Valley Rail Trail adds a challenge not seen on many rail trails. And that is a 8 mile continuous incline to Mt Gretna. And the Lebanon Valley part of the trail could use more maintenance. Also the gates used to restrict vehicles on the Conawego section limit egress to one lane of traffic so that one direction must wait for the other to pass before proceeding whether you are biking or walking.
This is a great trail which joins the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail. It's only 5 miles but if you continue after reaching the LVRT it will be about 20 miles end to end. There aren't many benches along this trail but the LV trail has many. Except for one road crossing the whole 5 miles is fairly level and the trail is in great condition. There is a large parking lot at the route 230 trail head which fills up quickly during high usage times especially over the weekends.
Beautiful trail with trees on both sides of cinder trail. Easy for bikes and strollers, dogs and families too. Interesting rocks to climb and creekside after about 1 mile. Clean trail and parking lot.
We rode the 5 mile length of this trail, not realizing we had the option to continue on the additional 14.5 miles of the Lebanon Valley Rail-Trail. Had lunch at the county line and turned around. Trail was in great shape (dodging some horse poop); saw some hikers, runners, and other bikers but not too busy on a beautiful summer weekday.
This trail was in great shape when we rode. It was nice to be able to connect directly with the Lebanon Valley trail (because a five mile trail is short for biking).
Great trail, well maintained but I encountered ATV's on the trail between Mill Road and Old Hershey Road. It appears they are coming down from the Farm up on the Hill. They almost ran me down!!
Judging from the Tracks I saw it appears this tresspass happens frequenty.
I noticed the trail is not properly marked forbidding Motorized Trespass. There are also NO GATES! I did report the incident.
If you see Motorized Tresspass on this trail please document, video, and photograph the trespass and report it to the Lancaster County Park Rangers or Local police. Let's work together to keep this trail safe for all of us.
I see women with baby strollers, elderly couples, parents with young children and equestrians on the trail. The ATV Trespass is very dangerous! The Trespassers are obviously very immature and irresponsible.
Wonderful ride. Some horse drippings but road was in good shape wife has cruiser so was tougher for her than my mountain bike but she enjoyed it. Bike shop along the trail isn't open Sundays but helpful when need a break. Overall enjoyed the scenery and breeze.
This is a great trail with finely crushed gravel. If going beyond 3.5 or 4 miles, you probably should have a running buddy for safety if a female. It is very tree covered and mileage is marked every 1/2 mile. Great views and very secluded.
I just got my first real bike from the type I had so many years ago and was anxious to get to a trail. I picked this one because it was pretty close to me and I didn't have a lot of time. The trail was easy to find, and I did 12 miles of it starting in E-town and crossing over into Lebanon and back. Wow! I never knew there was a whole other part of the world awaiting me. To be in the country side with the streams, the birds, the farms and all the animals you see along the way was awesome! Very relaxing and peaceful. All in all it was a great ride. I only gave it a 3 out of 5 stars because this was my first trail and I don't know what else to compare it to yet. And I had to dodge some horse chips along the way.
Have a good day everyone and happy biking :-)
Rode this twice now, very nice trail, well maintained and marked.
July 4, 2012 First time on this trail. Very nice ride. Enjoyed every minute of it.
We parked at the trail head outside Elizabeth town, biked the entire length and then another 2.5 miles into the Lebanon Valley trail and then returned (about 15 miles round trip). All trees that downed during last weekends freak Snowtober event have been cut, and cleared to the side. There is still evidence of the early September floods, mostly on the Lebanon County side, but the entire trail is in pretty good shape. Lots of other bike and pedestrian traffic, especially for a weekday, and some of the prettiest countryside God ever gave us. Heartily recommend!
Major damage has been repaired.
Some trail surface still rough/washed out.
Couple of places where the edge of trail drops off 1 - 2 feet.
Lots of down trees (cut up) along the trail.
Sept 18, 2011. Took a post Hurricane/Flood ride on North1/2 of trail.
Two Miles + closed due to damage. Stopped at E-Town trailhead. Trail entrance/bridge almost washed out and closed. Found another trailhead to start ride.
Numerous locations with water damage. Passable but rough in spots. Expect hardpack gravel, loose gravel, sand and some mud.
Hope the damage gets fixed soon.
We tacked this trail onto the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail for a great day of riding! This trail was in great shape and very scenic!!
My wife and I rode on the Conewago Recreation Trail in early June 2011, and it is in excellent condition. This is an excellent, very flat (save for one location where the trail dips to meet the road, then climbs back up on the other side of the road -- a bridge would be great!) trail that is perfectly suited for hybrids or mountain bikes.
