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Caution: On April 12, 2018, a fire severely damaged the Martic Forge Trestle, which runs over Pequea Creek and River Road on the Enola Low Grade Trail. Access to the trail going west from the Route 324 parking lot in Martic Township remains closed. Please visit the town's website for updates.
Running east-west through southeastern Pennsylvania, the Enola Low Grade Trail is remarkably flat, even for a rail-trail—it says so right there in the name! Even across hilly terrain, the trail’s grades never exceed a 1% slope due to a feat of civil engineering.
Built between 1903 and 1906 by the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR), the Low Grade Line significantly changed the landscape through wide-scale cuts and fills that were needed to create a level pathway for trains. At the time it was built, it was second only to the Panama Canal in terms of the amount of earth moved—some 22 million cubic yards that provided the PRR with a superhighway of freight rail linking western markets to the ports of Philadelphia, New York, and Baltimore.
Today, the trail is under the auspices of several townships that acquired ownership and responsibility for the sections within their boundaries. With management divided between several municipalities, trail conditions can differ from one to the next, though the overarching elements—including trail regulations, signage, style of benches, and the like—remain consistent. The trail is open sunrise–sunset.
Western Section (Manor Township): 5.5 miles
With ample parking available, the westernmost trailhead in Manor Township is a good choice to start a quick trail excursion. The crushed-stone and clay-aggregate surface makes for a smooth and easy nearly 5.5-mile ride along the north bank of the Susquehanna River to the point where the Conestoga River empties into it. As of 2019, the segment ends here, though Manor Township is currently working to bridge the Conestoga River and connect its portion to the rest of the Enola Low Grade Trail. The project has been identified by the state as one of the priority trail gaps to resolve; with federal, state, and county funds secured, the project is underway, and the bridge is expected to be completed in 2022.
At the eastern end of the Manor Township section, you’ll see the Safe Harbor Dam, a Great Depression–era hydroelectric public works project. Also visible from the path are active Norfolk Southern tracks, situated downslope from the trail close to the water’s edge; the elevation difference between tracks and trail puts the top of passing trains nearly at your feet. With a restored 1947 Norfolk Southern caboose near the trailhead—as well as picnic shelters, restrooms, observation platforms overlooking the Susquehanna, and signage that explores the history of the railroad—this section of the trail is extremely popular with families and is wheelchair accessible.
Middle Section (Conestoga): 3.4 miles
A currently disjointed section of trail extends along the Susquehanna River from River Road near Colemanville Church Road to Safe Harbor. This section is currently accessible via a trailhead from Colemanville Church Road and passes through a wooded route, terminating just before a closed trestle crossing the Conestoga River.
Eastern Section (Atglen to Martic Township): 20.0 miles
The best place to begin your journey on the eastern segment of the Enola Low Grade Trail, which provides a longer 20-mile journey, is the Quarryville East trailhead along State Route 372/East State Street. The trail quickly deteriorates east of here, turning into unimproved ballast with a sharp, rocky path suited only to hikers and the most dedicated of mountain bikers. Head west instead, where you’ll ride along crushed stone and pass by Quarryville; the town, with food options, is accessible on its west end by heading south on Oak Bottom Road. Shortly after Oak Bottom Road, you’ll pass over US 222, a recent addition that quite literally bridged a gap in the trail.
The trail in this section is far removed from the Susquehanna, so river views are replaced with expansive farm country—when you’re not riding through a cut. You may see snakes, turtles, deer, foxes, turkeys, hawks, falcons, and bald eagles along the way. The crushed-stone path you’ll follow westward is nominally downhill, but with such a slight grade, coasting is not an option. The trail offers little shade and no drinking fountains, so come prepared with sunscreen and water.
About 9.5 miles from your starting point, you’ll approach what was considered by many to be the jewel of the trail: the Martic Forge Trestle over Pequea Creek and River Road. Unfortunately, the bridge was heavily damaged in a 2018 fire that has closed this section of the trail indefinitely; as of 2019, access to the trail stops more than 0.5 mile shy of the trestle, at the SR 324 parking lot. Martic Township is working to rebuild the bridge, though the time line for completion is uncertain. Officials hope to have the bridge back in use at some point between 2020 and 2023.
To reach the River Road trailhead in Manor Township from I-83, take Exit 21A. Merge onto US 30 E, go 12.9 miles, and take the exit toward SR 441 immediately after crossing the Susquehanna River in Columbia. Turn right onto Linden St., and go 0.2 mile. Turn left onto N. Second St., and go 0.2 mile. Turn right onto Bridge St., and go 0.1 mile. Turn left onto SR 441 S/N. Front St., and go 3.6 miles. Continue on Water St., go 0.1 mile, and then veer left onto Herr St. and right onto River Road. Go 1.8 miles, and turn right into the Turkey Hill Nature Preserve parking lot, where the trail begins, just after passing out of farmland and into a forested area.
To reach the River Road trailhead from the intersection of US 30 and US 222 in Lancaster, head west on US 30 for 1.6 miles, and keep right at the fork to remain on US 30 W. Continue 10.7 miles, and take the SR 441 exit toward Columbia/Marietta. Continue straight onto SR 441 S, go 4.2 miles, and continue on Water St. Follow the directions above from Water St. to the Turkey Hill Nature Preserve.
To reach the Quarryville East trailhead along E. State St./SR 372 from the intersection of US 222 and US 30 in Lancaster, head east on US 30, and go 3.9 miles. Keep left to continue on US 30 E, and go another 2.4 miles. Turn right to head southbound on SR 896/Hartman Bridge Road, and go 9.3 miles (as you progress, the road becomes Decatur St. and then May Post Office Road). Turn right onto SR 372 W/Valley Road, and go 1.7 miles. Turn left into the trailhead parking lot.
To reach the Quarryville East trailhead along E. State St./SR 372 from the intersection of US 322 and US 30 in Downingtown, head west on US 30 for 10.8 miles, and continue another 2.5 miles on US 30 W. Turn left onto Swan Road, and go 2.7 miles. Turn left onto Green St., and take the first right onto Valley Ave. In 1.2 miles turn left onto SR 2009, and in 0.2 mile turn right onto Upper Valley Road. Go 2.3 miles and continue straight onto Valley Road, going another 6.6 miles. Continue on E. State St. 0.2 mile, and turn left into the trailhead parking lot.
To reach the trailhead on SR 896/Georgetown Road in Quarryville from Lancaster, follow the directions above to SR 896/Hartman Bridge Road, and go 2.4 miles. Turn left to stay on SR 896 S/Historic Dr., and go 7 miles. Turn left onto SR 896/Georgetown Road, and go 0.3 mile. Turn right onto SR 372 W/SR 896 S, and go 1.3 miles. Turn right into the parking lot, and look for spaces immediately to your left.
To reach the trailhead on SR 896/Georgetown Road in Quarryville from Downingtown, follow the directions above to Upper Valley Road. Go 2.3 miles and continue straight onto Valley Road, going another 2 miles. Turn left onto SR 896, and go 0.3 mile. Turn right into the parking lot, and look for spaces immediately to your left.
I rode my hybrid bike in Feb 2019 from Martic Township (near the closed bridge) to Sawmill Rd (Rd 435). I found the surface to be softer than I'd like, making it rather strenuous. I was riding with 700 x 35 tires. Now that I look on the trail website, I see that they recommend wide tires.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed this ride by moonlight. The surrounding area is really nice and the trial is flat and wide, with a big parking lot in Martic Township.
Update.....trail west of Quarryville to the Pequea Creek just west of Rte 324 is crushed cinder (with good scenery, some open, some in a hollow ditch with several good, safe parking areas). However, the beautiful trestle bridge at Martic Forge was victim of arson in early 2018, so trail does not cross the creek at this time, though repair is hopeful.
Closest parking west of the closed bridge is at Colemanville Church Rd. From there, it's crushed cinder (improved in 2017-18) for 2 miles to a spur (hiking) trail to Shenks Ferry Wildflower Preserve, and another 1 mile improved rail trail to the Conestoga River. There, the Safe Harbor trestle bridge is currently closed but another hopeful for repair. This stretch has designated climbing areas.
West beyond the Safe Harbor bridge is the great, improved, five mile section of the Enola LG that is located in Manor Twp, also with climbing areas, and a nice parking lot at Turkey Hill Point.
For points east of Quarryville- a new parking lot was installed in early -mid 2018 along Rt 372 just east of Q-ville. Not sure of the current surface of trail east of Q-ville, but it was unimproved but manageable with wider tires up to Hollow Rd, then there's a stretch that's not fun, with difficult sand and mud, up to the access at Rte 896.
If you start in Quarryvile and go west, the trail surface is smooth crushed stone and very well maintained. Unfortunately, the trestle at Martic Forge is closed, so you can’t get to the Susquehanna until it’s repaired. From Quarryville east, the trail is a mess. Large stone ballast, mud, weeds, steep slopes at road crossings, and just generally poor conditions. Definitely not road bike friendly. In my case, I was riding a gravel bike, and still had difficulty.
May 9, 2018 - A generally well-maintained trail with an easy grade and an amazing history. Not an incredibly interesting ride as with a freight line it does not go through any towns.
