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The Cynwyd Heritage Trail connects the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s (SEPTA’s) Cyn-wyd Station to Bala Cynwyd Park, the historic West Laurel Hill Cemetery, and Westminster Cemetery, as well as a pedestrian bridge across the Schuylkill River. Though only 1.8 miles long, the trail is part of the Circuit Trails, a developing 800-mile urban network of trails in Greater Philadelphia, of which about 350 miles are currently complete.
The trail takes its name from the Bala Cynwyd community, which was settled by Welsh Quakers who named the area for villages they left behind in Wales in the late 1600s. The trail traces the former route of Pennsylvania Railroad’s Schuylkill Branch, which ran from Philadelphia to Norristown beginning in 1884. SEPTA took over the commuter line in 1983 but closed the segment north of the Cynwyd station in 1986. SEPTA leased the section to Lower Merion Township, which created the paved rail-trail in 2011.
The Cynwyd Heritage Trail connects with the Manayunk Bridge Trail that crosses the Schuylkill River to Philadelphia’s trendy Manayunk neighborhood. A connection to another trail that crosses the river, the Pencoyd Trail, was in the planning stages in 2019. Interpretive signs tell about the cemeteries, former train stations (Cynwyd and Barmouth), and an old cotton mill along the route. A gravel footpath parallels the asphalt trail at various points, where you will find benches and Adirondack chairs overlooking the river.
Starting at SEPTA’s Cynwyd station, you’ll find a small coffee shop and restrooms. The trail slopes downhill from here. It passes through a residential neighborhood and arrives at Bala Cynwyd Park in 0.5 mile.
Crossing under Belmont Avenue, you’ll pass the historical site of the Barmouth station on the left and the 187-acre West Laurel Hill Cemetery on the right, where notable figures from the 19th and 20th centuries are buried. During the warmer months you’ll see wildlife and possibly goats, as the cemetery keeps them on hand to help consume the growth on the ridge between the trail and cemetery. The Westminster Cemetery appears on the left.
At 1 mile, you’ll pass the future site of a short spur route down the embankment that will connect to the Pencoyd Trail, which goes across the Schuylkill River to the Wissahickon neighborhood. At 1.3 miles, the Cynwyd Heritage Trail connects with the Manayunk Bridge Trail, which also crosses the river. Both bridges are pedestrian only.
The trail continues another 0.5 mile to circle back to Belmont Avenue.
A 0.5-mile extension from the Cynwyd station south to the Philadelphia city limits is slated to open in 2020.
To reach the southern trailhead at the Cynwyd SEPTA Station from I-76, take Exit 339 to US 1 S/City Ave. Merge onto US 1, heading southwest, and go 0.8 mile. Turn right onto Conshohocken State Road/PA 23. Go 0.5 mile, and turn right toward Cynwyd Station parking as Conshohocken State Road turns left. A pathway connects to the trail.
To reach the northern endpoint from I-76, take Exit 338 and head southwest on Belmont Ave./SR 3045. Go 0.3 mile, and turn right into the trailhead parking lot just past Rock Hill Road. The trail starts across Belmont Ave. from the parking lot.
This trail is not very long but packed with an abundance of scenery and history.The trail used to be the Pennsylvania RR.It mainly carried freight.Later, it was commuter train. Today, the trail is straddle by West Laurel Hill Cemetery and Westminister Cemetery. When biking the trail it is worthwhile to ride in both cemeteries, Especially, in the spring, when flowering trees and greenery is in bloom. Plus, you have a great view of Manayunk. Also, there is quite a few grand mausoleums that are eye catchers. As you come out of the enclosed part of the trail (north end), you will see a great panoramic view of Manayunk. It evens gets better, when you are on top of the "Pennsey Bridge".Manayunk is like a snapshot in history. Finally, when you cross the bridge (north end) the trail ends. St. David's Church is there. Hang a hard left, ride parallel with the old Pennsey RR on your left. Ride down to the intersection and make a left, go under the two rail road bridges make another left and now you will be on the Main Street.Now, you have a choice, you can cross the street and bike the Manayunk Towpath or stay straight on Main ST. Explore the old neighborhoods,check out the old buildings and stop at some of the bars and restaurants. If you want some more history, hop onto the towpath and than the Schuylkill River Trail proceed to center city. The scenery along the way is magnificent.
