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The Northwest Lancaster County River Trail follows the route of the historic Pennsylvania Main Line Canal, tracing the Susquehanna River northwest from Columbia to Falmouth. While the majority of the trail is paved, the northern segment from Bainbridge to Falmouth is largely undeveloped and best suited for walking, hiking, or mountain biking. In season, cross-country skiers and snowshoers can also enjoy the trail.
Begin your journey at the southern trailhead, where the Columbia Crossing River Trails Center offers exhibits, restrooms, and information about the trail and nearby attractions. Though the trail starts out on road, it transitions within a mile to the scenic Chickies Rock County Park just north of Columbia. Here, you’ll pass through the abandoned (and allegedly haunted) Point Rock Tunnel, also known as Chickies Rock Tunnel. The unlined 180-foot-long tunnel was blasted through solid rock when it was built in the 1850s for the Pennsylvania Railroad. A mile from the tunnel, you may see rock climbers scaling the craggy face of Chickies Rock via the 0.5-mile Chickies Rock Overlook Trail.
The trail crosses over Chiques Creek before continuing along Furnace Road. From here, you can take either an undeveloped portion of trail along the Susquehanna River or a route through the town of Marietta. To take the more direct, undeveloped route, take the first left off Furnace Road onto Robert K. Mowrer Drive, heading toward the river. In about 500 feet, you’ll come to a parking lot alongside the river that ends in a 0.2-mile dirt path leading to the main trail. Bicyclists may prefer to walk their bikes along the dirt path. For information on fishing in this area, visit fishandboat.com.
To get onto the route through Marietta, take the second left off Furnace Road onto Donegal Place. After a brief crushed-stone section, you’ll continue on Front Street through the downtown area about 1.4 miles, and then turn right onto Perry Street. Go 0.1 mile, and turn left onto West Market Street. Then go about 0.3 mile, and turn left onto South Porter Street. In a little more than 450 feet, the road cuts right and turns into West Front Street. Go about 450 feet, and turn left onto Decatur Street. The main trail resumes about 400 feet ahead on Decatur Street, at a parking lot under the train tracks.
This route passes several taverns, pubs, and other dining options. It is also rather winding, with vegetation creating blind spots around every corner in the summer. Use extra caution if bicycling, and keep to the right if walking.
Leaving Marietta, the path becomes straighter, occasionally exiting the tree cover to travel along cornfields. At 7 miles, East Donegal Riverfront Park offers covered picnic tables and a great view of the Susquehanna River. In another 1.5 miles, you’ll pass under the brick-arch Shocks Mill Bridge of the Norfolk Southern Railway and then alongside the White Cliffs of Conoy in another mile. This unique landmark was formed over time by the waste products of a limestone quarry, creating a hilly area of limestone “cliffs” on the shores of the Susquehanna.
In another 1.6 miles the path reaches Koser Park in Bainbridge. A 3-mile section of trail that extends to the Falmouth Boat Launch at Fisherman’s Wharf was scheduled to be paved in 2019.
To reach the trailhead at Columbia Crossing River Trails Center from I-83 S, take Exit 19B, and merge onto E. Philadelphia St. Immediately turn left onto N. Yale St., go 770 feet, and turn left onto SR 462/E. Market St. Go 0.2 mile, turn left onto N. Hills Road, and follow the directions below. From I-83 N, take Exit 19, and continue straight onto N. Hills Road. In 0.6 mile turn right onto US 30 E, and go 10.8 miles. Take the exit toward SR 441 in Columbia, turn right onto Linden St., and go 0.2 mile. Turn left onto N. Second St., and go 0.2 mile. Turn right onto Bridge St., go 0.1 mile, and then turn left onto N. Front St. Go 0.1 mile, and turn right at the first crossing onto Walnut St., heading toward the river. Turn right into the parking lot, and look for parking in the back of the lot.
To reach the trailhead at Columbia Crossing River Trails Center from the intersection of US 222 and US 30 in Lancaster, head west on US 30, and go 1.4 miles. Keep right to stay on US 30, and go 10.7 miles. Take the exit for SR 441 toward Columbia/Marietta, continue straight onto SR 441 S, and go 0.7 mile. Turn right onto Walnut St., heading toward the river, and turn right into the parking lot. Look for parking in the back of the lot.
To reach parking at Koser Park in Bainbridge, follow the directions above from US 30 W to the SR 441 exit toward Columbia/Marietta. Turn right onto SR 441 N, and go 9.8 miles. Turn left onto Race St., go 0.4 mile, and look for the parking lot straight ahead beside the Susquehanna River.
To reach parking at Koser Park in Bainbridge from I-83, follow the directions above to US 30 E. Go 10.8 miles, and take the SR 441 exit. Turn right onto Linden St., and go 0.2 mile. Turn right onto N. Third St., and go 0.2 mile. Then continue on SR 441 N, and go 9.8 miles. Turn left onto Race St., go 0.4 mile, and look for the parking lot straight ahead on the Susquehanna River.
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