MA & PA Heritage Trail


9 Reviews

View Trail Map
View Map
Send to App

Register for free!

Register for free with TrailLink today!

We're a non-profit all about helping you enjoy the outdoors
  • View over 40,000 miles of trail maps
  • Share your trail photos
  • Save your own favorite trails
  • Learn about new trails near you
  • Leave reviews for trails
  • Add new and edit existing trails

MA & PA Heritage Trail Facts

States: Maryland
Counties: Harford
Length: 5.1 miles
Trail end points: Edgeley Grove at Smith Ln (near US 1) (Bel Air) and Melrose Ln (Forest Hill)
Trail surfaces: Boardwalk, Crushed Stone, Dirt
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6016054

MA & PA Heritage Trail Description

The MA & PA Heritage Trail is not your typical rail-trail. Named for the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad, which chugged through the Harford County countryside for the first half of the 20th century, the trail has some tight turns and short, steep climbs that are uncharacteristic of a railroad grade.

The trail is currently in two sections separated by a 2-mile gap, but efforts by county and city officials, as well as trail foundation members are expected to close the gap between Bel Air and Forest Hill by late 2023 or early 2024. You’ll be able to take a 7-mile trail from Annie’s Playground in Bel Air’s Edgeley Grove Park to Friends Community Park in Forest Hill. Along the way, you can read about historical and environmental features on trailside signs or speak with volunteer trail monitors who clear trash and debris.

The railroad originated in the late 1800s, and in the early 1900s a merger created the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad, which ran be-tween Baltimore and York, Pennsylvania. Passenger service ended in the 1950s, and freight service through Bel Air and Forest Hill ended soon thereafter. A community effort to create a trail started 40 years later.

While the trail generally follows the corridor of the MA & PA, long sections don’t use the old railbed because of the development that took place in the intervening years. These sections rely instead on available rights-of-way through parks and easements, leading to sharp turns and rougher terrain.

Bel Air’s 3.4 miles of trail rise and fall with the landscape as the route passes through Annie’s Playground, Edgeley Grove Park, and Heavenly Waters Park west of US 1. You’ll find bridges, overlooks, an old stand of trees, and a boardwalk in this area. Horseback riding is allowed on the trail in the vicinity of the Harford County Equestrian Center.

To explore off-trail, take the spur leading to Harford Mall just before the lighted tunnel under Veterans Memorial Highway. Another spur leads to the restored Liriodendron Mansion and art gallery (see for free-
admission schedule). If you’re looking for refreshment, you can choose from many eateries or a brewery in the vicinity of North Main Street.

When the new segments open, the trail will follow the old railroad grade next to Bel Air Memorial Gardens before arriving at a woodsy area alongside Bynum Creek. North of the Bel Air Bypass/US 1, the trail will connect to an established 1.7-mile segment at Blakes Venture Park in Forest Hill that follows the railbed to the pond at Friends Community Park, located just off East Jarrettsville Road on Friends Park Road.

The trail manager does not generally recommend the trail for wheelchair use due to hills and the gravel surface.

Parking and Trail Access

To reach the northern endpoint of the Bel Air section from Interstate 95, take State Route 24 (Exit 77B) north toward Bel Air. Turn right on Baltimore Pike/US 1 Business, then turn left on Archer Street. Turn right on Thomas Street and make an immediate left on Williams Street. Go 0.5 mile to the trail parking lot on the left (Williams St & W Ellendale S). There is also parking at the southern endpoint at Edgeley Grove and Annie's Playground (864 Smith Ln, Fallston, Maryland) and on County Home Rd & N Tollgate Rd.