Planned to ride this entire trail only to find it all cut up. Parked at Fairview Rd west of Quarryville - bridge to the east closed. Headed west for a few miles before I come to another trail closed sign just west of Sigman Rd - apparently Martic Township is resurfacing their section as well as installing a pipeline and repaving a parking lot at 324 / Red Hill Rd. Went around that only to find the next section closed due to the bridge fire. Rejoined the trail at Colemanville Church Rd to ride out the remainder. The roads are quite pleasant so the detours were not a huge hassle but I really hope some kind of cross-township organization gets formed or else these kinds of chopped up experiences will continue to happen. It would have been great if there was more info available - either at the trail closed sign or a central place online. Took some real digging to get any good info.
APRIL 30 2018 Bridge at Quarryville over rt 222 almost done, it is Beautiful! Give these trail workers kudos!
So sad to report that the entire wood section of the beautiful Martic Forge trestle bridge burned yesterday, possibly started by brush fires below. This was restored in 2015 after being closed for 20 yrs, linking the section from Safe Harbor to Red hill rd. No word yet on future plans, I believe this is under Martic Twp jurisdiction. I pray this tragedy doesnt derail the planned Safe harbor expansion. The low grade is still a diamond in the rough.
I had ridden this trail in the spring, from the Fairview Road parking area to the blocked-off bridge at Safe Harbor. The Providence Township section is smooth fine gravel. The Martic Township and Conestoga Township sections are more rough. The News and Events section of the Enola Low Grade Trail website (http://www.enolalowgradetrail.com/) indicated that Martic and Conestoga Townships planned to place a new surface on their respective trail portions in late spring, early summer of this year. I rode the trail again October 6, and found that this work had not been done yet, so it was still a bumpy ride. I drove to the Manor Township extension of the trail and rode it - very nice.
We tried to ride this section of trail last year but got turned around when we came upon deep mud. This year we had a plan. I used the satellite view on the TrailLink map to determine which roads we could use to access the trail. We started at Quarryville and rode east, the trail is in great condition, smooth fine stone from edge to edge. Shortly after crossing under State Street (PA 372) the trail becomes 2 slightly worn single tracks over very large (for a rail trail) stones. Between Mt. Pleasant Rd. and Lamparter Rd. we came upon deep soft sandy soil. A truck had left 9 inch deep tire ruts in the trail. Even with 1 1/2 inch tires the sand was too soft to ride through. We returned to our car and drove to Lamparter Rd. to continue our adventure. From there we rode west about half a mile to the sand pit then headed east toward Atglen. The trail surface varied greatly, sometimes very smooth more often rough. Most of the road crossings were steep descents to the road then steep climbs back to the railroad grade. One crossing, I think it was Orchard Buck Rd. was a steep rough climb, lifting bikes over guard rails on both sides of the road then a steep rocky descent back to the trail. There was a short section near the end of the trail where the weeds were waist high, but we kept going. So we can now say that we did the entire Enola Low Grade trail. We give the trail a low grade, but it was an adventure.
My family and some other youth rode from Colmanville Church Rd to the SafeHarbor Dam - nearly 6 miles round trip. The trail was in good shape. Some of the recent stone patching has not packed down. This posed problems for some of our less experienced riders, but my eight year old did well through it. As you cross Green Hill Rd you get some nice elevated views of the Susquehanna. There was a port-a-potty on the trail; probably for the rock climbers we encountered. All in all a good trail. No shade, but we had a beautiful day.
Good ride in warm and dry weather. Rode east and back from kiosk west of Marticville overpass, estimated 5 miles round trip. Rode west and back from new access off of Fairview Road, est. 10 miles round trip. Good tired. :) Joe Nolt
If you're a River Girl like me, you'll really appreciate the miles of gorgeous views as you walk out & back this trail, no matter how far you decide to go. Though there can be a lovely breeze off of the water, there is no shade along this path, so take special care on hot, sunny days.
Started at trail spur at Coleman Church road. Newly redone trestle bridge is very nice. The 2.8 mile crushed stone surface to the undone trestle bridge at Safe Harbor Dam is tricky at times. Lovely views.
Started at Quarryville and rode west, we were hoping that the trail had been improved beyond the Quarryville section, it hadn't. Beside the rough trail surface, there is now vegetation growing over much of the trail. There is a trail under construction sign still up from when the trestle bridge was worked on, that was completed over a year ago. On our way back I noticed a sign at the west end of the trestle bridge that the trail is closed! What is going on here? This trail has great potential but is not being managed well by the local communities, the county or Rails to Trails needs to take over.
Yesterday I did the Western portion of the trail from the Turkey Hill parking lot to the Safe Harbor Trestle(5.1 mi.) in my power wheelchair and the drive was perfect on the crushed limestone throughout. There were plenty of benches and accessible porto-potties along the way, one in the parking area and 2 more on the trail. Also there were plenty of unobstructed views of the river and a couple of raised platforms for wheelchair users to see over the chain-linked fence.
We saw an eastern box turtle crossing the trail and a beautiful peregrine falcon perched on one of the catenary poles left from the railroading days.
The rock outcroppings were lovely too.
The only reason this gets 4 stars is because there isn't a lot of shade, 1/4 of the beginning mile from the parking area is shaded until 1pm. Some might see this as a plus.
Overall this was a great segment of the Enola Low Grade, probably the only portion that has a quality accessible surface.
I rode this trail with a road bike with tires with some tread. I rode both sections: Quarryville to east end of Conestoga Viaduct and the 5 mile section west of the viaduct. In its entirety 50% is in very good condition; 25% is just ok and 25% is a rough ride but certainly doable. There are no facilities at all except at the end points so be prepared . It is a worthwhile ride.
This review is for the trail's northern portion - manor township to Safe Harbor Dam- as of June 2016. It is about a ten mile round trip that runs parallel to the Susquehanna. As others have stated, the trail is very flat (as its name implies), the gravel is well packed (road bike friendly) and the views of the river are inspiring. A metal, chain link fence that runs the length of the trail apparently serves to prevent visitors from wandering (and/or falling) down to rail tracks that look to be still in use between the trail and the river. The fence is an unfortunate intervention. The view would be more pleasing without it. As it is, someone acknowledged this by building a handful of elevated wooden decks that raise eye level high enough to catch a glimpse without the fence in the way, but it just isn't the same. The trail is also lined with picnic tables, park benches ( some of them oddly positioned to face away from the river views); there a few posted signs containing historical information about the railway and an old caboose is on exhibit. You'll see a few streams trickling down the cliff. There is no shade whatsoever. There was hardly anyone around on a Monday afternoon. Plenty of parking.
I started at the 896 point on the trail. No obvious way to get on the trail. Had to ride on the hardware store lawn to access the trail. The next 2.5 miles were very rough for my mountain bike. Real soft/sandy dirt, rough gravel. I would recommend catching other entrypoints west of this one - 2.5 to 5 miles west. Otherwise the trail was nice with finer gravel paths. Got to Safe Harbor and it was not clear at all how to get across to the other side to get to more trail. Warning signs for a path said private property "do not trespass". Enjoyed the rock climbers and wild flowers and view of the river.
The Enola Low Grade Rail Trail combines the experience of running or walking to exercise with riding a bike on this smooth gravel, flat and easy trail lining the Susquehanna River. Visitors will be able to survey the landscape and exercise at the same time. The sight of Bald Eagles are not uncommon, as they will tend to perch on power lines or nearby trees. Beautiful trees and small waterfalls are accompanied by magnificent structures that allow you to survey the Susquehanna's true beauty. Benches, Pavilions, and porta-potties are available for your convenience along with bike racks. Don't miss the caboose train on your hike! Amazing!
Today I rode the new northern branch of this trail. It's a bit over 5 miles one way. They recently brought in some heavy equipment (which was sitting there today) and I was told by someone I was talking to that they were starting to repair the bridge to connect the newest part of the trail to the southern branches. I certainly hope this is accurate as this trail is fantastic and in excellent condition and almost perfectly flat. The parking lot is paved and very nice. There's awesome views of the river but there isn't much to protect you from the sun on a hot summer day so be prepared for that if it's very hot.
I rode Manor Township's 5 mile section of this trail today for the first time. I loved the photos and videos I saw of this section, and in person it does not disappoint. This trail is about an hour away from my home, but I plan to make many return trips. I can't wait for the Safe Harbor Trestle bridge section to be completed (probably a few years away unfortunately). That should provide some (additional) spectacular views!
The 5-mile stretch along the Susquehanna was a fantastic outing on a sunny 60-degree day in late February. Lots of western sunshine, not too windy, and the crowds really thinned out after about the 1.5 mile mark. Trail is super-wide, plenty of room for bikers, walkers, leashed dogs, rock climbers, all to get along happily. Trail is very flat, with a crushed stone surface, not paved, but no ruts, no puddles - it was in great shape. Great views up and down the river, and a few very pretty side creeks rushing down under the trail. Lots of benches along the way if you need to take a break. Several places where you can go uphill into the Turkey Hill trail network.
Couple caveats: There is NO access at the Holtwood Dam/Safe Harbor end - and no connection to the inland portion of Enola low-grade rail route. Parking fills up quickly on a nice day at the Turkey Hill end (Manor Township - northern terminus). In the summer, it's likely to be very hot - not much shade, though there are nice little rest stops (table under a roof) every half mile. There's a porta-potty halfway in. Highly recommended for both on foot and biking.