Enclosing, though the trail is not long, it presents so many options for the users. Experience the scenery and history is a must.
I may be mistaken, but I think one of the reviewers of the Cynwyd Heritage Trail meant "Lower Merion Township," not Upper Merion which is out past Conshohocken. The Bala Cynwyd Park is in Lower Merion Township. Thanks to Chris Leswing, Assistant Planning Director of the twp., the employees of the Parks and Recreation Dept., the Lower Merion Commissioners, and Lower Merion Twp. taxpayers for adding the Cynwyd Heritage Trail (CHT) to scores of public parks maintained by Lower Merion Twp.
This is one of my favorites. I park at the trail head near Belmont Street. From there you have several choices. (1) Downhill to the newly restored Manayunk pedestrian bridge (which see). (2) Tour the adjacent cemetery by bike. (3) Uphill to the Cynwyd Station, which is like a trip to the 1890s. The Victorian station is still in use, with frequent trains to Center City. Best of all, there is a cute tea shop in the station, and you can sit on their porch with your cup of tea and watch the world go by.
About that cemetery -- it is much nicer than you might think. In the 19th Century there were not so many parks, so people went for Sunday picnics to cemeteries, which provided some green space, indeed beautifully landscaped parkland. Since their final resting places were on display, the Philly citizens responded by investing in some of the most spectacular funeral architecture you will ever see. They competed to build the most elaborate tombs of the finest marble for their families. And they look just as good as they did in 1890, with a grounds crew always busy mowing and weeding flowers.
There is even a small farmer's market at the trail head during the summer.
At first glance, the Cynwyd Heritage Trail and adjacent Manayunk Bridge may not appear that impressive.
Just over 2 miles in length, the trail follows a SEPTA line taken out of service in the 80's from its southern terminus at Route 23, north past Lower Merion Township Park to the bridge. From there, it veers left, wrapping back around to a trailhead at the intersection of Belmont Ave. and Rock Hill Road, forming a near-complete circle around local cemeteries.
However, once you get on the trail itself, it becomes clear that this is far more than just a short community greenway. Since the old rail line was double tracked, the southern portion is wide enough to be two trails in one; the right side, paved in asphalt, is officially for cyclists, in-line skaters, moms pushing baby strollers and wheelchair-bound individuals, while the left, crushed stone path is for pedestrians. The section near Lower Merion Township Park, which is joined to the trail via a paved access path, is lushly landscaped in the spring and summer months and the gates in the privacy fencing that separates the greenway from adjacent residences make it clear that homeowners highly value the trail.
After passing beneath Belmont Ave., the trail gradually ascends to the southwest bank of the Schuylkill River. Here, users have the option of either veering right onto the restored Manayunk Bridge or turning left and gradually descending back to the Rock Run Trailhead. Officially opened in late 2015, the concrete-arched Manayunk Bridge provides trail users with breathtaking, panoramic views of the Schuylkill River and the adjacent Schuylkill Expressway, active rail lines, remnants of the old Schuylkill Canal and the Schuylkill River Trail, all illustrating the corridor's importance as a transportation link connecting Philadelphia with the Pennsylvania interior. Birds-eye views of Manayunk and other northwest Philly neighborhoods are also visible from the bridge, and a connector path, known as the Ivy Ridge Trail, which will link the bridge, and the Cynwyd Heritage Trail, to the Schuylkill River Trail, is anticipated to be completed by mid-2016.
Although not as impressive as the Manayunk Bridge, the section of the Cynwyd Heritage Trail that descends back toward Belmont Ave. also features some impressive vistas of northwest Philly. This section is also noted for several interpretive signs that provide detailed historical accounts of the area's industrial heritage, and the ruins of one old mill are still visible from the trail. Surrounding trees provide ample shade in summer and children enjoy sliding through the leaves that pile up on the steep slopes that line this section in fall. Traffic signals allow trail users to safely cross Belmont Ave. to the Rock Hill Trailhead, which is adjacent to a CVS drugstore. Unfortunately, a lack of sidewalks along busy Belmont Ave. currently preclude users from safely making a loop (or more accurately, a figure 8) back to the southern terminus in Bala Cynwyd, which is the only drawback to an otherwise superb greenway system.
It was a great day to take a walk. Very clean. Very informative. Needs for trash cans and more benches. Will come back.
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