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Northwest Lancaster County River Trail stretches nearly 13 miles along the east bank of the Susquehanna River between Falmouth (near the Dauphin County line) and Columbia.
Along the way, you can view relics of the historic Pennsylvania Mainline Canal towpath, which the trail follows, including abandoned canal locks, iron furnaces, and an old quarry at Billmeyer. The canal begin operations in 1833 and ended in the 1860s with the arrival of the Pennsylvania Railroad.
The northern 3.75 miles of the trail between Falmouth and Bainbridge is known locally as the Conoy Canal Trail. It runs along the Conewago Canal, part of the original Mainline Canal, that was built to bypass Conewago Falls on the Susquehanna River. On route, you'll see original stonework in the form of old bridges and locks.
The trail’s southern half runs through Marietta, from downtown to Chickies Rock County Park, which offers more than 400 acres of woodlands and meadows. The section through the county park goes by the name of Susquehanna Heritage Trail and ends with a trip through an old railroad tunnel called the Point Rock Tunnel. In the park, be sure to take the spur up a 100-foot-high rock outcropping for spectacular views of the river and the Norfolk Southern Railroad below. The Northwest Lancaster County River Trail follows the active railroad for a few miles.
In Conoy Township, parking is available at the Falmouth Boat Access. From Route 441, turn onto Collins Road.
In Bainbridge, parking is available at American Legion Park, located where Race Street ends at the Susquehanna River. A portable toilet is also available there.
In Marietta, parking is available in Riverfront Park and at the Decatur Street Trailhead.
My husband and I found this trail through a runner-friend at the Viking 10K on Saturday in Mannheim. We had brought our bikes and planned to ride afterwards. We found that many of the parks use mountain bikes - we had our road bikes. Anyway, we found this trail and absolutely loved it! It is beautiful to view the corn fields, river and encounter so many people out having a great time We are so grateful to God for His beauty and showcase of nature. You will NOT regret the trip!
Rode this popular trial on a sunny Sunday afternoon...walkers, kids, and dogs. Paved trail is tree lined and curvy. Good and bad. My road bike liked the pavement. There were so many trees, I did not even miss sun tan lotion. But, some of the curves were tight/blind. Due to the curves and people traffic, I rarely got the bike over 20 mph. Several places to stop and eat/drink along the trial. With it's nice views, take a slow bike and a friend.
Nice, flat, well maintained trail. Once you get into the trail (first mile is kind of industrial) it is lovely. Unless you are walking/running for fitness this is not a nice place to walk with others though. The printed rule on the map is: stay to the right and announce when passing. Out of the 300+ bikers that passed us, one announced his group, and one screamed at us to get over to the right. No others made their presence known as they came up behind us and whizzed past. A majority buzzed us by at a foot or less. You can't hear bikers coming, so you have to constantly have your head on a swivel and walk only in single file. Quite a few bikers would come up right behind and then quickly swerve out right behind you, as if to make it known that you are an inconvenience to them. If there were bikers coming the other way, the bikers going our way would squeeze in between and force us off the trail. As stated before, when we switched sides for our safety so we could at least see the bikers coming, we were screamed at that "get over to the right- the RULE is stay right..." by a biker. You know, the rule that has in the same sentence "announce when passing".
So, if you are a biker, don't be a jerk and share the 'road' and this is a very nice trail. If you are looking for a nice place to stroll and get some exercise, find somewhere else because the prevailing attitude here is that you are an inconvenient roadblock that needs to be taught a lesson, and it's not worth it to have to be insanely vigilant for your own safety the entire time you're walking - that just makes for a terrible walk.
A great ride for the fourth of July. I appreciated all the other reviews and took their advice. I thought I would add a combination of the reviews that helped me, along with some of my own additional notes.
I took the advice of dcar777 and started our ride in Bainbridge and headed towards Marietta. The entire ride was paved and smooth for my entire family to enjoy.
I would agree with jerandvic about the psedo-Tour De France riders. They fly on the trail, which would be okay if they used bike riding etiquette to let people know they were going to pass. Nonetheless, there were far more family riders than those club riders who used appropriate etiquette, but its still something to keep an eye out for.
This was the first big ride that my 7 year old son completed and he did an outstanding job on our 15 mile ride. To help keep his interest we did a little geocaching (https://youtu.be/1YTqitVK-Ts). I've attached a short youtube video that explains what geocaching is in the most basic form. I highly recommend doing something like this to keep the kids interest (or the kids at heart interest; it's an adult friendly activity too). There are several geocache along the trail to be found.
The last bit of information that I would add is a nice pizza shop that we stop at for lunch along the way. Parma Pizza and Grill has outstanding pie's, friendly service and is just off the trail in Marietta (http://places.singleplatform.com/parma-pizza-11/menu?ref=google).
Our family likes to try different trails, but we would have no problem going back to this trail again. Hope this information helps, happy riding!
Nice asphalt which is always a pleasure. Some spots a little grown over but not anything to affect the rating. Do your homework before you go as where to park. The link for directions on TrailLink took me to the wrong spot-there are other points of entrance as well, but anyone is nice-except the one I went to first. Not nearly as much river view as I thought. A few places to take a look, but mostly farm and "woods". Nice. I would do it again.