This could be a great trail but is ruined by the close proximity and frequency of gun fire. Beware, most weekends trail users will have to pass thru a shooting zone to get to and from the parking area at Quarryville, Fairview Rd trailhead in Providence Twshp. No warning signs are posted and local officials have taken no action to stop this dangerous situation, despite many complaints. Do not walk your dog or bring children thru this zone. They will be totally scared. This could be a great trail, Needs rules signage and enforcement. Have used many rail trails and love them, too bad this one is dangerous!
Just today rode the segment from Quarryville to Safe Harbor. It's important for people to realize that each township owns and maintains its own section, and the townships vary WIDELY in their investment / commitment. This western portion of the trail shows a lot of commitment. The section in Providence township is excellent, with a stone dust surface. But that only covers about six miles. Then you enter Martic township, and the surface is gravel. You will prefer mountain bike width tires for that. Same for the next township, which is Conestoga.
The bridge at Martic Forge is open now, and they've done a beautiful job with it! When the bridge across the Conestoga is refurbished, and more townships can put down stone dust, we will be well on our way! :)
month to month improvements are being made on trail real good job . the only problems are they need to enforce are the atv's , cars , amish buggies and horses tearing the place up . entrances at Sigman , Sawmill and Fairview are to wide with a dinky sign in middle , well dinky sign goes into the weeds and its off to the races .the solution would be to plant one more of the stone blocks in middle.
My wife and I entered this trail on our bikes from the Fairview Rd, Quarryville entrance tonight (7:00-7:15pm 8/14/15). We got about halfway to the new bridge (3-4 miles) when we got honked off of the trail by two ladies in a gold Ford Windstar (about 2000 model) traveling at a high rate of speed and leaving a cloud of dust behind them. By the time we got to the new bridge they were long gone but another couple walking their dog said they jumped out of the way when she came flying by. We were not able to get pics or license plate but please be careful. A gate at the new bridge entrance would stop this kind of thing. We have traveled this trail before and really like it. It's about six to seven miles long one way and is fairly well kept. The new bridge is nice and we are looking forward to the completion of the trail.
I first did this trail back in 2011 and did not have a great ride so with that said this trail has come a long way. I did from Quarryvile to Safe Harbor. The first 6.75 miles out of Quarryville has a great surface of Limestone dust the rest of the ride is still rough but not bad. The Highlight of the trip was the Martic Forge Tresle, it is not officially open but there was a lot of traffic using it. In the 20 pulls miles round trip there are a number of new trail heads. The tail Head at Fairview Rd and Us 222 in Quarryville was very busy. This trail is coming of age, if and when the Safe Harbor Trestle is done this will be a great trail
This Review only pertains to the trail east from the river. Like other reviewers have said, there is no shade and no views for much of the way. We started @ Quarryville and rode approx. 7 miles on a very wide crushed stone trail and even tho there was no shade and no views, we were eager to get to the river to see safe harbor dam and the views. But all that came to a screeching halt when the trail turned from a nice crushed stone base to a very Stoney ballast. Very very rough. Driven by a desire to see the river, we pushed on hoping it was only a short section, but it was not and not knowing how far it was going to be so rough, we turned around and headed back. This section of the trail is suited only for mountain bikes. We will not return to this trail.
22 July 15
Rode a section of the trail this (beautiful) morning, starting at the Colemanville Church Road parking lot. Initially rode east to find that the trestle across Pequea Creek is now open (apparently very recently). Then rode west to the Conestoga River Trestle (not open).
This section of the trail is level with a crushed stone surface; some areas look like new stone was added recently. The stone was not well packed and was about the limit for my 700C x 28 tires (fatter tires are recommended). Nice view of the Safe Harbor Dam and Susquehanna River, although trees and brush between the trail and the river frequently blocked the view. Thinning them would be a plus.
Walked the section above the Safe Harbor Dam a few weeks ago - very nicely done! Smoother surface, signage, benches, observation platforms, picnic tables...
A work in progress, will be great when completed. Nice job on the trestle.
PS. If traveling to the area, a stop at Pinnacle (off of River Rd.) is worth the time - the view of the Susquehanna is great. Nice picnic area, too.
The trail is ok. The road is smooth and you get a nice view of the river, but not much else. During the summer it can get really hot due to no shade on this trail, at all. If there where some trees closer to the sides of the path this trail would be a lot nicer. There are little creeks running from the hills down the trail which are rather nice, over all the trail is pretty good.
I am a dog walker. I look for UN-paved trails, my Beagle is a sniffer, the old NOSE attached to four legs! So I look for NON asphalt trails. I look for trails where I can walk the Beagle without getting run over by bike riders. I try to keep her off to the side so there are no issues. But some trails do not give me that opportunity they are paved with no room off to the side. THis sounds like a trail for me. I do 3 to 4 miles then we stop for a rest ( I am 55 with degenerative disc disease in my lower back so I have to rest every few miles). THe trails close to my home are mostly all asphalt and NOT dog walker friendly. And on weekends are so jammed packed it is almost unsafe. I need to find my way to this trail.
Yes, the trail is discontinuous because of old railroad bridges and separate municipalities. We rode the trail between the Turkey Hill overlook and the Safe Harbor dam. It's approximately five miles, which is a bit more than 10 miles out and back. The parking lot is paved and huge with porta potties. The trail is very wide with nice and quiet views of the river. We brought our son in his bike trailer. We're climbers so we brought gear for a pleasant morning sport climb on one of the many bolted routes. Plenty of picnic tables, benches, small pavilions, some historical stuff, etc. This section is excellent. Great time!
This trail is only 8 miles long of improved surface (not paved), but that stretch is nice enough, though there is no parking.
The other miles are all loose gravel that was rough going on a rigid Trek (no suspension). Sections were flooded, unmarked, had the railway tunnels filled in, has missing railway bridges, or required me to walk my bike along parallel horse trails. The town of Atglen has no real entry point, and it was extremely difficult to access the trail there.
No water facilities or bathrooms, either. No shade, except for giant power line towers.
Lots of improvements going on, but there's a LOT left to get done.
On 4/19/15 and did the new section in Manor Township. All I can say is O.M.G. It is just over 5.5 miles and it has it all Park Benches, Picnic Tables, Mile Markers, a Great Surface, a Great View, Historic Markers and last but not least Potapoties. A couple of years ago I rode from Atglen Pa to Martic Forge and had a very bad ride so when so I was in no hurry to have any part of Enola Low Grade Trail. I read a few of the review I just had to do this new section. I just want everybody at Manor Township to know what a great job they have done.
I like to get on the Enola Low Grade trail from the entrance adjacent to the Turkey Hill Trail off of 441 south in Columbia/Conestoga just north of the Turkey Hill dairy.
Along the few miles south I've traveled so far there have been plenty of picnic tables, viewing points, stops and porta-potties along the way for ease of travel. The trail is very gravelly with some larger stones so I would only recommend traversing by foot or bike with larger tires.
Rode this trail today for the first time this year. Trail is in great condition considering the harsh winter we had. Get out and ride!!
This trail gives you a great opportunity to view the Susquehanna River, Safe Harbor hydroelectric plant and bald eagles flying over the river. The parking area Manor township installed coupled with the rail bed's finish makes it enjoyable for all skill levels. There is little shade so a hot day may not be the best time to try the trail out.
Don't bother. I drove out there and there is no info on eastern end of said trail. Atglen is not open for business. Post office told me to come back in maybe 10 years. "R.R. police will come get you if try to access." Youtube has videos of western section about 5 miles in total. This site has old info. and is misleading. Let's get with the program Trailink!!!
The Providence Township section of the trail and the Fairview trailhead is complete and makes for a very nice ride for about 6.5 miles west of Quarryville. The trailhead is on Fairview Road about a quarter mile west of US Route 222, just north of Quarryville.
As far as the history of the rail line is concerned, someone had commented that the construction of the rail line involved as much or more excavation as the building of the Panama Canal. While not diminishing the amount of work required to build the line, the 22 million cubic yards of excavation to build it is far less than the 320 million cubic yards of excavation associated with the building of the Canal (source - David G. McCullough - Path Between the Seas)
We were in the area from out of state late season camping and sought out this trail via the website.
Signage and parking were well-marked. Set high above the Susquehanna River, this very WIDE trail is so enjoyable. While not a challenge since it is completely flat, it still amazes at the river bends, an occasional train coming by, picnic tables and benches to stop and rest.
We were very cold being that it was only 39 degrees out. We only saw a handful of other people. There are even viewing platforms (so one can see above the fence line) and plaques explaining the construction of the railroad in the early 20 century. Congrats to the taxpayers and supervisors who got this trail built.
Very disappointed, it say 28.9 miles, went 5.25 miles and got to bridge and it was closed
I've biked this trail often and saw eagles the last two weekends on the trail! First an adult bald eagle, then a juvenile the next weekend.
