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The MA & PA Heritage Trail is found in two segments (about 2 miles apart) through the wooded parks of Maryland's Bel Air and Forest Hill communities. The folksy sounding name actually stands for the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad, which screamed through the Harford County countryside, heralding industrial progress of the early 1900s.
Today, a new kind of progress is evident in the sound of twittering birds and babbling brooks on the long-deserted rail line. This refreshing natural oasis found on the MA & PA Heritage Trail lures visitors and residents of the neighborhoods just steps from the path.
If you plan to travel both portions, use a map to determine the best on-road route between the two segments. Both have ample parking and are easy to navigate, with a surface of stone dust and some paving on slopes in the town of Bel Air.
The southern segment, starting in Bel Air, weaves through old stands of native trees, rising and falling with the dips of the landscape. For 3.3 miles it travels past streams, over bridges, through a tunnel, and across a boardwalk section between Heavenly Waters Park and Edgeley Grove Farm at Annie's Playground. This lovely green space provides a protected natural environment and a perfect setting for a stroll or jog.
From Forest Hill, the northern segment of the rail-trail meanders for 1.7 miles between Friends Park off Jarrettsville Road and Blake's Venture Park near Bynum Road and Melrose Lane. The trail travels among the forest past an enchanting marsh teeming with wildlife, and through tidy developments of suburban homes, a light industrial area and recreational ball fields.
North or south, the community parks framing the endpoints of the MA & PA Heritage Trail beckon you to slow down, enjoy a picnic or watch the sun go down.
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. There is also parking at the southern endpoint at Edgeley Grove and Annie's Playground (864 Smith Lane, Fallston, Maryland).
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.
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