I have ridden this trail numerous times and I plan to ride it again tomorrow. It is as good as it gets. The description in traillink is somewhat misleading. The trail actually starts in Columbia. There is parking available and there is a visitors center with full facilities. The section from Columbia to Marietta is called the Susquehanna Heritage Trail. According to the description on the website there is no parking in Columbia but there is parking.
Absolutely beautiful trail. A real treasure, and many thanks to those who made this trail possible. Its a real historical and relaxing place for people to ride, and experience the rich history of this region in Pennsylvania.
The only draw back that I have seen, today especially is an arrogant, speed demon of a biker, worried more about cadence, heart beats per minute, and his so called exercise regimen, and in turn just about ran down numerous people. This should be addressed on the trail via, signs, or warnings that for speed training, etc, watch out for the elderly, small kids on bikes, babies in strollers. If your looking to do that kind of riding, the terrain, and elevation is not the place anyway.
All in all an enjoyable ride, one of the best, and plan on coming back, but the dude, in the green jersey, riding like he is trying to win a trophy, just about ruined it for me. If he caused a crash, or injured someone this trail would be in trouble for ages to come.
Nice scenery and even sturdy path!
We parked at River Park off Vinegar Ferry Rd. Great spot. Use caution though... there is a railroad bridge as you near the entrance (by car) that is very low. We traveled toward Marietta and the trail sort of ended. You could take the "stone path" but it was big chunky rocks. So we went out the driveway toward town and there were great trail markers into town. You travel on Market St with all kinds of quaint houses. Maybe some shops too but it was Sunday and most of Lancaster County shuts down on Sundays.
We turned around and came back. The trail was marked well coming back through town.
We road in the opposite direction as far as the eagle nest. Very busy on a Sunday.
The 3.6 miles north (closest to Harrisburg) is pretty rough - more dirt roots and rock - not your typical rail to trail hybrid and road bikes be warned.
I was really looking forward to riding this trail but started at the Collins Road, Conway end and fought with mud, badlg exposed tree roots, a dog that chased me for some way and getting th stick the was carrying caught In my spokes. The last straw was having turned around in order to escort the dog back to where he latched onto me, I was confronted by an abusive owner, who lived on the trail, felt that I should have stopped to prevent him having to chase the dog. He didn't appreciate being told that if he couldn't control his dog, then why should I trust it. I need to give it another try but start from the Columbia end, as I didn't find any paved areas.
For a road bike, this trail is a gift. It's paved (mostly), not too many people on the north end, and really scenic.
The transitions are choppy and the heavy gravel is such in a couple of the trailheads that you will need to dismount and walk your bike through them to get to the next section. The trail ends rather abruptly without any signage at East Donegal (which is as far as I got from Columbia).
But it is truly worth the effort. Once you get through Marietta (which is on-road biking but fun), you're back on a paved trail along the river, and there is virtually no one on this section compared to the new Columbia section.
Excellent trail. My wife and I rode it for the first time in late August 2016 and enjoyed every mile. We are mid-50s riders (‘advanced novices,’ perhaps?) and liked the experience of riding a paved trail since we’re usually on packed gravel. It was 90 degrees on the day we rode but the trail is well-shaded; the pavement makes for a faster ride that creates a steady breeze, so even the sunny sections were comfortable. The trail is beautifully maintained and largely level with enough gentle hills to provide a periodic challenge (on the uphill) and a bit of rest (on the down). The river scenery is beautiful. The trail was being used by walkers, joggers, and bikers, but it was quiet enough to be very peaceful.
We rode from Bainbridge to Marietta and back, about 14 miles round trip. On this ride we didn’t have time to continue the four additional miles to Columbia. So, after this first experience, here are three pieces of advice:
First advice – unless you have a mountain bike, start from the Bainbridge parking area. One of the reviewers has noted that the trail is very rough between the Collins Road parking area and Bainbridge. It appeared that way to us, and a man we met on the trail told us that he sometimes hikes that portion of the trail but he doesn’t bike it because of the ruts and gravel. The Race Street parking area in Bainbridge was full when we arrived but the overflow parking right beside it had plenty of space. As the trail leaves the parking area it goes up a hill that was probably the steepest we encountered, but after that it settles into a very gentle ride.
Second advice – if you’re going to continue beyond Marietta to Columbia and you like a smooth ride, you might consider riding through Marietta rather than staying on the trail. One person we spoke to alerted us that the trail adjoining Marietta is fairly rough and crosses the railroad tracks a few times. That might not have been a problem but we took his advice and went through the town instead. It was easy to find the turnoff: the trail runs into a parking area (the Decatur Street parking area, I believe) and to your left you can see the road traveling under the railroad tracks. Follow that road and you’ll see signs showing you the path of the River Trail through town. The streets had very little traffic and the route was well marked. Had we continued following it we would have ended up back on the real trail, but we didn’t continue, which leads to the last advice.
Third advice – Eat at Nick’s Bistro. Marietta is a good place to stop for lunch. After we got on Market Street (the main road through town) we saw Nick’s Bistro on our left and decided to stop. They didn’t have a bike rack out front—though they said they would have one soon—but they told us to stash our bikes in the back while we ate. Nick’s is a bar, but a very sophisticated one (no smoked-filled rooms here) with an excellent chef in the kitchen. My wife had a beautiful salad and I had one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten (ham and brie with a blackberry glaze—it sounds kind of funny, but it was terrific). The food was a little pricey, but the taste was actually worth the price so we didn’t mind. The manager waited on us and was very friendly without being annoyingly friendly (if you know what I mean). They seemed to specialize in craft beers, so if you’re a beer fan you’ll enjoy it even more, I suspect.
