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The Valley Forge to Philadelphia segment of the Schuylkill River Trail stretches 27 miles along the historic Schuylkill River, from downtown Philadelphia at the Philadelphia Museum of Art out to Montgomery County and Valley Forge National Historic Park. In Philadelphia, the trail uses Fairmount Park trails and the Manayunk Canal towpath. In Montgomery County, the trail follows a former Pennsylvania Railroad line. The trail is the spine of the Schuylkill River Heritage Corridor, a five-county area designated as both a State and National Heritage Area.
Originally conceived of by the Fairmount Park Commission, the trail route grew to include many municipalities. Montgomery County constructed the trail from the Philadelphia City line to Valley Forge National Historical Park. The Chester County Department of Parks and Recreation is currently planning the section between Phoenixville and Pottstown. The Schuylkill River Greenway Association is working on the sections from the Montgomery County line to Birdsboro and from Gibraltar into Reading. And finally, the Schuylkill River Development Corporation is managing the trail construction from the Water Works in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park and along the tidal section of the Schuylkill River, known as Schuylkill Banks. The Schuylkill River Greenway Association has detailed maps of each section along with construction up-dates on their website.
The river was once a major transportation resource that played a key role in the region's development. Evidence of several centuries of industrial use remain where river and canal navigation, quarrying of limestone and iron ore, and production of iron and steel have succeeded each other as mainstays of the region's economy.
Today the trail is a busy commuter route during rush hour. This trail's asphalt tread is somewhat narrower than that of many of the new trails—caution, as well as rail-trail etiquette, should be heeded. This section runs parallel to the Schuylkill River, with numerous access points at businesses and public transit. In Norristown, the trail connects with the 30th Street train station in downtown Philadelphia. There, the trail also connects with the spectacular Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk that travels over the water, 50 feet from the shoreline.
At Betzwood, just outside Valley Forge National Park, the trail provides a direct link to the 19.5-mile Perkiomen Trail and will eventually access the Cross County Trail in Conshohocken and the Chester Valley Trail in Norristown. Future development of the Schuylkill River Trail will extend it along the entire length of the Schuylkill River, more than 140 miles, from its confluence with the Delaware River to its headwaters in Schuylkill County.
Visit the other Schuylkill River Trail segments: Thun Trail, Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk, Bartram Trail, Schuylkill River Trail - Northern Berks County, and the Phoenixville to Pottstown segment.
To reach the trailhead and parking at Valley Forge National Historical Park, take the Pennsylvania Turnpike (Interstate 76) to Valley Forge, Exit 326. Take US 422 west to the Audubon/Trooper Exit and turn left off the exit ramp. You'll find parking for the Schuylkill River Trail at the Betzwood Picnic area just ahead.
To reach the Philadelphia trailhead, head west from Center City in Philadelphia on Walnut Street. Turn left on 23rd Street, right on Spruce Street and right on South 25th Street. Before having to turn right on Locust Street, look to the left; there is a pathway to the trailhead reachable by crossing the railroad tracks at an at-grade crossing. There is no dedicated parking for this trailhead.
I love this trail for many reasons. I grew up in Manayunk. I played, fished, and explored the banks of the Schuylkill River. In my older years, I got into biking again. I read that they converted a lot of railroad tracks to a trail on the Schuylkill River. I was really excited. I rode the trail in 2015 for the first time. I was like a little kid in a candy store. I could not wait to see what was around the next bend and so on.
The trail is mainly level with little ascents. The trail is mostly asphalt with some crushed gravel on the Manayunk Towpath. There is a " GAP" when you get to Manayunk in the trail. Just stay on the Main St, you will see signs to get on the Towpath. When traveling in Manayunk be careful because the area in the summer is usually crowded.
This trail is truly the Grand Lady of the Schuylkill River Trails. There is so much beauty and history to see. First, biking into Philadelphia showcases some of the most interesting sites along the Schuylkill River such as the rowers, boat house row, The Philadelphia Art Museum and the city skyline etc. Secondly,going west of Philadelphia there are a lot options you can take. Recommended, if you need a break, Manayunk has a lot of eateries. In this area, there are other trails to explore. The Manayunk Trail Bridge is a must. The view is magnificent. Some of the other trails are Lincoln Drive,Cynwyd,Pencyoyd and Wissahickon Valley Park. Finally, after leaving the towpath you will get back on the Schuylkill trail at Shawmont. There the trail really opens up. There are other trails that connect,such as CrossCounty and Perkiomen.
