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Although relatively short at 1.8 miles, the Muhlenberg Rail Trail extends the ability of residents to exercise or visit local parks, schools, and businesses under their own power. The asphalt trail that runs through a residential and light industrial area of Muhlenberg Township north of Reading is mostly flat and partially covered by a tree canopy that provides welcome shade in the summer.
The path uses the former corridor of the busy East Penn Branch of the Reading Railroad that ran between Allentown and Reading beginning in the 19th century. The rail line fell into disuse in the 1980s, and Muhlenberg Township acquired the right-of-way in 2003 for the trail.
The trail runs between Mt. Laurel Road in the north to Montrose Avenue in the borough of Laureldale in the south. The trail crosses three streets: two at grade and one via an underpass. It also parallels a former electric trolley line that ran along Rosedale Avenue and 11th Avenue on the west side. Overhead power lines mark its former course today.
The northern trailhead at Mt. Laurel Road posed a challenge for trail builders. The railroad spanned the road on a bridge about 25 feet overhead, but that bridge had been removed in the 1970s. A wheelchair-accessible path was installed that gradually slopes to the trail from the parking lot below.
For the next 0.5 mile to Hay Road, you’ll pass an old commercial area east of the trail, and mixed business, residential, and park space on the west. Temple Playground is adjacent to the trail; access the playground from the trailhead by heading west on Mt. Laurel Road 0.1 mile. Turn left onto Kutztown Road, go 0.2 mile, and then turn left onto Euclid Avenue and go about 190 feet. Turn left onto 10th Avenue, go 295 feet, and turn right into the playground parking lot.
From Hay Road, the next 0.3 mile of trail is bordered by housing before you reach the sprawling site of the 24-acre Empire Steel Castings, which has been mothballed. Its towering steel structures make this an industrial landmark on the route.
The remainder of the trail passes through Laureldale. The 0.4-mile segment from Frush Valley Road to Elizabeth Avenue is bordered by housing and a small sports field. The trail goes beneath Elizabeth Avenue on an underpass and then ends 0.3 mile later at a parking lot on Montrose Avenue. Gethsemane Cemetery is located just west of the trail, and the 38-acre Bernhart Reservoir Park is about 0.5 mile south. There are several cafés and taverns along this last segment.
To reach the northern trailhead from the intersection of US 222 and US 422 northwest of Reading, take US 222 N for 5.6 miles. Exit at SR 61 S toward Tuckerton. Turn right onto SR 61 S, and go 0.6 mile. Turn left onto Tuckerton Road, go 0.5 mile, and turn right onto US 222 Bus./N. Fifth St. Hwy. Go about 440 feet, and turn left onto Mt. Laurel Road. Go 0.6 mile, and turn right into the trailhead parking lot on Railroad Ave.
To reach the northern trailhead from the intersection of US 222 and US 22 Bus. in Reading, continue south on US 222 Bus. S, and go 1.2 miles. Turn left onto Kutztown Road, and go 0.3 mile. Turn left onto Mt. Laurel Road, and go 0.1 mile. Turn right into the trailhead parking lot on Railroad Ave.
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