After that it was time to retrace our route to the car. There are a lot of places to pause along the trail and we took advantage of a couple of those on the way back. This trail immediately made our list of favorite trails.
Relaxing ride along the river. Nicely paved path with trees that provided shade on this very hot July day. We rode on a Sunday and it was pretty busy.
This is one of the most beautiful trails! Love the paved surface that now stretches into Columbia! Would really like to see this extended to link up with Conewago/LVRT! That would put it over the top!!!!
This trail quickly jumped up to one of my top 5 trails and the only thing keeping it from being a top 3, is the length of the trail. If they could only finish the northern end of the trail, that would add another 2.5 miles and maybe, just maybe someday connect with the Enola Low Grade trail, this would be a Hall of Fame trail! What a wonderful trail it is now and can be a super trail if totally completed!
Just rode the trail yesterday. There are now directional signs up through Marietta at every place there is a turn. The rest of the trail that is bike friendly has great pavement and plenty of toilets along the route. The section that ends at a park in Columbia seems to have been very recently constructed.
Started at the northern end. The path here from Collins Rd to Koser park at Race street is largely undeveloped. The flora is lush and several cool wooden bridges take you across streams and creeks. The surface is well packed dirt with patches grass, some of it mildly overgrown. Expect slight but quick ups and downs, lots of winding, some of it sharp and a few too many fairly large stones and exposed tree route systems on this part of the path that make it a bit rough for some bikes and bones. My hybrid with 700x28c tires begged me to walk it through a few sections and I almost ate it a couple times when I didn't listen. Unless you come with a mountain bike and an appetite for some mild risk, then (as of June 2016) do yourself a favor and skip this part of the trail; choose instead (if starting somewhere on the northern end) to park at the Race street lot and head south. From there the trail is suitable to people of all ages, abilities and equipment. Flat, perfectly paved and beautifully maintained, it winds gently parallel to the river through shaded wooded areas punctuated with manicured lawns, picnic areas, and open fields. Very serene. Great job to the folks who helped put this trail on the map. I hope the proposal to develop the northern section has legs.
This is a great trail! We began at the visitors center in Columbia and had to ask where the trail was. Need go back across the tracks to find the trail. Make sure some one in your party has the map because there are no signs thru the town of Marietta - none! Ate at McCleary's - good choice! We rode to Bainbridge and then the trail (not suitable for bikes) was closed off. Enjoyed the eagle viewing area and walking on the white cliffs. This trail is not flat and it is not straight - kinda narrow and curvy but a really fun ride if not heavily being used.
We love this trail. It has lots of variety in scenery, some twists and turns, and small ups and downs. The trail is mostly paved with unfinished sections nearing completion. It is heavily used on the weekend.
This new segment opened on 3/16/16. Goes north to connect with Chickie's Rock County park. Currently it has a compacted stone dust surface. Paving will take place in the late Spring/ summer of 2016.
The northern most 2.5 mile segment of this trail has not yet been improved! It is only suitable for hiking or mountain bike usage!!! But still very scenic. Improvements will take place over the next several years
This is a great trail, just needs more parking, when are they going to open the Quarry to allow access to 441 and the additional parking?
In observance of the recent weather, we rode this trail on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. It was very nice to see so many other people out enjoying the trail as well. As usual we decided to park at the most downstream parking lot to begin our ride. The traillink map took us to a parking lot for a boat landing on the Susquehanna. We noticed several people just sitting around in parked cars and were a little uneasy about the situation. Anyway, we unloaded our bikes and rode the section of the trail to the south of the parking lot. This part went for about 2 miles down to the highway 30 bridge. On the way we noticed a new parking area right along the trail about 1/4 of a mile down from where we parked. We decided to move our vehicle to the newer parking area. After relocating the car we commenced to head north to the end of the trail at Bainbridge. What a nice ride. So much history to see. We finished off our day by stopping at a nice little pub on Front Street in Marietta. If this trail is ever fully developed it could easily become one of the premier bike trails in Pennsylvania. We plan on heading back this way from time to time to enjoy this beautiful trail and monitor its progress.
Path is a little narrow, but paved well and dotted with plenty of benches and resting places. Nice river views.
We are bike riders and thought we would venture on this path. We downloaded the map and thought we could start at the Falmouth boat access. We had a very difficult time finding the path and when we did it was more of a hiking path, than a bike path and it crossed over private property that clearly marked NO TRESPASSING.. So we loaded up the bikes again and went down the road to the Riverfront Park Access area. That was a much better plan! It was obvious where the bike path was, it was paved and we headed toward Falmouth just because we wanted to see if our original start point really was a start point. The paved path turned back into a hiking path again--if you are a real mountain biker, you could probably do this, but we are more rail trail riders than mountain bikers--the tree roots on the unpaved portion were tough! We turned around and went the other way, went through Marietta as others note and it really was not all that hard to find the path again--you do have to have some sort of sense of direction, though. The path crossed over Chiques Creek and is unfinished after that, but there were signs noting that part of the path would soon be under construction for improvements. At the end of the trail there is an old railroad tunnel which is pretty cool, but beyond that it turns into a graveyard for old railroad parts.. This really is a nice ride once you figure out where you are going. I agree with others that better signage would be helpful.