To access the northern endpoint of the Forest Hill segment, take SR 24 north from Bel Air through SR 23/East West Highway. Continue on Rock Spring Road/SR 24. Follow this for about 0.5 mile and turn right onto E. Jarrettsville Road; look for Friends Park on the right and turn right into the park. Follow the drive past the pond and up the rise to the trailhead. To reach the Melrose Lane endpoint, take Rock Spring Road/SR 24 to Bynum Road and turn northeast. Where Bynum curves east, turn left on Melrose Lane then left again into the parking area just a few hundreds yards farther (Blakes Venture Trailhead, Melrose Ln). There is also parking at the Friends Community Park (37 E. Jarrettsville Rd, between Rocks Rd/MD 24 & Maxa Meadows Ln). 



MA & PA Heritage Trail Reviews

The number of people and the hidden turns on the trail make it unsafe for anyone who is looking to bike for exercise. For walking or jogging it's the perfect trail.

The number of people and the hidden turns on the trail make it unsafe for anyone who is looking to bike for exercise. For walking or jogging it's the perfect trail.

Weekends are crowded!

If you are riding a bike the hills are tremendous for beginners or if you are looking for a casual ride. Trails are crowded so don’t go fast. Most people are maskless even in large groups. Go early. I have only done bottom half but will go back and include the Brewery as a stop!

Aug 2020 Trip

Nice location though a bit more crowded than I am used to for a Tuesday afternoon. The elevation gain on this rail trail is not gradual like people might think when they hear "rail trail" but occurs rather in short steeper sections. I found the trail difficult for my 35 mm tires. Maybe someone with more experience would have been okay but I wish I had brought my mountain bike.

Nice trail length, decent pavement, beginner friendly!

I’ve had my bikes for two weeks now and this is one of my first few rides. There are a decent amount of steep hills and the pavement is very rocky on most of the trail and basically gravel so beware if your bike is not meant for that. I’m giving it a 4/5 because there are a few splits in the trail that don’t really tell you which way to go to stay on the MA & PA so I had to reference my phone a lot. Other than that it’s a nice trail and offers a lot of shade and great scenery!



Best bike trail I have been on

Running, hiking 5*; Walking 3*; Hybrid biking 2*; road biking 0*

Different parts of trail would be rated differently for different types of activities: road biking, hybrid biking, hiking, running and walking.

I have run from Williams St. toward Anne's Playground (with turn around near 2 mile mark on trail) and really like it for running, or walking or hiking.

Just finished hybrid bike starting at Anne’s Playground to Friend’s Park (using Rt. 24 – Bynum-Melrose Roads connection NEWS FLASH - Understand there will be connection opening soon from Williams St. to Melrose Ave soon. Check out web site for updates or facebook.) and back.

Going downhill on paved path at start was great. While love wonderful wooden bridges to run, they are bumpy on bike. I like packed crusher run; but when not packed, the large loose stones have back tires slipping and teeth chattering.

Additionally, would be nice to have additional signage near Equestrian Center. Coming up loose rocky trail to paved path; should I make a right toward Equestrian Center Buildings and what looks like a parking lot from where I am or go left on narrower paved trail where people are running? Remember have never been there before! So after did that loop across tree roots, realized should have been a right.

Then street crossing and should make a right under art sculpture (love it) or continue straight up road where people are walking? Again remember never been here before! OK, should be right under sculpture, they were going to dog park! After next downhill, fairly sharp left to narrow paved path next to road.

Basically after got past 2 mile mark (near Harford Mall spur) it was nice trail. Yes, hilly and might still not recommend for those with road bikes. Perhaps when large gravel gets packed down over time it would be easier. After got to Williams Street, took roads to Rt. 24 (would suggest going straight so have traffic light for crossing Rt. 24), making left. That is relatively easy, watch traffic at Rt. 1 Bypass crossing. Right at first light Bynum Run Road to left on Melrose and Park on left. Picking up MA & PA Trail again. Again some large gravel in spots.

