Cumberland County Biker/Hiker Trail


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Cumberland County Biker/Hiker Trail Facts

States: Pennsylvania
Counties: Cumberland
Length: 2.2 miles
Trail end points: Pine Grove Rd. at Old Forge Rd. and Old Railroad Bed Rd. at Bendersville Rd. in Pine Grove Furnace State Park
Trail surfaces: Asphalt, Cinder, Crushed Stone
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6016934

Cumberland County Biker/Hiker Trail Description

This gently winding trail in Pine Grove Furnace State Park passes along the shores of two lakes and through the woodlands of Michaux State Forest. Pine Grove Furnace began operating in 1764 to take advantage of the small but rich South Mountain iron ore deposits. The furnace closed in 1895 when new technology made the operation of small ironworks unprofitable. The 17,000-acre property of the South Mountain Ironworks was sold to the state of Pennsylvania in 1914 to become part of a new forest reserve system. Remnants of the days of iron production are evident in the park. The iron-master's mansion, furnace ruins and other buildings provide a historical perspective.

The park's two lakes, 1.7-acre Fuller Lake and 25-acre Laurel Lake, are also remnants of the area's iron making heritage. Fuller Lake was an iron ore quarry that filled with groundwater when operations ceased. Laurel Lake provided water power to Laurel Forge, which produced wrought iron. Both lakes now provide opportunities for swimming and fishing. Boating is permitted on Laurel Lake, which has a launch area, mooring slips and boat rental. Only electric motors are permitted.

The trail follows the route of the South Mountain Railroad. Constructed in the late 1860s the railroad brought raw materials to the furnace at Pine Grove and delivered finished iron products to market.

Pine Grove Furnace State Park marks the "unofficial" halfway point along the Appalachian Trail. The historic ironmaster's mansion now serves as a hostel with dormitory style overnight accommodations and cooking and dining facilities.

The trail begins in the park at the Appalachian Trail parking lot near the Furnace Stack Day Use Area. A short paved section of trail leads from the parking area to the Fuller Lake area, which has a beach. Swimming is permitted from late May until mid-September. Beyond the lake, the trail crosses a small bridge and turns left. This section of the trail runs on a gravel service road bordered by a swamp on one side and Mountain Creek on the other. The service road is closed to all traffic except official park vehicles. At a gate, the trail opens onto Old Railroad Bed Road and shares the corridor with occasional automobiles.

Beyond Laurel Lake, Old Railroad Bed Road intersects Pine Grove Road and the trail ends.

Parking and Trail Access

To reach the Furnace Stack Day Use Area Trailhead—the best access point—from PA Route 233, take Pine Grove Road and turn onto Bendersville Road. Turn onto Quarry Road. Parking is available at the Appalachian Trail parking area.

Cumberland County Biker/Hiker Trail Reviews

Trail Connecting Two Lakes

Not to be confused with the nearby and better known Cumberland Valley Rail Trail, the Cumberland County Biker/Hiker Trail is noted for its scenic, natural beauty and for passing several historical sites on its 2.2 mile route through SC PA's South Mountain area, itself the northernmost tip of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Although these lands are now covered with lush forests, gently flowing creeks and placid lakes, historic Pine Grove Furnace and the adjacent village attest to the area's past as a bustling iron works in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The trail begins next to the old, hulking stone furnace and passes near several other relics from this bygone era, including the ironmaster's mansion, which is now a hostel, and Fuller Lake, originally an open pit iron mine that flooded with water. The trail itself follows the route of a long abandoned RR that was used to ship iron produced at the furnace to the rest of the nation.
The first quarter mile of the trail passes along the north shore of Fuller Lake. Despite its origins as an iron mine, the lake is a popular recreation spot and the Fuller Lake Day Use Area includes a picnic area as well as a snack bar, restrooms and a beach open to swimming from late May to early September. This section of the trail has a paved, asphalt surface and is used to provide access to the lake from the nearby village.
Asphalt gives way to crushed stone as the trail enters the woodlands of Michaux State Forest east of the lake. The sounds of wildlife, including birds and numerous small mammals, as well as frogs, crickets and locusts can be heard in the forested wetlands that line nearby Mountain Creek. This section of the trail is also part of the much longer, world famous Appalachian Trail and users may encounter long distance hikers.
A yellow gate located about a mile east of Fuller Lake marks the halfway point on the trail as well as the beginning of the eastern segment, on-road concurrency with the appropriately named Old Railroad Grade Road. This is also the point where the Appalachian Trail diverges, veering right and ascending the mountain toward the Pole Steeple rock outcropping and overlook, while the rail trail and road go right, following Mountain Creek. After another half mile, the trail and road pass Laurel Lake, on its southern shore, treating users to panoramic views, while the thickly forested mountain rises steeply to the south. Unlike the smaller Fuller Lake, Laurel Lake was originally constructed to provide water to a nearby iron forge and a large, concrete dam is still located at its eastern end. Like it's western counterpart, it's now a popular location for boating, fishing and swimming during the warmer months of the year. In addition to the Appalachian Trail, several smaller hiking paths, including the Pole Steeple, Kopenhaver and Mountain Creek trails, branch off this section.
Although this eastern section, which ends at Pine Grove Road near Old Forge Road, has a smooth, asphalt surface, trail users need to be aware that this is also a public road and to look out for cars and trucks using the road to access the lake and several cabins set back in the woods. Despite the low posted speed limit, the narrow width of Old Railroad Grade Road as well as the fact that it passes between a lake shore and the slope of a mountain means that there is little room to move off the trail when yielding to vehicles. Nonetheless, the beauty of the surrounding mountains and valley and historical significance of Pine Grove Furnace State Park make the Cumberland County Biker/Hiker Trail a rewarding experience and worthy addition to South Central PA's greenway system.

