Despite its short length, the East Branch Brandywine Trail is a great experience for hikers and bikers. The latest addition to Chester County's section of "The Circuit," an ambitious network of greenways that will one day span southeast PA, the trail has a smooth, paved surface suited for cycling, hiking and parents pushing young children in strollers. There are numerous benches, trash cans and receptacles for pet waste, but not restroom facilities.
The trail begins immediately below the large RR trestle on the south side of Downingtown. A freshly paved surface and shared-use bridge with Route 322 anticipate an extension further north into the borough, but this has not yet taken place. The current, northern trailhead is located on the south side of this trestle, off Route 322. Although unpaved, this access point provides adequate parking and features a quaint, barn-like kiosk, as well as spectacular views of the trestle.
From here, the trail heads southeast through meadows, young forests and wetlands. After crossing the Brandywine about a mile to the south, the trail enters woodlands and follows the approximate route of an old trolley line that once connected Downingtown and West Chester. A couple smaller bridges on this section that cross streams and drainage swales may be remnants of this line. This portion also connects with several unimproved trails suitable for mountain biking and nature hiking.
Further south, the trail crosses Harmony Hill Road. The only at-grade crossing along the sections of trail completed thus far features a second trailhead, and Gibsons Covered Bridge is located about 1500 feet to the west. Although the bridge itself is used by motorists on Harmony Hill Road, there are interpretive signs off the northeast approach that describe its history.
The southeasternmost section of the trail continues through the woods, passing along a grade and through rock cuts that were probably originally used by the trolley line. Numerous footpaths branch off, providing the opportunity for a more rugged hiking experience. After taking a sharp turn to the left just before a gate that keeps trail users from straying onto busy Route 322, the greenway crosses a small, stone bridge and ends at a trailhead off Skelp Level Road.
In addition to eventually being incorporated into the aforementioned "Circuit," the East Branch Brandywine Trail is also part of a greenway that will follow the Brnadywine Creek and River system through Chester County. Plans are already under way to connect it to the Struble Trail north of Downingtown, and, like that older rail trail, the EBBT also doubles as a section of the Brandywine Trail, a footpath that connects the Horse Shoe and Mason Dixon trails. It will also eventually connect to the Chester Valley and Enola Low Grade trails to the east and west, respectively.