I did this trail on 8/9/15 and had a very nice ride. I did the trail round trip end to end. Between the two disconnect segments the signage is poor at best Mariette should step in as i talked to a number of riders that had the same problem as I did. The north end is more of a Green Way then a Rail Trail. It has great views along the way, park benches, mile marker every half mile, has historic markers and lots more. There was a lot of traffic, this is a well used trail.
Fellow Trailfolk, we know trails are works in progress and this one is no different. To avoid the disappointment that some reviewers have expressed, read the reviews and note that while all of the trail is open, not all sections will meet our high expectations. Bikers will probably wish to avoid both the northernmost segment from Falmouth (Collins Rd access) to Bainbridge (American Legion Park)and the southern end from Chiques Creek bridge (Furnace Rd) to Columbia Riverfront Park. These sections are undeveloped dirt paths better suited for hikers. The remainder of the trail is five star - a scenic paved pathway along the train tracks and the Susquehanna River through parks, farmland, woods, and small town streets. Pass through Marietta on surface streets or take a detour on the dirt path between Robert Mowery Dr (Marietta boat lauch) to Decatur St access (under the railroad overpass to the parking lot). Yes, you still need to cross the tracks to bypass the Marietta boat club property, and you might encounter some surly dogs or people, but good trail users make good neighbors. Be positive and friendly and get out there and ride the Northwest River Trail - my bet is it will become one of your favorites too.
I rode this trail near the end of July 2015. I don't try to rush my trail riding experiences, allowing for time to explore and to take some photographs and also read the historical markers along the path.
I first drove to what I thought would be the trailhead just south of Falmouth (off Collins Road) at a boat launch. I was unable to find a trailhead, or even something resembling a trail, so I opted to continue to Bainbridge.
I parked at the Bainbridge boat launch and headed south from there.
The path is clearly newly paved, but there are sharp bends and "s" curves, which would have been nice to have some signage warning about.
I rode to the end of the paved path and continued on a narrow, unpaved portion for a short distance, but that came to an end where I encountered two other riders who followed the unpaved trail to marked private property.
I opted to return on the unpaved section and cross over the railroad tracks via Gay Street into downtown Marietta. I rode up and down Market Street and looked at some of the spectacular Victorian-era homes. (I highly recommend checking out the town as an addition to the ride.)
I eventually headed back north toward Bainbridge -- but it would have been nice to have signage in Marietta about accessing the trail or which points/streets you can get into town from the trail.
On the ride north I stopped at the markers and stopped for a break at the Shocks Mill Bridge, and closer to Bainbridge I explored what appeared to be abandoned limestone piles.
I recommend exploring the limestone piles (I walked my bike up the mounds) because the views of the Susquehanna River are awesome.
All in all, a nice trail, not for a long-distance ride, but a trail that is fairly shaded (expect the miles through the cornfields).
Would definitely be a nice ride in the autumn months.
We parked at Decatur St and walked the trail to Riverfront Park. If you are biking, it is awesome....walking not so much. The paved path is like being on a road. Parts are out along a cornfield. It is well maintained, but not the kind of trail we enjoy walking (prefer gravel path in the woods)...will tell bike riders about it though.
My wife and I rode this trail from Falmouth to Columbia and back in the fall of 2014. It is a gem of a trail but it is not your typical rail trail! There is enjoyable riding here for every level of cyclist. My wife and I are avid road and MTB cyclists and enjoyed every mile of this trail on our mountain bikes! However, if you are not an experienced rider, be sure to study the map and read the reviews to know where the paved areas of the trail are located vs the unimproved areas. This will ensure a more enjoyable ride! Hopefully additional signage will be added soon in some of the areas to make the trail more visible, at least until more surface improvements can be made! Now go have fun and explore!!:)
This trail is a real mix of riding experiences! We started at riverfront park in columbia and rode north the length of the trail. you need to ride front street in columbia along the tracks and then continue through the Norfolk Southern rail yard. The gates are open and there's very little activity in this area so there are no problems riding through. Follow the tracks until you reach the old tunnel. Pass through the tunnel and you'll finally see signs for the trail.
The trail follows some roadway again in Marietta -- you'll need to follow the street until you pass McCreary's Tavern. Cross back over the tracks and you're back on the trail!
The most surprising part of the trail was from Bainbridge north to the trail head in Falmouth. A mix of apparent private property, unimproved trail with some challenging tree roots, rocks, off-camber turns and boardwalk bridges ending with a gravel lane (again through what looked like private property). I stopped and checked my phone a few times in this segment just to make sure we hadn't ridden past the trailhead !
Defintely a mountain bike ride if you intend to ride the full length. Parts of the trail are paved and parts are somewhat technical. Fun trail and a great ride. Scenery along the river is just off-the-hook gorgeous.
If you're looking for a traditional Rail Trail then park in Newville and ride south. We parked at the Falmouth launch area (convenient), had difficulty figuring out where to get on the trail (private driveway, misc hiking areas and no signage to indicate bike trail).
Apparently this northern section is very primitive -- we really thought we were in the wrong place. It's the width of a deer path with rocks, roots, and wooden bridges; however there are no steep hills. Don't even bother if you have a road bike. That being said, we had a lot of fun with it!