It also meets the Lebanon Valley Rail-Trail, which is another very good trail, so riders can go all the way from Elizabethtown in Lancaster County to the City of Lebanon (in Lebanon County) without ever leaving the trail.
There are a number of road crossings on the Conewago Recreation Trail, but only one of the roads (Route 743) is ever busy. (At the interesction of the trail and Route 743, you'll find the Rails to Trail Bicycle Shop.)
Alas Lancaster County has very few rail trails. The Conewago is as good as it gets here in PA Dutch country. The Mrs. and I had a lovely bike ride today (5/9/2011) from the trail head on route 230 eight miles out and back along the Conewago trail and with another three miles on the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail. We expected to encounter much more traffic than we did considering the weather has been lousy every weekend this spring. But fellow bikers / hikers were few.
The Conewago trail is almost dead flat but seems to incline a bit when it enters Lebanon County. The surface of the Conewago is well maintained crushed limestone. The surface of the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail is a bit rougher but still makes for a great ride.
Lancaster / Lebanon county farmland, horse farms. llama farms along the trail make for a lovely ride.
We rode the 2.5 mile section of this trail between Rte. 230 and Rte.743 and found it to be quite busy. Parking lot along Rte.230 was packed and cars were parking along the roadside. The trail was heavily populated with horses, families walking, lots of dogs, and runners. Of course, everyone was very pleasant and friendly, but it did require us to pay a lot of attention to where we were riding and not really able to take in the scenery. The cinder/stonedust surface was quite dry (we really need a good rain!), so we and our bikes got quite dusty. The trail was nice, but it did feel like it was uphill both ways! We'll ride this one again, but we'll try a different section just to see if it is any different.
there are a plethora of churches in this area that offer Sunday evening worship that people take advantage of when they cannot worship on Sunday morning, hence having the shop close @ 3pm on Sundays isn't a big suprise; this might be why he wants to promptly close on time on Sunday;
secondly, there is no DESIGNATED PARKING along RTE 743 for riders/hikers who wish to utilize the rail trail at this juncture; the owner of the bike shop is liable if anyone gets injured while parking/loitering on his property, hence he is not being 'rude' by insisting that folks vacate the property at his request...he had a problem of folks parking in his lot while he was closed and this is why there are large yellow chains that are locked when the shop is closed; it is actually a good thing that he has business hours on Sundays and offers an alternative to places like WalMart, KMart, and other large retailers;
when I stopped and shopped for a new bike all of my questions were answered and was given information about the various brands of bikes they sell, as well as information about the rail trails in the area; I was able to get a great comfort bike (Raleigh Venture 4.0) and a variety of accessories with the discounts the shop gave me; I have returned several times for other accessories as my riding increases
Constructed in the late 70's along the old Cornwall Valley Railroad, the Conewago Recreation Trail is Lancaster County's oldest rail trail. While the trail was noted for crossing picturesque farmlands and hamlets along the county's northern border, it did not really come into its own until the last decade, when the longer Lebanon Valley Rail Trail was connected to its northern end. The county has recently upgraded the trail, adding a new, stone surface and making drainage improvements, bringing the trail up to par with its northern neighbor. There are also plans to extend the trail further west to Falmouth, where it will join the Northwest River Trail, meaning that use will probably continue to grow in coming years.
There's not one season better than another on the Conewago Recreation Trail. A visitor in summer, fall, winter and spring to this lovely piece of Dauphin, Lancaster and Lebanon counties, I am never disappointed.
Trailheads are easy to find, just off major highways, with ample parking at most spots. (I think new parking is going in on Route 743). And now that the Lebanon County Trail is connected and the project complete, the ride or walk can take a wanderer through farm fields, woods, tiny towns and over and under a bridge or two. Surfaces are smooth and well-maintained.
If you prefer to work harder on the way out and take it easy on the way back, I would recommend starting at the Dauphin County line and heading East.
We had a glorious fall day bike ride, introducing some of our Philly friends to the pleasures of biking on a rail trail. We started in Mt. Gretna (had a super lunch on homemade bread at Cafe Le Sorelle in Mt. Gretna), enjoyed the well maintained trail and then remembered a bike shop close to the end of the trail in Elizabethtown. (Twin Kiss ice cream available about 3/4 way to the end of trail.)
It is difficult to believe Rails to Trails Bike Shop ever opened up to accommodate the bikers on the trail. Rails to Trails Bike Shop closes at 3:00 pm on Sunday, insisted we leave the bench we were resting on outside of the shop at closing time. My wife wanted to try on a pair of bike shorts about 10 minutes before closing the the owner said no, too close to closing time. Another couple was also asked to leave the premises, as they were readjusting bike seats. In addition, after paying a buck to use the portable toilet, instead of asking us if anyone else in our foursome needed to use it, one of the staff in the bike shop silently put a LOCK on the handle so no one could use it. Really remarkable. We were very embarrassed in front of our friends, who until that point, were delighting in the local countryside and friendly folks.
