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The popular Lancaster Junction Trail follows the former Reading and Columbia Railroad, which transported iron ore and coal from Reading to the Chesapeake Bay via the Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal for more than 120 years. The line eventually expanded into the Pennsylvania towns of Marietta and Lancaster, carrying as many as 10 passenger trains a day. The railroad declined after World War II and ceased to operate in 1985. Lancaster County purchased the right-of-way and opened it as a trail in 1987.
Today, the 2.3-mile rail-trail runs from Lancaster north to the hamlet of Lancaster Junction. Trail users can expect to pass fields, meadows, and the meandering Chiques Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna River. As there is no parking at the northern endpoint, many trail users choose to begin at the southern trailhead in Lancaster and make a round-trip journey of 4.6 miles. The trail is open dawn–dusk.
Plentiful parking and restrooms are available at the southern trailhead, located at the end of Champ Boulevard, just off PA 283. Following the shaded trail north along the old railroad tracks, you’ll pass farmland on your right. In 0.7 mile, cross Spooky Nook Road with caution, as cars from the left will be coming around a bend in the road.
Trees cover the next portion of trail, creating shaded relief in the summer months. With Chiques Creek to your left, you’ll cross South Colebrook Road in a mile and then continue another 0.7 mile to the northern endpoint at Auction Road. To your right is the still-active rail line to which the rail-trail used to connect.
As you enjoy this scenic ride, keep in mind that the properties bordering the trail, including a picnic pavilion near South Colebrook Road, are privately owned. Equestrians are asked to ride at a walking pace.
To reach the southern trailhead from I-283, take Exit 1A to merge onto SR 283 E. In 22.3 miles, take the exit toward Salunga, turn left onto Spooky Nook Road, and go 0.3 mile. Turn right onto Champ Blvd., and go 0.5 mile. Turn left into the trailhead parking lot.
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