The trail is pretty straight forward if you don't over think it. It is more obvious riding North to South. The trail link map is right on the money. From the Southern end park at Riverfront park. Ride out of the park and take the left once you cross the tracks. Just ride North and you will reach the old railroad tunnel. Then you are in the old canal section that you ride all the way to the new bridge. after crossing keep on up furnace road, through the little wooded area, and onto Front Street. Continue up Front till you see McCreary ' s pub on your right then cross the tracks at York next cross over. The trail winds through the woods for about five to ten minutes before reaching Decatur where it is paved all the way to the Shocks Mill underpass. After one mile or so of crushed stone, the paved trail picks up and goes all the way to Race Street in Bainbridge. The rest of the trail to Falmouth is wooded but very walkable.
This to me is not a Rails 2 Trails but a Greenway//Non-Rt as I did the Trail 4/19/15 and only about 1.3miles are on an old Railroad bed, with that said I had a great ride on a great day. I rode from River St Marietta. Pa to Race St Bainbridge. pa The on the Road detour is not marked but I did find my way. Like a lot of trails that are not complete it still needs some work but over all is a very nice ride. When this trail is completed it will be one great trail. The high light of the ride was the rock climbers on the Marietta end. there was a three year old girl climbing with the help of her Dad.
Experience from 4/6/2015 -
Last night I thought "I'm going to bike the whole way from the Columbia trailhead to Bainbridge" on the Northwest River Trail. That's a long ways for me, a novice rider. I came home, installed my bike rack, loaded up my bike after a few failed attempts and off I went. I saw what I thought was the trailhead at the Columbia Trail Center. Off I went, past a couple making out, and it dead ended. Hmm. I looked around, no luck. A nice family who was fishing asked if I needed help and tried to explain where to go. So I went where I thought they told me. I ended up at the on ramp of Route 30 East with no trailhead. I turned around. Another biker was approaching so I asked him where it was. He didn't really know but he was pretty sure it was on the east side of the railroad tracks and I would have to go into the industrial complex. Hmm...but there were no trespassing signs everywhere. I made my way towards the industrial site when two other bikers came up "Hey, do you know where the trailhead is?" I asked them. "No, we were hoping you did" they said. Hm. "Well, let's go together through these no trespassing signs and hope we find our way". And we did, and they quickly pulled away from me ahead of the trail. I made my way through the no trespassing signs, along the tracks, and through the rocky tunnel. On the other side was a fork in the road. I guess right. First time I was right.
I made my way to what was the part of the trail I was familiar with which connects to one of the trailheads in Marietta by Chiques Creek Outfitters. I head past the outfitters towards Marietta where again, the trail goes missing. I make a left into a boat access and it looks like it dead ends. Oh, but there's a trail! I passed some folks and their dog and make my way through pretty rough terrain, grateful for my mountain bike tires on my beach cruiser. Into another boat access area where I believe it's the Decatur Street trailhead. It's not. I head towards the end of that parking lot when two dogs quickly approach-a large bushy black lab and a german shephard, unleashed. I stop in my tracks and yell to the owners "Are they safe?" to which I can't hear a response and they're calling the dogs back. The dogs obey, albiet slowly, and I make my way. Then the German Shephard comes bounding towards me AGAIN, this time barking and growling. I start yelling at the owners to get their dog. I stop. He backs off just before he reaches me, when I'm feeling certain he's about to take a chomp at my ankle. So pissed (on another note, leash your freakin' dogs!). I make my way...until the trail takes a sharp right up a hill and directly adjacent to the tracks. Well...this doesn't look right. I push my bike up, along the tracks, and back down. Then I see the "private property" signs. What the heck? Seriously? I'm furious at this point, defeated. I see a railroad crossing ahead and push my bike over it, onto the other side is Front Street in Marietta. I stop at the curb and sit for a while, calming down after the near dog attack. I could go further, and attempt to find the trail head at Decatur Street...where I think it is, but I'm defeated. Best to cut my losses and bike home. And I do just that, staying along Front street in Marietta, cutting across a backyard to the trailhead at Chiques Creek and back to Columbia.
It's been posted on traillink.com, back in October, that the entire Northwest River Trail is completed. Folks, it is most CERTAINLY not. This was a vast difference from biking from Riverfront park in Marietta to Brainbridge two weeks ago which is really lovely, mostly paved, and well signed. This portion of the trail (Columbia-Marietta) lacked much prep, NO signs whatsoever except when you get near Chiques creek. Frankly, it's unsafe for a novice like myself. Now that I know where to not go, I can go again, but I wouldn't attempt it alone until they have some directions and signage up. The beautiful new trail center in Columbia is gorgeous, but without a proper trail and signage to connect to it, I have to wonder how many bikers will be visiting. I have an inquiry into the Susquehanna Gateway Heritage area, who I believe organizes the trail, to find out the status of signage/construction on the lower portion of the trail.
You can now walk from the Falmouth trailhead to Columbia Riverside Park, where you will see the nearly complete trail services building. The Shocks Mill underpass connects the Bainbridge to Marietta sections of the trail. Falmouth to Bainbridge section is too rough for a road or even hybrid bicycle for now, but Shocks Mill to Columbia is very rideable. Much of it is paved as well. The trail covers both a former rail line and former canal bed.
I take my dog to Bainbridge and park and we walk the paved portion, it is wonderful for us because my furbaby is allergic to grass(YES GRASS) poor girl, so this is perfect. LOVE IT.
We started at Falmouth boat access and searched for the trail. I thought it was a deer path at first :-) The best way to begin is to go across the field, away from parking lot and pick up the trail behind the treeline.