Providence Twp has just resurfaced 8 miles of the trail - from Quarryville west it's at least 4 inches of fresh stone dust and berms were regraded and mowed as well. I understand now why Manor Twp bans horses, since horsehoe imprints are already evident in the newly laid gravel. Parking areas are also being refurbished and it appears some of the railroad bridges previously removed are being replaced with smaller pedestrian versions. Kudos to all the municipalities who are actively improving their sections. It's my hope that they will see the benefit of working together to create a seamless 26 miles that would attract trail users from both near and far.
The trailhead beginning in Atglen is “unofficial”. This because the local municipality is too afraid to take any kind of liability. It’s a shame. They seem to take the passive aggressive “out of sight out of mind" approach, and not address the potential tourist drawl and value the trail has for community. The ironic part however is that they promote the history of the trail on their website www.atglen.org.
We take the trail all the time, however. From Atglen you immediately cross an amazing aqueduct, while passing through numerous Amish farms you will go through and over several tunnels and scenic creek crossings.Rougly a 10 mile hike to Quarryville where you can refuel at the Turkey hill and continue on.
The Atglen to Quarryville section of the trail really demostrates the engineering marvel this line was. You may be 35 feet above the terrain, and in 1 mile drop to 35 feet below the terrain.
Park at the Atglen borough hall or one of the town side streets. Walk up the ballast and keep left as if your heading west. Once the Amtrak line begins to curve northwest the trail will appear. Keep yielding left.
Manor Township got it right with there end of the trail. Unlike the other end the stone surface is great for biking and there are plenty of benches, picnic tables and scenic views of the Susquehanna River. Like the restored caboose also!
If you are looking for the trail head in Atglen, don't waste your time--there isn't one. I drove around the town for 45 minutes looking and also stopped to ask 3 locals--no one knew what I was talking about. The only railroad bed in Atglen is the one the Amtrak trains run on.
East from Bushong road a lot of soft mud and so much water over the trail making impassible. West of Bushong the trail is fine no mud.
This trail is perfect for people of all ages!
I just wrapped up riding the 5.25 miles on the Enola Low Grade Trail in Manor Township. The river view was amazing and the beauty that Mother Nature created was beautiful. It was an easy ride and would recommend it to anyone.
The Manor section of this trail is one of the nicest rail trails I have ever ridden! There is a 5 mile ride out to safe harbor that was completed and is beautiful. At the 5 mile mark there is a long bridge that is closed and I haven't found a way to get around it.
This township only allows foot traffic on its section of the Low Grade.
The Manor Township segment of the trail is very nice and a credit to insightful township supervisors, it is really 5 stars. Be aware, the success of this part of the trail brings a lot of walkers and family with small children out on the weekends and can make serious bike riding a challenge. Out of town visitors who are coming any distance may want to plan a stop to the Manor Township portion of the trail on their way to the Heritage Trail in York county. This trail is the best trail for a long ride in the area until the Chester Valley trail is completed.
The entrance and ride west of Quarryville is very rough and I have given up trying to ride it. The ride east of Quarryville is non existent. Unfortunately, Lancaster county lost a chance years ago to potentially have one of the best trails on the east coast. Local politics and nearby land owners who thought they would be able to get land for free when the land portion of the line was abandoned have made most of the trail unusable for biking, and in some areas for walking.
For those who are history or engineering buffs, this trail is of international significance. Built in the same era as the Panama Canal, as much, perhaps more earth was moved to build this line as the canal. Entirely privately financed by the Pennsylvania RR to allow freight to bypass the busy Philadelphia to Harrisburg (and west) main line and now what is known as the Northeast corridor, this trail really should be part of the National Park System.
Overall the trail is great! It's an easy ride or walk. The scenery is beautiful as it is right on the banks of the river. The only problem I have is with the parking situation. The parking lot is a single lane road and there are not nearly enough spaces for how many people use the trail.
Yes, as other reviews recently have mentioned, the brand new 5mi.segment of the Enola Low Grade Trail draws a great crowd on fair weather days like today.
Manor Township - you have done a wonderful job in bringing this fantastic trail into being. Congratulations!
I don't think it has been prominently mentioned elsewhere so far, that the southern terminus of the segment towers nearly 100 feet directly above the Safe Harbor Hydroelectric dam. What a vista of the dam and downstream on the Susquehanna River the trail provides from this point. It is truly breathtaking. As word gets around about this new trail the crowds are bound to only get bigger. But, not to worry, the site can handle it, and you are sure to enjoy a trip here.
I was eager to try this trail and drove 30 minutes to get there and found it closed for maintenance. Maintenance is critical and welcomed I get that but when I visited the web site in the am I must have missed where the closure was posted. :(
The Manor Township section of the the Enola Low Grade Trail was packed on Sunday September 15, 2013. Ideal weather and a fantastic trail. At 3 o'clock in the afternoon there were 127 vehicles on site, the parking lot holds 70! Hopefully this type of use will encourage our neighboring townships to provide a user friendly surface on their sections. If you do, they will come!
I rode the trail on two separate days starting at the Providence Township trailhead on August 31, 2013; and the Conestoga Township on September 7, 2013. The plan was to bike through Providence and Martic Townships to the Pequea Creek Bridge to check the status of the crossing. Then on the second day, ride through Conestoga Township to Conestoga River Bridge to check it.
The Providence Township kiosk is on Fairview Road two tenths of a mile west of U.S. 222 north of Quarryville. Providence Township has one of the better web sites describing their 8 mile section of the trail. The map provides detailed instructions for crossing U.S. 222 from the eastern section of the trail to the western section of the trail.
The August temperature was in the low 80's-the dew point was 80 degrees making for semitropical conditions. I met a number of people using the Providence trail from intrepid joggers, nature lovers, and family of bikers. Of all the townships owning the trail, Providence Township is one of the two that really has shown interest in developing the trail.
The trail is packed small stone and the ride is fairly easy. The significant landmarks are the stone arches over PA Route 272 where the trail is high above the road.
I rode 6 miles to the Sigman Road crossing. The bridge over the road had been removed requiring a climb down a steep slope. However, I was greeted with an imposing sign "TRAIL CLOSED." I climbed up the bank and saw another sigh about 200 yards down the trail the said "STOP-MARTIC TOWNSHIP." I rode back to trailhead. Later, I checked the Martic Township web site which said they closed the trail at the PA Route 324 crossing but made no mention of closing it at the Providence Line.
On September 7, 2013, the weather was cool and dry. I set out to ride Conestoga Township section of the trail between the Pequea Creek Bridge and the Conestoga River Bridge. It was very difficult finding the Conestoga Township trailhead on Colemanville Church Road because there are two separate sections of the road. The best way to find the trailhead is to search Google Maps in the satellite view which shows both. The trailhead is on the dead-end section off River Road.
I finally found the trailhead and rode two tenths of mile east to the Pequea Creek Bridge. It was blocked. I could see through rotted gaps in the original decking to the creek 60-70 or more feet below. (I suggest that persons interested in the Pequea Creek and Conestoga River Bridges check Google Maps stellite view for actual photos showing the massive structures.)
I turned and started riding west. The trail is 3/4 to 1 inch very loose stone requiring careful riding with both hands on the bars. The trail takes a sweeping turn to the north and magnificent Susquehanna River comes into view far below.
As I rode north, I could see groups of people ahead. They were rock climbers attacking the sheer rock face on the right that rose 50-60 feet or more.
I rode to the Conestoga River barricade with a serious sigh threating tresspassers with prosicution. The bridge deck was similar to the Pequea Creek Bridge. As far a I could tell, no work had been done on either of these bridges. I turned and returned to the trailhead.
I might add that significant information about the trail and its status including litigation between Lancaster County and several townships over ownership; opening and closing the trail in various sections for equestrian use; Sadsbury Township provicial attitude toware trail opening; and etc, is available in the Lancaster newspapers on-line. These make fascinating reading.
The Enola Lowgrade Trail obviously has great potential.
There have been several key developments on this trail in recent months; as other reviewers have pointed out, the much-anticipated Manor Township section is now open to the public. As expected, this section is a superb "rail with trail" and easily ranks alongside the nearby York County Heritage Rail Trail/Torrey Brown Rail Trail as one of the best multi-use greenways in the region. The smooth, "self-healing" crushed stone and clay surface is superior to the coarse, bumpy one that Amtrack laid on the sections further east a couple years back and numerous amenities, including benches, chemical toilets, a restored caboose, observation decks for viewing the Susquehanna River and the possibility of viewing a Norfolk Southern freight train rumbling on the active railroad tracks below combine to make this portion a state-of-the-art, first class rail trail that will certainly boost tourism in the lower Susquehanna River region. It also serves as a model for the less-developed sections further east. Unfortunately, continuous, uninterrupted passage on the trail is still precluded by the Safe Harbor and Martic Forge trestles, both of which remain closed to the public, though local officials are working to raise funds to refurbish them, and a third gap exists just outside Quarryville, where a bridge over Route 222 was removed. For this reason, it is best to describe the trail as divided into four, currently uncnnected segments; the aforementioned Manor Township section, one between the two trestles in Conestoga Township, one between Route 324 and Fairmount Road in Martic and Providence townships and a fourth, stretching from Quarryville east to a point just outside Atglen in Chester County. Of these other three segments, the ones in Conestoga, Martic, Providence and Eden townships and Quarryville are fairly well-developed, and Providence Township has a chemical toilet and informative kiosk at its Fairmount Road trailhead, and has also reused stone slabs from the demolished Route 222 bridge as trail benches (admittedly not as comfortable as the wooden Manor Township ones, though they are creative). Perhaps because of the intense opposition to the trail in the past, the sections in Bart and Sadsbury townships have not been nearly as well-maintained; weeds have easily broken through the stone surface laid by Amtrack just a couple years ago, and users must ascend or descend steep grades where several bridges over or under local roads were removed. However, even here there are signs of hope and progress; the Lancaster newspaper reported that Sadsbury Township finally opened its section to the public in July (though it remains overgrown and unimproved) and I recently read that these two eastern municipalities have joined their neighbors to the west in applying for grant money to fix drainage problems and make other improvements to the trail. Finally, the Martic Township section of the trail is closed, as of August 2013, while improvements are being made to the trailhead, concurrent with the realignment of the Route 324/Red Hill Road intersection. I encourage all the negative reviewers to be patient; yes, the sections east of Manor Township still leave much to be desired, but the Enola Low-Grade Trail is slowly, but surely being developed, and I am confident that it will eventually be one of the best rail trails in the state, forming an important link in a long-distance greenway that will link Pennsylvania's capital (Harrisburg) with its largest city (Philadelphia).
