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Heritage Rail Trail County Park (HRT), along with the connecting Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail that continues south through Maryland, are in Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Hall of Fame. Both trails follow the former Northern Central Railway corridor, which once connected Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to Baltimore, Maryland. Built in the 1800s, the railway was used during the Civil War to provide supplies to Northern troops heading south. The route remained in operation until a hurricane washed out a section in 1972.
The HRT goes from the Pennsylvania–Maryland state line up to York, Pennsylvania. Most of the trail has a crushed-stone surface and is open to horses. In winter months, the path is also popular among cross-country skiers and snowshoers. Starting at the state line, the trail travels 1.3 miles to New Freedom—the southernmost parking point—where railroad enthusiasts can explore a restored 1940s train station. The New Freedom station also features a railroad museum, an actual-size K-4 engine diorama, and an original working freight scale and safe.
The trail continues about 9 miles through farmland and along the banks of Codorus Creek before arriving at Hanover Junction Railroad Station. During the Civil War, the station served as a telegraph office and a major source of communication between Gettysburg and Washington, D.C.; President Abraham Lincoln also changed trains here on his way to deliver the Gettysburg Address. History and railroad buffs can learn more about these and other Civil War events at the station’s museum, which has been restored to its 1863 appearance.
For a more immersive historical experience, trail users can board a replica 1860s steam locomotive from New Freedom to Hanover Junction. This Steam Into History ride includes performances by costumed historical figures and musicians. Trail users: Note that this excursion train parallels the rail-trail, so expect to see a train at any time between New Freedom and Hanover Junction. Where the trail crosses the railroad tracks, check both directions before proceeding.
Leaving Hanover Junction, head 5 miles north to the 370-foot-long Howard Tunnel in Seven Valleys. Built in 1838, the stone-arch tunnel is one of the oldest in the country. Following Codorus Creek, the HRT continues north to York. In 5 miles, you’ll cross the city’s Grantley Road. From here through the remainder of the trail northward, horses are not permitted. Continue another mile to North Pershing Avenue and West Philadelphia Street, where a temporary, signed on-road connection begins and navigates approximately six blocks within the City of York before connecting back to the trail at the intersection of North George Street and Hamilton Avenue. Plans are in the works to move this segment off road by fall 2020.
The trail continues along the west side of Codorus Creek until it reaches US 30, where it then crosses over the creek via a pedestrian walkway that leads to a trail parking lot at Loucks Mill Road and US 30. The path passes underneath US 30 and then heads north 4.5 miles, ending at York’s 150-acre John C. Rudy County Park, which has parking, restrooms, sports fields, pavilions, a dog park, and a variety of other outdoor amenities.
To reach parking near the southernmost endpoint, take I-83 toward the Maryland–-Pennsylvania state line. If heading northbound, take Exit 36 for MD 349 toward Maryland Line/Bel Air, and turn right onto MD 349 W. Go 0.3 mile, take a slight right toward MD 45 N, and continue on MD 45 N to enter Pennsylvania. Go 1.2 miles, and continue onto Main St./Susquehanna Trail S. Go 1.6 miles, and turn left onto Campbell Road. Go 1.1 miles; Campbell Road turns slightly right and becomes E. Main St. Go 0.2 mile and turn left onto Constitution Ave. Immediately turn right onto School Alley, and turn left into the trail parking lot at Marge Goodfellow Park. If heading southbound, take Exit 4 for PA 851 toward Shrewsbury in Pennsylvania. Turn right onto PA 851 W/E. Forrest Ave., and go 0.7 mile. Turn left onto S. Main St., and go 1.1 miles. Turn right onto Constitution Ave., and go 1.7 miles. Turn right onto School Alley, and turn left into the trail parking lot at Marge Goodfellow Park. Head to the southern endpoint by heading 1.2 miles south on the trail to the Maryland–Pennsylvania state line.
To reach parking at the northern endpoint in downtown York from I-83, take Exit 22 and head south on PA 181/N. George St./I-83 Bus. toward US 30 W. Follow N. George St. south 2.1 miles, and turn right onto W. Philadelphia St. Go two blocks, and turn right onto N. Pershing Ave. for street parking.
To reach the northern trailhead at John C. Rudy County Park from I-83, take Exit 22. Head north on PA 181/N. George St. Go 2 miles, and turn right onto Emig Road. In 0.6 mile, turn left onto Mundis Race Road, and go 1 mile. Turn left onto the access road to the park (you’ll see signs for both John C. Rudy County Park and Heritage Rail Trail County Park). Go 0.2 mile to the parking lot, on your left.
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