The first 3 miles are not for street bikes as you will encounter rocks, tree roots and very narrow paths. I affectionately refer to this as a "Hike and Bike".
I was pretty sure we were riding across someone's lawn at one point, but that is the trail.
In Bainbridge, you will pick up the paved section. Great path. Wide and hilly- a fun ride. We met the Township Supervisor while on this path and he said eventually, there will be a paved path from Falmouth to Chickies Rock. He also told us that the Conoy trail is referred to as "primitive" and the plan is to put the paved path near this but not destroy the fun path that currently exists.
This was a great discovery and I can't wait to go back!
Rode this trail today for the first time. To call it a "trail" is misleading. It does not follow any rail line. It is a finely paved mini road that winds through the woods and between woods and meadows close to the Susquehanna river for 3.8 miles. I began at the southernmost trailhead just off Decatur Road in Marietta. This trailhead is undeveloped, dirt and gravel but has room for a dozen + cars. The trail runs slightly uphill to the north as you ride upstream along the river. The first mile or so runs through woods then the path emerges into the open with woods between the path and the river and meadows on the other side. The path runs through Riverfront Park. Eventually the paved path just stops at the tree line and a single 10" wide dirt track runs off into the woods and down to the river. I didn't explore that any further.
It really is a lovely ride. Very quiet and peaceful and the woods were lovely. Just wish it was a lot longer.
We were looking for a nice, paved path to ride our Trikkes.
We first went to the Falmouth Boat Access, off of Robert Mowder Drive (Marietta) but there was no paved path- only a narrow foot path.
Then we went to the Riverfront Park on Vinegar Ferry Road. This park had a nice pavilion, clean port-a-potties and great access to a paved path. YEAH!
We started off to the west. That section runs a little over a mile before it turns into stone and dirt. We returned to the park and traveled 2+ miles to the East before we turned around. The trail continued but we were out of time...
Unfortunately, we were not able to see much of the river from the section of the trail we were on, but we look forward to returning another day and checking out the rest of the trail.
This trail has recently been resurfaced from Bainbridge south with a fine gravel/stone dust combination making it suitable for bikers of all levels and also handicap accessible. The remaining section north to Falmouth appears unimproved. There is paved parking at the American Legion park and a porta-pottie at the trailhead. Varying slightly in elevation and meandering between the river and active railroad tracks, this section offers some river views and an interesting array of industrial ruins. Plans to unite this trail with the Charles Greenway via a walking bridge under the railroad trestle will add another link in the NW river Trail. Four stars because the low elevation of the trail oscures the more interesting sights of the river and Haldeman Mansion. Perhaps some scenic overlooks such as those on the Manor trail could be worked out with the adjoining property owners? As this project is ongoing, I expect it to be a five star trail eventually.
Rode this trail and it is great--does anyone know what rail line ran here?
My wife and I parked at the Falmouth boat launch and headed down the trail toward Bainbridge. We had trouble finding the trailhead (didn't notice that we passed it as we were pulling into the parking lot). The beginning of the trail passes right past someone's home and we weren't sure if we were actually on their property or not. Other than some initial confusion, it was a a nice hike - relatively flat - there were roots and rocks - but nothing too bad. We turned around in Bainbridge and returned. We would definitely do it again. Also, we went on a Monday morning and didn't encounter a single person on the trail. Our hike was 9/23/2013
Spent about 1-/12 hours hiking this trail beginning from the south end at Bainbridge. Will not go back. Picked up many ticks. We stayed on the hiking trail at all times.
Very lucky to have found this trail, it is not well advertised. The main trail is paved, but has adjacent dirt trials on the Marietta end well suited for light mountain biking.
We have been using this trail for years now. It's a great place for bicycles and walking. Nicely paved and shaded in some spots and open and sunny in others. Great for exercising and easy to get to. Also the pavillion and picnic area was updated and truly a beautiful spot to sit and enjoy the view of the river. Thank you for cutting down trees and brush and showcasing our home across the river from your trail. It was a nice surprise to see that and know that other people will be viewing our house from one of the trails vistas.
Great shady place to run with no vehicle traffic and lovely scenery. Started my run from Bainbridge Inn area and turned around at the Falmouth river access. Total out and back according to my GPS was 6.7 miles (about .8 miles shorter than what it should have been if the stated mileage is correct). Perhaps the trail continued, but I couldn't find where it continued to. As a result I would say it could use better markings at intersections (to ease the burden of picking the trail up again). The long bridge at mile 2 (just north of King's) has some stability issues. It bounced so much as I went across, I feared it might collapse. Only came upon 1 other user on my run (Aug 18, 2012 evening), so there isn't much competition for use that I noticed. While I won't be taking the jogging stroller out on this trail any time soon, it is a beautiful trail to run/hike/bike without the danger of 441 traffic.
What's not to like? This trail parallels the river with frequent views of the water. It's smooth and paved, parts of it are sunny and parts in the shade - what a dream!
This trail has some nice sections but some sections where we had to get off our bikes and walk. This is a mountain bike or hiking trail, not a rail trail. You really can't ride this trail on a road bike at all, or even a cross bike. There are BIG roots and lots of rocks in some areas. I'm sure if you're an experienced mountain biker it's alright, but not for a beginner.