I parked at the really informative Bart Township kiosk on 8/25/2013 at Georgetown Road, and started heading west. However the trail was overgrown with weeds and soon I hit the mud and wet silt. A rider before me must have sunk up to his ankles and I walked in his footsteps pushing my bike. The heavy vegetation cleaned my wheels eventually. There was a dark culvert under a crossing road with heavy lose balast.
Eventually, I came to Bushhong Road and another informative kiosk. The townships really do a nice job with the kiosks. I would recommend starting here rather farther east for a west bound ride. There is sufficient parking and shade for a picnic. There were four horses tied to the gate and I could hear four youths covorting in the adjacent creek, an added benefit.
I continued west for very disapointing ride. The trail was bounded in heavy foliage on both sides or went through deep rock cuts obscuring views of the country. As I approached Quarryville, the trail was raised high above the town, and I found myself looking into the second-story windows of early 19th century Victorian brick homes. It would have been nice to get off the trail and ride through Quarryville, however there was no access from the height.
I turned around and headed back; and when reaching the Bushhong Road kiosk, I took the paved road north to Valley Road rather than ride through the mud and weeds. Valley Road has a paved shoulder making it a very nice ride through the Amish country side dodging the horse dropping though. I was fortunate no horse and buggys were on my side. However, I passed several going in the opposite direction. One thing I noticed was that I seldom saw any Amish kids simle or wave back at me with glee.
Perhaps, in the future, the eastern sections on Enola trail will receive impovement. Now the eastern end is probably little use for family biking. Also travel in Sadsbury Township is Posted. Last year, I went to the township office to seek permission to ride the trail in Sadsbury, but they refused.
I want to add a post script. There is a really interesting article in the Lancaster Sunday News by a reporter Jon Rutter dated Aug 5, 2012 who rode the trail.
I rode this trail this morning with some friends and it is GREAT! Manor Township did a very nice job on their side of the trail.
People on the trail are very friendly, great view of the river and lot to see here if you take the time to look. The trail surface is very nice.
I was on the trail Saturday for a bit in the afternoon with my dog and also had a very positive experience -- everyone I passed was nice and generally said hi!. The parking lot was full but you could park in the grass.
I live in Providence Township and can not wait till our side is done and the trail hooks together.I always refer to this trail as a diamond in the rough and now it is starting to shine!
Great job Manor Township!
Forgot to note in the other reiveiw that it may be a while until the Safe harbor Trestle over the conestoga river is rehabbed and open for use to connect the Manor township segment with the martic Township segment. I've heard that that the cost was $17million. Yeah that lead paint leaves a legacy.
I Did hear that Martic township is in the process of rehabbing the Martic Forge trestle Which would in theory allow one to ride to the Conestoga river and Safe Harbor from the east.
Wow, This is a magnificent rail Trail!!!
This was the first Saturday that the trail was open since it's dedication on 8/22/2013.
A cold front came thru overight, the sky was blue with puffy clouds. Temp in the 70's with low humidity! Perfect!!!!!!!
It is 5 miles of views of the SusQ River, flanked by sheer rock walls.
The trail surface is 1/4 inch stone with a sand binder. Easy to ride on and easy on the back and bottom for this late 50's rider.
Parking space was at a premium but there are 60 spaces, and porta potties at the trail head.
The users were of all ages and types, joggers , two 60+ mennonite ladies walking, a gaggle of under 12,cyclists, a couple on a tandem,50+ crowd,( myself included)walkers, walkers w/ dogs, you name it , it was the place to be this morning!!! talked with a retired engineer from the Pennsylvania railroad, who is going to bring some vistors down for a stroll later in the week.
The rock walls shade the trail in the morning, so i would suggest morning rides during the summer months, and afternoon rides in cooler weather.
The only disappointing item that i have is that there were no clear markings or signs for the Turkey Hill trail, which runs along the ridge top. Hikers can do the 5 miles south along the turkey hill trail and then return the 5 miles to the trail head on the flat rail trail.
Thank you To the Manor Township Supervisors for sticking with the vision for this trail, that is now a reality!!!!!!
The Manor Township section of the trail opened yesterday. We were impressed with this trail. It was a long time coming but well worth the wait. the trail surface was perfect and the views of the Susquehanna were amazing. Manor Township did a great job and hopefully the other townships will do the same.
Today, August 20th, Manor Township formally opened their section of the Enola Low Grade Rail-Trail. The 5 mile section is situated high above the Susquehanna River and affords wonderful views of Long Level. Parking is available only on the north end of the trail and can be accessed from River Road just south of Washington Boro, PA. Watch for a sign marking the entrance to the park.
BUMPY BUMPY BUMPY ride!!! Very jarring and unpleasant unless of course you like being jarred while riding over coarsely ground stones. There's no shade except for an occasional bridge shadow. Pretty trail w/foliage and rock sides but under high power lines, not as pretty as many of the other trails in the State. Glad that I tried it out but won't be riding this again. Back to much smoother trails for me!
Tried to ride part of this trail last evening. Drove over 20 miles looking for a place to access the trail to no avail. Could see the trail but could not get to it or find a place to park my car. Looks like it needs a lot of TLC
Pennsylvania has a lot of great rail trails but this is NOT one of them.
- Most of the trail is not open yet . . .
- Shade is provided by the power poles - bring sunscreen
- It could easily be a really nice trail with a few roller trips up and down it during spring thaw (or a layer of crush and run). This trail in the shape that it was in today (June 9, 2013) will never become a family use trail - it is just way too rough for kids on small bikes. I am so glad I did not bring my grandson.
I ride 25-30 miles most Sunday afternoons but was worn out on this trail after 15 miles due to the rocks . . . . .
I grew up near Bart/Georgetown Pa. I still live in the area. Anyway the Enola Low Grade Trail is special to my family, because in the late 1920s my great grandfather was a night watchmen on the Low Grade. He walked almost 3 miles to work 5-6 nights a week. By day he worked his own 175 acre farm. He'd sleep for 2hrs after he got back home. My daughter, myself and my mom are currently walking the trail in stages.I wish W. Salisbury would open it up to Orchard Buck rd.
I rode yesterday with my 20 month Daughter in a bike trailer. We started in Quarryville and headed west. The 3/4" crushed stone made for a bumpy ride. I hope that it will break in as time goes on and smooth out. There was a very brief section of compacted stone dust, that was amazing to ride on, and I thought I wish it was all like this.
At one point I looked back and my daughter was holding onto the sides looking up at me as if to say "so this was your idea of fun?" Its the closest trail to my house, which makes it great to just to go for a quick evening ride, and it is nice not to worry about traffic (especially with a little one), and since I'm just getting back into shape, the lack of significant hills is a bonus for the time being.
That said I will only return for solo rides on occasion, and spare my daughter the torture she endured in the trailer, until conditions improve.
If you do go to ride let some air out of your tires to help absorb the shock.
The trail would make for a great leisurely walking trail.
It is funny to me to read all of these reviews by trail users who seem to expect perfection on public-funded trails, especially those that are former railroads embroiled in political discourse. Several towns did not want this trail built, so what users are going to get is a checkboard trail system with several disconnected sections. Secondly, not sure why some folks are complaining that Amtrak needs to do more to improve this trail. Amtrak has one single responsibility: operate trains. The fact they own and maintain the wires that travel the length of the trail has absolutely nothing to do with the trail and its condition. They are not in the business of rail trails and have no reason to even slightly care what happens on the trail below their wires---unless it is for their benefit. That being said, whatever gripes trail users have about the Enola trail should be aimed squarely at the townships responsible for its maintanence, many who have no $$$ right now. For now, spoiled trail users should be happy with what they have. If not, contribute to its expensive upkeep and leave Amtrak alone.