Great trail for my ability

I’m handicapped and ride a recumbent trike I am a stroke survivor and my disability is my balance ability. This trail is great for me I used to hike it as a Boy Scout and thought I’d never see it again but my trike made it possible . Love the trail

Nice easy trail

This was a very nice easy trail for a beginning biker; good surface, interesting terrain, almost flat surface.

Nicely maintained!

This trail was well-maintained and signage was good. We enjoyed the ride as a detour off a long trip home on I-81. The recommended trailhead in the PA Rails-Trails book is called Shippensburg Recreation Park, but note this is milepost 1 on the trail.


Cumberland Cty Biker/Pine Grove Furnace

This small State Park provides wonderful, shaded, level biking on a hot summer day with the option of swimming and kayaking at one of two small lakes. There are 4 different parking areas one at each end of the park and for biking a nice shaded parking spot on the far side of Laurel Lake at Pole Steeple trail on Railroad Bed Road. In addition to the approximately 3 mile Railroad Bed Road and Trail there are two circle Roads to bike, Ice House Road and Murphy/ Quarry Roads. So considering round trips back to your car you could easily get a 10 mile bike trip. For information via the INTERNET go to Youker 8/27/2010

Interruption in Trail - More Details

The interruption in the trail, which was mentioned in the comments that were made earlier this month, has eliminated The Mountain Creek Campground as the downstream entrance to the trail. As I described in the comments that I made in 2005, there was at that time an informal side trail that allowed a biker to get around the house that blocked the trail by exiting to Pine Grove Road for a short distance, then returning to the trail. A second house has now been built on the trail and there is now no apparent way to get around the two houses and back to the trail.

The realistic downstream entrance to the trail is now the intersection of Pine Grove Road and the macadam road named Railroad Bed Road which serves as one of the entrances to Pine Grove Furnace State Park.

Interruption in Trail

My husband and I biked this trail this past weekend, starting in Pine Grove Furnace State Park. Althought the trail head is not very well marked to start (the Appalachian Trail and the begining of the Rail Trail are one in the same), it was a nice trail through the Park, but very shortly after leaving the Park (we crossed the road and entered the trail on the opposite side) - perhaps 1/3 of a mile later we encountered a blockage in the trail with a sign stating that the trail ended and that it was private property so we turned around, a bit disappointed. But all in all it was a nice trail and a nice ride.

A Reasonable Ride

"This six-mile trail consists of 2.5-miles of dirt trail located on what I believe is private land and 3.5 miles of roadway and crushed stone trail within Pine Grove Furnace State Park.

The old furnace in the Pine Grove Furnace State Park locates the upstream trailhead and the downstream trailhead is located at the Mountain Creek Campground.

To get to Pine Grove Furnace State Park, take I81 Exit 37 to PA 233 south then travel for eight miles.

The Mountain Creek Campground is located about six miles east of Pine Grove Furnace State Park on Pine Grove Road. Their address is 349 Pine Grove Road, Gardners, PA 17324. You can use that address to get directions from one of the online mapping services. The owners told me that you are welcome to park in their campground parking area but they would appreciate it if you would stop by the office and let them know that you will be leaving your car there for a while.

Enter the campground on your bike at the entrance gate and then turn left at every opportunity till you find the Cumberland County Biker/Hiker Trail. The trail is packed dirt and is reasonably smooth with the occasional rough spot. This portion of the trail provides a pleasant but unremarkable ride through the woods, along the back and the front of some forty scattered cabins and homes. While the trail it is not officially maintained, the neighbors help by occasionally picking up dead falls. At one point on the trail, you will come upon a Conrail caboose sitting on a short section of track in front of a cabin. The property owner does not want you to enter his property and the barriers and signs posted there make that clear. Take an informal detour for a short distance onto Pine Grove Road then follow the road for a couple of hundred yards or so till you are past his property and then find one of the paths back to the trail. A discussion I had with a member of the County Planning Commission disclosed that planning is almost complete for a bypass around that closed part of the trail. The Commission expects to complete construction of a one half-mile bypass around the property on adjacent Michaux State Forest land during the summer of 2005.

Further along the trail, where it intersects Pine Grove Road, cross the road and enter Pine Grove Furnace State Park on the macadam road named Railroad Bed Road. This macadam road continues part way through the Park and then becomes a nice crushed stone trail for the rest of the distance to the trailhead at the Iron Furnace. This section through the Park passes the occasional cabin but is attractive as it skirts two lakes and some interesting overviews of Mountain Creek. The trail continues on to the site of the Pine Grove Furnace Iron Works that was established in 1764 and operated there for more than a hundred years. The site includes the remains of the iron furnace along with the restored mansion house, Company office, Company store, stable, gristmill, and inn (now the Park office)."

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