In this economy, it is a rare shop owner who goes out of their way to be rude to the customers, especially on a Rail Trail. I understand the need to lock up the portable toilet in the evening but lots of folks are out biking Sunday afternoon, a time when most who work weekdays, have the opportunity to bike. Whereas this shop could be a gold mine, I bet they will be out of business in a year. This is the second time we were visited the shop, were treated rudely on both occasions (we actually bought something the first time) and will not go in there again.
Trailhead was easy to find (always a plus) and the trail was in terrific condition. Nice, easy ride on a warm day.
We rode the entire trail, making a loop by going off trail onto very rural roads north of the trail. The trail is in great shape and the leaves are just starting to change colors. The trail had alot of users near Elizabethtown, but the number of people dwindled after the Old Hershey Rd. parking area. Unlike some trails that have a slight grade in one direction, this trail is truely flat.
The trail is complete and what a difference it makes. It is 100% better than what it was and very enjoyable to ride. It now makes the adjoining Lebanon Valley trail look like it needs maintenance or at least the brush cut back. The newly added road signs to identify the crossing is a nice touch along the trail. My only complaint is with the horse riders and their general inability to clean up after their horses. I counted at least 12 locations with fresh dung along the trail. Why they seem so insensitive to other trail users is puzzling. At least push it off to the side of the trail.
The trail is receiving a major rebuild this summer. Grading and new gravel surface is almost completed. Horses are restricted until 9/1 to allow the work to 'harden'.
"Compared to the Lebanon Valley rail trail, this lower trail doesn't seem quite finished. The trail is very narrow in some portions, not covered in cinders or likewise (mostly dirt or mud) and also has some very rocky parts. The several road crossing can be tricky as the road is almost 6 inches higher than the trail. Also, this trail had many pedestrians on it that walk 3 or 4 people wide. We would come right up behind them and they still wouldn't get out of the way. At one point we had to ride off trail to go around a group of walkers and I was shouted at for scaring them. Still, the scenery is pleasant and I recommend this ride to anyone who is not put off by mud, and if you put up with it for 5 miles then you are on the much nicer Lebanon Valley trail. Cheers.."
"Overall this was a nice ride. We parked one car at the parking area on route 230 at the end of the Conewago Trail and the other at Cornwall at the start of the Lebanon Valley trail. We road from Cornwall to route 230. It is a very straight trail but the scenery is nice. This is a ride through farm country so don’t be surprised with the fresh country air. Both trails combine to give you about 15 miles with your only dealing with car traffic an occasional street crossing. This is not a technical ride but I would recommend a cross or mountain bike just to be safe. A road bike could do some of it but there are parts you would be walking. If you are looking for hardcore mountain biking this is not your trail. If want a pleasant afternoon ride, this could be the one."
"The well-finished smoothness of the Lebanon Valley Trail gives way to a more natural and rough offering of dirt and mud. What a difference a county makes. It's entertaining if you're into farm animals (hey, who isn't in central PA).
This trail is best conquered on a mountain bike. The hybrids my friend and I were riding struggled in the mud compared to the third in our group who had a mountain bike. We went from the county line as far as the intersection with PA 743."
"Several of us rode the trail last week the day after a rain storm. While the scenery was great, the trail was mostly mud and standing water. We were all disappointed and muddy. It sure could use some attention -- especially after riding the connecting Lebabon Valley trail -- which was wonderful the entire length."
"The Conewago Trail has wooded areas, open area, plus some nice refreshing streams. There are also benches along the trail, giving trail users of all ages places to rest along the way.
Now that Lebanon County is in the process of completing their section, the trail is accessible from Colebrook right beside Twin Kiss restaurant. There is also a separate trail for horses in Lebanon County.
The trail in Lebanon County is a bit smoother and safer for people walking or biking. Most trail crossings are safe, but beware of Rt.741 and high speed vehicles.
If you use one mile or 10 miles you will enjoy your experience on this trail."
The western end especially is nice. The eastern end doesn't get as much traffic and the riding path is not as wide. It will be great when Lebanon Valley Rail Trail finishes restoring their link.
Mixture of woodland and farm area. Trail starts at Rt. 230 near Elizabethtown and runs for 5 miles. The trail is easily bikable the entire distance. The trail is progressively narrow as you go away from route 230. On an average Summer weekend there are probably about 25 people on at any given time. It is a safe trail to walk.
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