My wife and I decided to try out this trail on sunday it was such a lovely day, I read the reviews and did not have high hopes she rides a hybrid and I ride a mountain bike I set tire pressure at 30psi, we parked at Marticville rd & 324 we headed east until we reached the tunnels at rt272 the trail is rougher than some but not horrible for a mountain bike it is wide and straight as a arrow on that section, we turned around and road back to our car and then drove to the parking lot on Coleman church rd, the section between the parking lots is closed ( Martic township order ) because of the tresle bridge but I think some people do cross the bridge, we road west towards the Susquehanna river it is more senic this way maybe slightly rougher or we were getting tired, when you get to safe harbor dam there was probably 50 people rock climbing on the cliffs it is neat to watch, the trail ends there due to another long bridge, I wish the bridges were open but I am sure that costs a fortune to do, we road 13 miles all together and I must admit that last mile it was getting old, my wrist is sore and my wife says she is sore all over, now we are no spring chickens I am almost 50 and my wife is just over 50. i would not ride this with a road bike but a mountain bike no problem you just have to prepare, with a little effort the trail could be very nice. It is worth the ride towards the river you will love it.
October 23rd, 2012 was a fine Autumn day for a bike ride. I had high hopes we were looking at the worst surface at this access area. I thought surely the trail would improve as we pedalled east. It didn't improve a bit. 2 miles down and we turned around and beat our way back to the car. As the trail sits today, it is a teeth rattling, brain shaking experience. A pity too, because the trees were in beautiful color. Expect your ride to be on the rough side. I would also advise against using skinny tires. Oh well...
Today I took part in an organized walk on the Low-Grade East of Quarryville. Nice walk - Bad walking surface. Not as bad a raw ballast stone but not very comfortable on the feet. Hope the people controlling this trail take some constructive criticism and improve the surface in the near future. I’ll wait awhile before visiting again. Unlike other RT in the area – there are very few trees shading this trail. I think a summer afternoon will be very HOT. One star for trail surface. Three stars for trail progress since opening. Five stars for the trails potential
Summary: This is not a finished trail for the average bicyclist. Trail is mainly medium driveway stone (lots of vibration), so shock absorbing frames, hand grips and seats, along with large tires are recommended. Very secluded and peaceful trail. No easy-access services other than Quarryville. We rode from Atglen to the parking area at 324 and Red Hill road near Marticville on 9-1-12. The trail was closed in Sadsbury township as noted by others with No Trespassing signs at every entrance. We biked a few miles along Lower Valley and Upper Vally roads looking for a trail entrance that was not Posted, which was a nice secluded ride in itself. We entered the trail by climing the bank at the underpass on Quaker Church Road. From that point to just past rt. 896, the trail was acceptable. Shortly past 896, we rode through a tunnel with no finished surface - looked like corse track ballast. Then we hit a section in Bart Twp that was overgrown and we were pretty much riding in tall grass with only a narrow portion of stone showing (got grass caught in the chains and sprockets twice). Somewhere near the Bart Twp. and Eden Twp line, the grass was cut and the ride became nice again (still the unfinished stone surface). If I were to do this trail again next week, I would start at a parking area that I think is in eastern Eden Twp. and ride west. We rode into Quarryville, had lunch, then got back on the trail and rode to the parking area on 324 and Red Hill road. Crossing rt. 222 is easy - see the map in the Providence Twp. Enola trail site for the route. Compliments to Eden and Providence Twps. for keeping the tral nice. As others stated, a smoother top surface would make the trail friendlier to all users. Including our road riding in Sadsbury township and detour for Pizza in Quarryville, our ride was about 25 miles. We saw no other people on the trail. We did see more butterflies and dragonflies than we've seen the entire summer, along with a few hawks and buzzards. We ride many places and were glad we rode this trail. However, since it is new, it isn't in finished condition yet. If you are just starting in this area, there are nicer trails to ride (easier on the body), but if you've done all the more established trails, give this one a try.
I got a bone bruise on my foot trying to hike east from Greentree Hardware. WRONG SHOES. I hope we can leave our younger generation more than a weedy rough trail. Just tossing out ideas. I think it will get overgrown with weeds from lack of use. 5 miles from my house. signed, cranky old hiker
Unfortunately, this trail is not suitable for biking riding... while I was skeptical of previous reviews, they were in fact dead-on accurate. Hopefully improvements will be made to make this a more bike-friendly trail; otherwise, it will end up under utilized and wasted. I was exciting to try it since it's a nice long trail (23mi), one of the few long trails in the Lancaster area. However, our experience with it was brief-We rode about a mile and half and turned around and opted for the Lancaster / Lebanon trail instead. The stones on the trail surface are just too big (and therefore too rough) for an enjoyable trail ride... it definitely needs a better surface. I'd recommend the Lancaster / Lebanon trail or the York Heritage Rail Trail - both are very nice trails with a great riding surface.
I was tour leader for scouts of Troop 99, PA Dutch Council, who road the trail with their Moms from Georgetown Rd. in Bart Twp. to Red Hill Rd. in Martic Twp. on Mothers Day, 5/13/12. The 1990 vision of the Friends of the Susq.-Atglen trail, while failing 20 years ago, is slowly becoming a reality. We used mountain bikes on the 2B stone (1.5 inches and under, crushed limestone) at 6 - 10 MPH. As in all our bike hikes, we ended the hike with pizza a mile away from the trail in Quarryville. New Providence Twp. has a great map for the western part. Valley Rd in the east parallels the trail for a sag wagon to follow along.
There is strong local support for converting the viaducts over the Pequea (peckway) and Conestoga River to trail use to become the gems of the lower Susquehanna.
A link from the Atglen trailhead to the Chester Valley Trail (just now being talked about) will enable cyclists to travel from the Susquehanna to the Schuylkill R. trail to the Ben Franklin Bridge bike/pedestrian path to NJ.
It took over 30 years for the GAP to become a reality. Only with hard work and perseverance can this become a reality. Ride it for the vision of what will become. Your children will have a unique experience to remember.
We rode on the western end but gave up after a couple of miles. The stone is way to big for comfortable biking. This trail is in the sun so would make for a nice ride on a cool day if you can stand the stone surface.
I'm giving this four stars cause the ride was fun but it shook the freaking heck out of ya. Next time i'm walking on this thing.
If i didn't come home with my bones shattered, i would of rated this five stars. Ahhhh well. By the way, Martic Township takes great care of this trail. Better then the other Townships.
attempted to ride this from western end. 1 inch rock, gave up in a couple of miles. Was shaking my
Having read all the negative reviews posted in the past year, I felt a need to put things in perspective. Yes, Amtrack could have done a much better job when they laid down the surface while erecting the new power poles last year. The relatively poor quality of the surface was likely a rush job, as Amtrack had attempted to renege on their earlier agreement to install any type of trail, and it was only pressure from the county and township governments, as well as countless e-mails and letters from project supporters, that changed their minds.
Despite this slipshod job, the new stone surface is far superior to the loose, chunky ballast and muddy dirt that covered the rail bed prior to the powerline upgrade last year. That "surface," if it could be described as such, was so coarse that even the most sturdy hiking or work boots could not prevent soar ankles and legs, along with the very real danger of sprains or fractures, and made bicycling and other uses all but impossible. The reviewer who said that the new surface "barely qualifies as a trail" had clearly not seen it before the Amtrack project. Thanks to Amtrack, foot-based activities, such as hiking and jogging, are much easier, and I have seen Amish kids riding foot-powered scooters and parents pushing their babies and toddlers in strollers with relative ease. The surface may not be the best for cyclists, but it is usable and can be enjoyed in this matter.
Other notable improvements made during the past year or so include the installation of user-friendly trailheads with ample parking at Fairmount Road in Providence Township and Bushing Road in Eden Township, which add nicely to the previously constructed ones off Colemanville Church Road and Route 324 in Conestoga and Martic townships, respectively. The trailheads in Conestoga, Martic and Eden townships, along with a less user-friendly access point off Route 896 in Bart Township, all feature kiosks with the name of the township engraved on the top, maps of the now-abandoned Enola Low Grade rail line that the trail was built along, and signs interpreting nearby historical sites related to the construction and operation of that railroad. Although it currently contains no kiosks or intepretive signage, the Providence Township trailhead features a publicly accessibly mailbox stuffed with brochures that include maps of that municipality's segment of the trail, along with a brief history and interpretations of nearby historical structures. The cliffs and cuts that extend up from the section of the trail along the Susquehanna River south of Safe Harbor are now open to rock climbing, branch trails (albeit still unmarked) have been developed connecting the trail to adjacent recreation features, including the Shenks Ferry Wildflower Preserve in Conestoga Township and members of a local cycling club have volunteered to work with the townships by installing additional signage. Finally, several of the municipalities that the trail passes through, including Conestoga, Martic, Providence (which also manages the segment through Quarryville) and Eden townships, have signed an agreement to coordinate its maintenance, patrolling and future development.
Improvements that should happen in the next couple years include rehabilitation of the now-closed Martic Forge Trestle (Martic and Conestoga Township officials say that they are working to secure funds), construction of a new bridge over Route 222 north of Quarryville, both of which will eliminate major gaps that must be detoured on local roads, and hopefully, installation of a new surface of finer stone. Officials in Manor Township are in the final stages of acquiring the westernmost segment of the line from Turkey Hill to Safe Harbor, and have stated that they expect to have a formal trail built by fall. However, planned rehabilitation of the Safe Harbor Trestle, which is larger than the Martic Forge, is probably still several years away. Sadsbury Township officials have also made vague statements about opening their segment of the trail "later this year." Despite being improved as part of Amtrack's powerline project, this easternmost segment of the trail officially remains closed to the public and is posted with "no tresspassing" signs. It is probably no coincidence that Sadsbury Township, along with neighboring Bart Township, was the site of the most vocal opposition to the trail since it was first proposed two decades ago.