Stretching nearly 3 miles along the picturesque Susquehanna River in Lancaster County's northwest corner, the Conoy Canal Trail actually is one of two finished segments of the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail, which, when complete, will stretch from Falmouth to Columbia and form one of several links in the Schuylkill-Susquehanna Passage, a proposed intercity greenway that will connect Harrisburg with Philadelphia.
Unlike the other finished portion of the trail, the paved, multiuse Charles Greenway that currently extends from Marietta to a point just below the Shock's Mill Trestle (and will eventually connect to the American Legion Park in Bainbridge), the Conoy Canal Trail is a narrow, dirt and grass path that follows the towpath of the long-abandoned Pennsylvania Mainline Canal. Ruins of the canal can still be seen along its route, including the restored lock at Falmouth, stone walls that separate the trail from the river and the ditch between the towpath and railroad line, which is all the remains of the old waterway. Footbridges allow easy passage across several bubbling streams, as well as a couple locations where the towpath has since eroded. Users are treated to numerous panoramic views of the river, and the surrounding woodlands that have grown up on the route since its abandonment provide welcome cool shade during the hot, humid days of late spring and summer. The powerlines that soar high above the trail and river, and the stacks of the nearby Brunner Island Power Plant provide an interesting addition to the scenery and remind trail users of the area's signficance as an energy generator. An active railroad parallels the trail on the opposite side of the canal ruins, but it gets less use than the Norfolk Southern mainline that runs along the York County side to a point just above Codorus Furnace, where it crosses to Lancaster County via the Shock's Mill Trestle.
Although the trail is useable with mountain bikes, its uneven, dirt and grass surface and narrow width make it best suited for hiking. This could present something of a quandary when the trail is eventually joined to the Charles Greenway and proposed extensions north to the Harrisburg East Shore communities, and east to Elizabethtown are completed and the vision of the Schuylkill-Susquehanna Passage is recognized. On one hand, its current, relatively undeveloped state makes it a unique experience and allows users to enjoy nature, fish in the river and hike under lush shade. However, its unsuitability for road bikes, wheelchair users and parents pushing babies and toddlers in strollers would leave something of a gap in the greenway, forcing cyclists to detour onto busy and dangerous Route 441. While fully restoring the towpath walls, placing safety rails on the dies and paving the trail with asphalt or crushed stone would upgrade it to multi-use status, this process would also likely result in the removal of many of the trees that shade the path and are homes to birds and other wildlife. It would also be a very costly undertaking.
For now, if you are looking for a wide, level, multi-use trail, you would be better suited checking out the nearby Charles Greenway, Conewago Recreation Trail/Lebanon Valley Rail Trail or Capital Area Greenbelt, but if you are looking to take a peaceful hike along the remnants of old canal infrstructure surrounded by woodlands and abutting the mighty Susquehanna River, the Conoy Canal Trail portion of the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail is worth a visit.
Started this trail at the Falmouth boat landing which has plenty of parking evan for trailers. This trail is a single path not more than a couple of feet wide at places. It is slightly rough with tree roots and rocks going across the path. It would be good for beginer mountain bikers. There are approx 7 small bridges along the trail and good views of the river closer to Bainbridge. Only encountered 2 others on the trail both on foot and had to get off my bike to pass them. It was dry for a couple of weeks prior to my ride so trail was in good shape but would be muddy after rains being this is a dirt trail. Upkeep seemed good with fallen trees cleared from path and brush cut back off the edges. Ride was on 4-14-12.
My wife and I were pleasantly surprised to "stumble" upon this great trail for rollerblading.
We went in mid-November. The western part of the trail was clear, and great for rollerblading on. The eastern half had a lot of leafs and twigs covering the path, so at times it felt like we were roller-hiking. The best part, though, was because the leafs had fallen, we had a clear view of the river on almost the entire trail!
Heavy rains in early March caused high river flow which flooded many areas of this trail. Barriers were recently set up across the Marietta access to the parking area, although walk in access was not restricted. Since both access roads go through rail underpasses which flood easily, this is common after heavy rains or when river flow is high. I have no problem passing the barricade on foot, however, use caution if ice or standing water is present. The trail itself is not damaged, but many areas of debris and dried mud are visible. It appears some equipment was brought in to clear the trail. Vegetation growth will eventually cover much of the flood damage. Even so, I passed only one other person on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
We rode this trail on a delightful Labor Day Monday. The most difficult part was finding it! (I know now to print out the map and directions from this site and take them along). This was the first time I had climbed on my bike in more years than I care to remember, and this trail was the perfect first step back. The surface is beautifully smooth and the whole trail is relatively flat, although I think it qualifies as a 'workout'. There were very few others using the trail, which made the ride quite easy and pleasant. My only disappointment was with the river view. While the trail runs alongside the Susquehanna, the growth of underbrush and trees was so thick that the river was not really visible except at the end at River Front Park. We were hoping to see some bald eagles, but that didn't happen. We are already planning to return in the fall when the leaves have all dropped, hoping that then we will have a better view and maybe even see our eagle.
This summer a small segment of the trail was added that separates trail users from vehicle traffic.
The new pathway runs from the parking area and pavilion of East Donegal riverfront park parallel to the vehicle road to where Vinegar Ferry road terminates at the gated portion of the trail. Additional parking spaces just for trail users have also been added near the gates.
Community Conservation Partnerships Program administered by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Lancaster New Era
Jan 21, 2010 21:31 EST - Ad Crable
• Lancaster County, $306,500 for building a pedestrian bridge across Chiques Creek in Chickies Rock County Park for the Northwest River Trail.