Erosion of gravel sections

We recently took the trail bikes from the Winters Run parking area up to the Route 24 tunnel and found the conditions to be a bit rough with loose gravel and many ruts. The climb is tough enough without that so the ride was less than enjoyable. Also gravel sections on the lower end from Winters Run to toward Annie's tPlayground were in the same condition. Go

From long-abandoned railway to suburban trailway

The second and better developed of the two (thus far) trail projects currently being developed along the old Maryland the Pennsylvania Railroad line (the much shorter Red Lion Mile is being constructed along a section in Red Lion, PA), the Ma & Pa Heritage Trail meanders through the woodlands and numerous subidivisions north and west of Bel Air, Maryland.

Starting at a park off Old Jarettsville Road in Forest Hills, the trail foillows the path of the old rail line, which was abandoned in the 1950's, whenever possible. Although many segments of the line were obliterated by development or other uses following abandonment, the trail planners have managed to work around most of these gaps, threading through the woodlands that form buffers between the numerous developments that have spilled over the area in the past several decades. The result is a very scenic, pleasant journey, with the sounds and sites of nature blending with the noise of playing children, the hum of cars on adjacent streets and, in spring and summer, aromas from outdoor barbeques. Many homeowners have embraced the trail by placing birdhouses and feeders, aesthetically pleasing picket fences and lawn ornaments and carefully planted gardens at the back end of their yards, which nicely compliment the numerous parks and recreation areas, stormwater basins-turned-into duckponds, overlooks and signs interpreting historical sites and indentifying wildlife that line the route. The surface, which alternates between asphalt and crushed stone at numerous points, provides a smooth ride or walk, and a small network of branch paths provide access to nearby landmarks, including the Harford Mall, Liondendron Mansion and several subdivisions and streets. The trail also passes near an Equestrian facility on the west end of Bel Air, then turns south to Annie's Playground near Fallston.

Currently, the biggest obstacle to trail users is an approximately 2-mile gap between Melrose Lane and Williams Street, which requires an extensive detour on Bynum Road, Routes 24 and 924 and local streets. Efforts are currently underway to connect the northern and southern segments of the trail, and a pedestrian tunnel has already been constructed to carry it under Route 1 when completed. There are also several slopes on segments of the trail that diverge from the original railroad alignment. However, most of these are gentle and will cause little discomfort to cyclists, the one exception being the branch path that extends from the bridge over Heavenly Waters southeast to the parking lot near Liondendron Mansion, which has a very steep grade. The tunnels under Routes 23 and 24 can also be a bit dark, especially on cloudy days.

With its extensive, informative signage, well-developed trailheads, lush scenery and a meandering route connecting numerous subdivisions, recreation and historical sites, the Ma and Pa Heritage Trail is a textbook example of a suburban greenway. When completed, it will provide the trunk of a trail network that will connect a significant part of the Bel Air area. The fact that it was constructed on a line that had been abandoned some 6 decades earlier, broken up and returned to property owners is even more remarkable. Hopefully, this will serve as a model for the ongoing efforts to develop trails on other segments of the "Old Ma and Pa Railroad."

Trail has been extended

This write up is old information.

The Belair section of the trail is now 3.29 miles and goes from the Williams Street parking lot to Annie's Playground. This section of the trail has some good elevation changes and is through some nice wooded areas.

The Forest Hill section is 1.7 miles. This is mainly flat, but there are a couple gently sloping hills. There are several roads to cross on this section of the trail. It also runs along the sidewalk of one of the roads.

See the Ma & Pa Heritage Trail web site located at for better maps and elevation diagrams.

Nearby Trails

Go Unlimited Today!

  • FREE Account
  • View over 40,000 miles of trail maps
  • Post your trail reviews
  • Share your trail photos
  • Save your favorite trails
  • Learn about new trails near you
  • Get a free map in the app!
Register for FREE
Purchase Unlimited

Explore by City

Explore by City

Explore by Activity

Explore by Activity

Log in to your account to:

  • View trail paths on the map
  • Save trails to your account
  • Add trails, edit descriptions
  • Share photos
  • Add reviews

Log in with Google

Log in with Apple


Register for free!

Join TrailLink (a non-profit) to view more than 40,000 miles of trail maps and more!

Register with Google

Register with Apple


Your account has been deleted.