Now the bad: most of the steep dropoffs that can be found along the trail, especially on western segments, do not have any safety fencing or guard rails. Aside from a couple small signs in Conestoga Township warning users to "keep away from dropoffs," and newly installed wooden rails on bridges in Quarryville and atop the Route 272, the only safety features of any type are old, rusty railings left over from the railroad that can still be found on a couple of the remaining bridges and on a small section along the Susquehanna River. Also, despite their agreement to work together, the townships' insistance on local maintenance and ownership of the trail has led to inconsistent regulations on some segments; Conestoga, Providence and Eden townships have banned hunting, but Martic and Bart townships both permit this, so caution should be exercised, especially in fall. Bart Township, which, like Sadsbury, vocally opposed the trail's development in the past and only reluctantly agreed to open it to the public after Norfolk Southern formally abandoned it in 2008, also permits the use of farm equipment and Amish buggies on their segment, which has left ruts in the stone surface and left it littered with piles of horse manure. It should also be noted that Bart Township, like Sadsbury Township, has not yet joined the other township's coordination agreement.
Another obstruction to smooth passage on the Enola Low-Grade Trail is the removal of overpasses across Sigman and Oak Bottom roads in Providence townships and Bushong Road in Eden Township and White Oak Road in Sadsbury Township and underpasses that once carried the line over Mount Pleasant and Lamparter roads in Bart Township and Brick Mill and Orchard Buck roads in Sadsbury Township, resulting in steep ramps ascending or descending to grade-level intersections. Since these are all rural roads with low traffic volumes, crossing them is much safer than detouring around the gaps at the Martic Forge Trestle and the north end of Quarryville, both of which require traveling alolng busy Routes 324 and 222, respectively. Nonetheless, the steep grades come up rather suddenly and, worse, are currently unsigned on either the trail or adjacent roads. The aforementioned tunnel under Hollow Road in Bart Township was also constructed for drainage, not bicycle or foot traffic, and should either be replaced or significantly improved, and the state PUC is still planning to remove several of the remaining bridges across Hollow Road in Providence Township (not to be confused with the different road by the same name in Bart Township), Pumping Station Road in Eden Township and Vintage Road in Bart Township. Fortunately, officials in all of these municipalities are fighting these efforts. It should also be noted that Providence Tow2nship officials confirmed that there are no plans to remove the tunnels that carry Route 272 under the line, as a previous reviewer claimed.
Last, but not least, there are still few amenities along the trail. No restrooms, benches or picnic areas have yet been installed, nor have any ice cream shops, bicycle stores or small museums yet been established (however, a Burger King, strip mall with a grocery store, pizza joint and Chinese restaurant and several convenience stores are located a short distance from the trail in Quarryville). However, I am optimistic that these improvements will occur over the next several years.
In short, people expecting a state-of-the-art, multi-use regional trail similar to the York County Heritage/Torrey Brown, Conewago Recreation/Lebanon Valley or Schuylkill River trails will be disappointed with the Enola Low-Grade Trail. However, those who recall the previous state of the line or the frustrating, nearly two-decade long battle to even get a trail constructed, will be pleased with the progress made to date on its development. I would encourage users to view the glass as half-full instead of half-empty and to recall the old saying that "Rome Wasn't Built In a Day".
When I saw the review of this trail 4/20/12 I could not help but think back to my two rides last year. There have been fourteen reviews and only one gave it a good rating. Some of the comments where, Bone jarring, Barely qualifies as a trail, What a let down, Lots of room for improvement, Stone could use more crushing, Who ever designed the surface has never rode a bike, The draw back of this trail is the large stone, A very rough ride that I would not recommend, The large stone used to pave this trail is not appropriate for any thing but a truck, It is just not unfinished, The tunnel is muddy and very wet, We certainly won't be back. It is a shame that the surfs of this trail was done so poorly by Amtrak as this could be a very good trail.
We biked over ten miles of this trail on hybrids today, from Red Hill Road at SR 324 to the far side of Quarryville and back, twenty miles total. One of us got a flat six miles out, and it is a wonder we only had one. I rode this trail before it was one, and the dirt surface was a million times better than the stone chunks that cover it now. They have cut all trees far back from the trail so there is no shade at all. The Townships who now own this corridor were basically opposed for years to having a trail, and they have made it less accessible than before, except to walkers. Parking lots are far apart, there are no services, and the risks of falling from a bike are great. In addition, several overpasses have been removed, and in only three places (of the six where we rode) has a decent route been provided to drop down and cross the roads and to climb back up. And there are no notices at any of those points, where cars travel at high speeds, that pedestrians and bikers may be crossing. We certainly won't be going back until it is paved or at least crushed stoned.
I'm giving it 4 stars just for the progress that's been made over the past few years. The entire trail has been resurfaced with approx. 4" thick layer of gravel - should have no trouble walking, biking, even pushing a stroller or wheelchair on most sections. This trail is still lightly used - enjoy the solo walks/rides while you can. I walked the entire length in 6 sections and encountered only Amish youth on one visit and rock climbers on another. In fact, this trail is best for shorter trips vs. thru-hikes due to parking, access, and bridge removals. Positives include: Susquehanna River views below Safe Harbor, Providence Twp section for bridges (see township website for map), Bart Twp section for views of Amish countryside. Negatives: missing/closed bridges at Martic Forge and Quarryville (rough climbs to thru-hike or narrow roads to bypass!) washouts, wet conditions, and muddy tunnel between Hollow Rd and Lamparter Rd (there is a hiking trail that bypasses - see Google maps), and officially closed - but lightly posted - Sadsbury Twp sections (attention township administrators - closed gates won't keep out the riffraff - but recreational users will!) There is currently trail access with parking at the following roads (W to E): Powerhouse (steep climb), Colemanville Church, Red Hill, Sigman, Hollow, Fairview, Bushong, and Georgetown Rds.
If comparing to finished rail trails – locally like the Heritage in York county, or the Gretna trail in Lebanon County, don’t. It’s not finished. Quarryville are: a big gap to get over 222. Atop 272: threats of doing away with the tunnels underneath may render it the same as Quarryville. The gap at Stump road. Martic Forge & Safe Harbor bridges: closed. Certain eastern township(s) still closed?
If comparing this trail to it-self 18 months ago, celebrate the difference. Gigantic railroad/ballast stones are now under crushed & rolled stone– smaller but not ultra-fine stone. As a runner, I can now run any section with ease, versus previous herculean efforts in finding best lines previously tamped down by atv’s & trucks-that were going somewhere. I can stick my mountain bike on & ride anywhere. The Safe Harbor climbing area is now open. On a recent snowy morning I saw a cross country skier. It’s a real gateway to what no one talks about – the different trails adjacent: Shenks Ferry, Martic Township and Trout Run are just 3 one can get right on from this trail.
What to hope for: open the bridges, extension in to Manor township & points north, more trailhead(s) parking, throw in a roadhouse & ice cream stand & all will be happy.
I'm not sure if the layer of stone on top is the same as the commenters from December experienced, but I can say that the top stone layer now is nothing that will give mountain or even hybrids any problems. Its not "pea" gravel or paved but 3/4" crushed stone. There is ballast type stone under and to the sides of the trail. The crime with the trail currently is that Sadsbury Township has posted the trail in their area "No Trespassing". Call them and complain!
The large gravel they used to pave this trail is not really appropriate for anything other than a truck. Even just walking with stiff boots, it's really unpleasant. I get the impression amtrak did this under duress and had no real interest in making a good surface. I hope somebody comes up with the funds to add a layer of pea gravel or this trail will be pretty unusable.
This could be a great trail but it's not. First, they used nasty large ground gravel which jars you and in some places it actually feels like you are riding in sand. A very rough job of pedalling. I do not recommend for children or inexperienced bikers. No way you could ride with skinny tires. Then there is the few places there they've removed the bridges over the roads. You have to walk down a big hill of huge gravel (like 2 inch stones) and back up the other side. One of these crossings has a hill that is only dirt and going up the other side is a very nasty climb. The worst part is the tunnel. There is a corrugated pipe running thru as an underpass that you need to go thru. It is filled with water and there is no way to get thru this without wet feet. We tried to walk on the side, using our bikes, but it was slippery and I ended up falling. Got totally wet feet and my pants were wet nearly to my knees. Fortunately even tho it was December, the temp was in the 50's so it wasn't too uncomfortable to be so wet. Going up and over this hill isn't really an option with bikes. There were 2 young Amish couples walking the trail and they went over the top, but they didn't have bikes.
I sincerely hope they make the necessary improvements so that this is a more usable trail. The scenery along the entire route is beautiful. But I couldn't take the time to notice as I would have liked because I spent most of my time watching the trail just in front of my tires to be sure I didn't take a spill.