The Northwest River Trail eventually will extend from Columbia to the Dauphin County line. This funding is for a 140-foot-long concrete bridge between Columbia and Marietta that can handle flooding from the Susquehanna River and Chiques Creek.
It will be built on existing abutments from the old trolley line that went to the summit of Chickies Rock.
• Conoy Township, $250,000 to build two other sections of the Northwest River Trail. The money will be used to build a handicapped-accessible paved trail for 7,630 feet from Shock's Mill bridge to East Donegal Township's River Park and a 4,075-foot section from Bainbridge to Conoy Creek.
In addition to construction, the funding will be used for erosion and sedimentation control, safety fencing, signage and landscaping.
These grants add will extend the newly paved segment another 1.5 miles making the trail length to 3.8 miles. The next road block will be dealing with the Shock's mill railroad crossing. The most recent proposal for dealing with this is to hang a pedestrian/cyclist bridge from the abutment of the railroad bridge,below the railroad tracks and suspended over the water. This would provide an excellent vista of the river.
Lancaster County's newest, multi-use trail is really only the first segment of a network of much longer greenways that will eventually traverse the region.
Called the "Charles Greenway," the first, fully completed portion of the Northwest River Trail traverses picturesque agricultural and wooded lands between East Donegal Township's Riverfront Park and a recently upgraded parking lot at the end of Decatur Street on the west side of Marietta. The trail is accessible from either end, though signage designating it as such has yet to be installed. The waters of the Susquehanna River lie just to the south, while the heavily used Norfolk Southern freight line that parallels the river from the Harrisburg West Shore to Perryville, Maryland is situated just a short distance to the north of the trail, giving rail fans the opportunity to observe the hulking trains that often lumber by.
Although there are currently no benches or other amenities (a chemical toilet is located at Riverfront Park) along the trail, numerous identations and short cutoffs in the wooded section near Marietta suggest that these will be added in the near future.
East Donegal officials plan to build the next portion of the trail, which will extend along some recently reclaimed wetlands northwest of Riverfront Park, later in 2010, and the section southeast through Marietta and Chickies Rock County Park to Columbia is slated for construction in 2012. Further north, Conoy Township officials are studying options to extend the trail toward Bainbridge by either tunneling directly under the rail line, or, more likely, bringing it out to the river on a boardwalk that will pass under the Shock's Mill Trestle. The narrow, walking path along the Conoy Canal will likely be upgraded to multi-use status, extending the trail all the way to Falmouth, just south of the Dauphin County line.
Although this will be an impressive trail on its own right, plans to connect the Northwest Lancaster River Trail to at least three other existing or proposed greenways are already under consideration. Conoy Township officials eventually plan to extend the Conewago Recreation Trail westward to Falmouth, which will provide a connection to Lebanon, and Manor Township envisions connecting its section of the Atglen-Susquehanna Trail north to Columbia. A proposal to construct a trail parallel to Route 441 will provide access to Royalton and Middletown, and, if a suitable route can be found through the East Shore suburbs, a connection to the Capital Area Greenbelt may eventually be established.
The organization behind the Susquehanna Greenway project has already gone on record stating that the Northwest Lancaster River Trail will be an important step toward fulfilling it ambitious goal of eventually constructing a system of multi-use trails running the entire length of the Susquehanna River. The trail could also serve as part of a greenway connecting Harrisburg to the Philadelphia area if the Atglen-Susquehanna Trail (which is currently in development across southern Lancaster County) is eventually connected to the Chester Valley Trail, and officials at DCNR are studying possible connections to the York County Heritage Rail Trail.
The Northwest Lancaster River Trail may currently consist of a small, local greenway, but it may one day serve as an important nexus for the system of greenways that will eventually connect cities in the mid-Atlantic and beyond.
This former foot path has been upgraded to a multi purpose trail, suitable for cycling, rollerblades, and walking. It is located next to the Susquehanna river, and provides some greatviews. Also, The railroad tracks on the east side of the trail is part of Norfolk Southern's mainline and 100 car trains pass by several times a day. Unlike most rail trails, much of the trail curves through the trees. The northern most part , just before Riverfront park is in agricultural use on both sides of the trail. There are parking facilities at Riverfront park, and a single porta potty is located here as well( there is no drinking water available!!!). As you enter Riverfront park there is no signage( as of this time) to guide you to the trail head. You follow the one way road way to the boat launch and pavilion. This One way road way is also part of the trail. so you must share this small stretch of road with autos and pick up trucks. From the pavilion follow the road way south to the point where motorized vehicles must turn left, you will see the gated section straight ahead.
At the southern terminus, where the gate is located is another access road to a boat ramp in Marietta. This is a dirt road, and was very muddy on the day that I was there. If you turn left, and go through the Tunnel below the railroad tracks, you emerge onto the streets of Marietta. If you are hiking, you can go straight and follow the older dirt hiking path. Cyclists can follow Market or Front streets (Restaurants and shops) in Marietta to Furnace road which will take you to Chickies Rock County park and the dirt hiking cycling trail betwwen the cliff face and the river.
I give it only 4 stars because the upgrade is only 2.3 miles long and the lack of amenities at the trail head.
I found that there is virtually no grade and as a out of shape newbie to bike riding was able to go up and back 3 times quite easily
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