We've done different sections of the trail and have always found the surroundings beautiful. Today it was quite interesting as the recently re-opened rock climbing sections near the Safe Harbor end provided some entertainment by those braver than us. The big drawback to this trail is the large stone used on it. What could otherwise be a nice leisurely ride is ruined by the bone jarring surface. This is at best driveway stone not the pea gravel used on other trails. Even on Mtn bikes it takes away a lot of the fun. I truly hope they do something about it because I think it would see A LOT more use if they did.
Who ever surfaced this trail which I think was Amtrak must have never rode a bike. Instead of using fine or medium crusher run they used large stone. After two miles I couldn't take it anymore and turned back, and I ride allot of rail trails. Its too bad because its a pretty ride thru amish country. I know its a new trail and maybe some day they will roll it or put a finer surface down.
My wife and I biked from the Martic Forge parking area to the Providence Township parking area on October 9. It is 3.5 miles from Martic Forge to Smithville and 8 miles to Providence Township. This trail has been in the planning stages for many years and it is still not completely finished. I am thrilled to see the progress made thus far but there is still room for improvement. This section of the trail is crushed stone that could use a little more crushing. We used our hybrid bikes but the ride was still rough. We are anxious to complete the other sections of this trail.
Oct 4th I did from Quarryville Pa to Safe Harbor, there is a slight detour at Martic Forge and there is directions in the description of this trail and I would highly suggest that you do this section as it is a about four miles and is well worth the time and effort. Again like the first section that I did about a month ago this is a straight, level and because of the size of the stone used to build this trail it is also bone jarring, not what I call family friendly. This is a MT bike trail, not for a road bike and a Hybrid might work for you, I was on a MT Bike with a town and country tire. Now lets get to the ride. Just west of Quarryville there is a Porta Potty and a mail box with a nice map of the trail from Quarryville to Martic Forge done by Providence Township Park & Recreation Committee. It is a great map and they do have a Web site, it is firstname.lastname@example.org. This was the only potty on the whole trail, I am sure that by next spring this will change. I did 25.6 mile round trip in just over 2 1/2 hour and only meet one other bike on the trail, it was a tandem bike so I did see two people. The trail head at Martic Forge there is a nice parking lot and a kiosk with a very nice history of the RR. There is also a kiosk at the trail head at Conestoga. The high light of the trip for me was the mile or so just before Safe Harbor, the trail is high above the Susqurhanna Rive and is just a beautiful view. If more Townships would get pro active like Providence Township this trail could very well become a very good trail. Oh yes I did run into a local in Quarryville that told me that by next spring that AMTRAK is going to put a topping on the trail
I did this trail on 9/13 and was some what let down. I did from Atglen to Quarryville and it is flat, straight as an arrow and boring, there is a new surface but it is not the nice lime stone dust I see at other trails. I started at Orchard Buck rd just to the west of Atglen the trail dose go back towards Atglen for one mile and I did do that leg. I than road to Quarrville, the new surface is quite wide but bone jarring the total way. There are no services on this 12 mile section of the trail and no shade, you are out in the sun almost the whole way. I am not sure that this section of the trail is family friendly and I would suggest that you do it on a Mt bike with a front shock. In Eden there looks like there will be a trail head but for now there is just a kiosk and a few big granite stones that I used as a picnic table, the parking lot has not been graded. The bad weather we had over the past two weeks only did a little damage about four miles east of Quarrville, it was quite muddy and very hard to travel for about a mile or so, the big problem was at one of the underpasses of a cross road, there is a culvert and it has no road bed and was full of mud. I took a bad spill and because of this I did not go past Quarrville. In Quarrrville there is no signage to tell you how to get back on the trail. The other small issue is that the map on trail link is wrong in that the trail is not ride able into Atglen. On the plus side there are a lot of good views of some great Amish farms along the way.
I rode a significant portion of the Enola Low-Grade Trail today, September 10, 2011, from Bushong Road in Eden Township to the Martic Forge Trestle and back (27 mile round trip). I live near Coatesville and it is now the closest Rail-Trail of decent length to my house. I was not able to find public parking near the trail between Atglen and Bushong Road, so Bushong Road was my starting point. That parking lot has been graded and is open, but still lacks any surfacing (gravel or otherwise).
The trail itself is covered with an impressive 12 foot wide layer of gravel that varies in size from well-packed 1/4 inch chat to 1 or 2 inch large. somewhat loose gravel. The latter can be slightly bone-shaking at times, but only slightly. All in all, it is adequate for mountain bikes and hybrids, but really unsuitable for road bikes. There are only two places on the section I rode that require detours off the railroad grade itself. The notable one is in Quarryville, where westbound, one needs to exit the trail to rhe left down to Oak Bottom road, go left on Oak Bottom Road to the stop sign, go right on route 222 past the railroad "gap", then left on Fairview Road back to the railroad grade. Resist the temptation to go right on Oak Bottom Road and re-enter the railroad grade there (it only dead-ends with no suitable exit except to come back). There is another steep down-and-up detouring south off the railroad bed to cross Sigman Road. This is currently quite steep with large loose rock and truly requires dismounting to traverse safely.
Near the Martic Forge Trestle, there is a fairly nice, improved parking lot at Red Hill and Marticville Roads. I understand that funds have been approved to complete the trail across the Martic Forge Trestle to connect with open trail on the other side. It will be great when that connection is completed.
In the two weeks preceeding my ride on Sept 10, this area received over a foot of rain, courtesy Hurricanes Irene and Lee. As a result, there were perhaps a half-dozen places where mud and rock had been washed onto the trail. A couple were minor "mud-slides" where the railroad cut embankments had literally deposited themselves on the trail. All of these mud/rock deposits were less than 20 feet in trail length and 3 or 4 inches in depth. They should present little if any difficulty once they have solidified. The only other minor complaint I had is with the electric poles being so close to the trail. These monster poles are within two feet of the gravelled lane, thus putting two of the five electrified cables hanging over the trail itself. They also detract from the scenic views, but I understand that was unavoidable, even with the original intent to put them farther off the trail. However, I can live with the presence of the poles if the alternative was not having the trail at all.
One gem I "discovered": about 1/2 mile east of where highway 372 goes over the trail (east of Quarryville), there is a pile of boulders on the north side of the trail. These boulders partly conceal the emination of an underground stream and if you look between the boulders, you can see a 2-3 foot waterfall in the dim light.
I am happy to have such a trail in this area and am looking forward to future parking facilities near Atglen (are you listening Sadsbury Township?).
I hiked this abandoned rail bed 20 years ago when the rails and ties were still there. It's come a long way now that the responsible parties have finally come to an agreement on the development of a continuous trail through several municipalities and 2 counties. Accessed at Rt 324, there is ample parking and a very wide, flat trail of mostly gravel and railroad ballast. Construction to move poles and overhead wires is ongoing, and heavy equipment traffic is improving the trail surface. Snow cover made for easier walking, but sturdy footwear is a must. Relatively quiet and lightly used, this section borders woods and houses with great vantage points along the way. Don't miss the short walk west from the parking area to a large rock fall and scenic overlook at the skeletal Martic Forge trestle, long closed to hikers. Saw hawks and possibly an eagle riding the currents there. Enjoyable even in its current state, this trail will be a real asset when completed.
Long stalled by turf wars and local opposition, plans to develop a rail trail along the abandoned Enola Low Grade Line through southern Lancaster County finally became a reality when Norfolk Southern handed ownership of the corridor to the townships that it passes through in 2008.
In the ensuing 2 years, these municipalities have opened most of the line to the public and have made some small improvements, such as installing trailheads (the one off Route 324 in Martic Township is by far the best), grading the line to improve drainage and clear washouts and laying small sections of stone path.
However, most of the line is still unimproved and barely qualifies as a trail; loose ballast still comprises most of the surface, making it unsuitable for most cyclists, and hikers risk sprained ankles if they are not capable. Other drawbacks include the fact that the northwestern segment of the line through Manor Township, which was not included in the Norfolk Southern transfer in 2008, remains closed, though that municipality plans to purchase it later this year. The Safe Harbor and Martic Forge trestles also remain off-limits and have not yet been restored, and the removal of several smaller bridges have created a number of other gaps that must be detoured, most notably at US 222 just north of Quarryville.
Fortunately, Amtrack has agreed to construct a formal, crushed-stone trail along the sections in Conestoga, Providence, Eden, Bart and Sadsbury townships when it replaces the catenary lines later this summer and fall, while Manor plans to construct its portion and restore the Safe Harbor Trestle as soon as its acquisition from Norfolk Southern is official. Amtrack has also agreed to install kiosks interpreting historical sites along the line, and at least some of the townships have discussed plans to add other amenities, including restrooms, benches and picnic pavillions. Martic and Conestoga townships hope to restore the Martic Forge Trestle by next year, but it is unknown how the other gaps will be handled.
In conclusion, while the Enola Low-Grade "Trail" may currently consist of an undeveloped, discontinuous rail bed, efforts are under way to convert it to a multi-use greenway where users are treated to magnificent views of the Susquehanna River, deep forests, rolling hills and Plain farms of southern Lancaster County in the near future. Once completed, the trail could easily connect on its west and east ends to the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail and the Chester Valley Trail, respectively, making it an important link in a greenway system that will eventually connect Harrisburg and Philadelphia. The western portion, through Manor and Conestoga townships, will also become part of the ambitious Susquehanna Greenway system.
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