Enclosing, I thank all the people who made these trails available. Even though its wintertime, as I right this review, I am getting the " Itch".
I have been riding this trail for a couple of years now. The trail is flat and puts you along some very nice scenery, river views from Oaks Pa down to the Philly Art museum. The trail connects to Martin Luther King blvd in Phila. which is closed to cars on the weekends, providing a nice wide street to ride on safely, its’ fantastic. It’s nice to go from suburban to urban down into Manayunk and through to center city. You can park at one of the many trail heads along the way and ride a good number of miles non-stop and there are some great places to stop for coffee or a craft beer along the way. That’s the good.
This past weekend I went for the first time this season and I found it getting a bit more dangerous than usuall. There’s quite a few folks out there that have falsely convinced themselves that the Tour De France is in their future and this trail provides their own personal training ride. The trail for the most part does not accommodate 3 or 4 riders across in a safe manner. That being the case there are many times where the fast and furious riders try to overtake slower riders while there are folks coming toward them in the opposite direction creating a 3 across situation on a narrow path. There are also the groups of riders who “need” to ride 2 and 3 across to chat and refuse to go single file when other riders approach in the opposite direction. I have been forced onto the lawn a few times last year. All of this behavior is at best rude and at worse dangerous. I have seen collisions that have sent people off to the hospital that could have been avoided with a little bit of behavioral modification toward the courteous side. If you’re out there “training” you can spare a second or 2 to apply the breaks and or go single file to avoid a dangerous situation.
This site promotes the rails-to-trails conservancy which attempts to raise money for these types of trails. These trails can be great and worthwhile benefiting many people in the long run by promoting a healthier lifestyle that has a cost benefit to the entire society. However if there are accidents that leave people bloody and in need of an emergency room tax dollars and donation support for this will dry up. The trails (this one in particular) could benefit from some signage outlining proper etiquette and behavior. It would be money well spent.
we decided to try out this trail and found that is absolutely wonderful. not many hills at all which was great. it was busy at times but not bad at all. will definitely make this a favorite of ours for weekend rides.
My first day on this trail( august 19,2016) with my wife, started at valley forge and by chance were there for the first ride over the new bridge connecting valley forge park with the set. Great access to surface roads to take a break and get a drink and easy on to continue on the trails. we did 20 miles and even though it was 90 degrees we know in the fall we will be using this trail a lot.
I'm a frequent user of the trail from the newly constructed riverwalk just off South Street to Valley Forge and/or Wissahickon Valley Park. Since I have lived close to the trail for 20 years, I am on it to run, bike, walk and just hang out. It's a terrific spot and connects to many different parts of the city. I never take it for granted as there is always great wildlife sightings, fun and interesting activities, and friends on the trail. Use it, love it and enjoy it.
I've been riding this trail since the mid-90s, I think. I was just on it this past Sunday. The best time to be on it is early morning. It does get crowded the later you ride.
The good: It's clean, easy to follow and few spots where we have to stop. It's absolutely beautiful in many spots. Even going through Conshohocken is a nice site. Cars seem to have the right of way wherever the path crosses, so beware.
The bad: People. I've almost hit kids because parents bring their 2 year olds up there on a BigWheel. Also, there are cyclists who rode two up, while having a conversation, unable to hear my 2 calls to pass. The third I had to yell and they copped an attitude.
It is absolutely one of my most favorite trails to ride.
I understand that bicyclists want to book down the path which runs from valley forge to the Phila. Art Museum, but would it be too much to ask for you to stop when you see a pedestrian crossing?! I have had a whistle blown at me because I apparently did not cross the path fast enough. Cyclists rarely even make eye contact as they zoom past, assuming that I should stop for THEM! This kind of behaviour does not reflect well on our area.
I disliked this trail for several reasons.
The first was it was so over crowded with rude people. Something I've never encountered on any trail in eastern PA or NJ. On every trail I've been on other riders were friendly and helpful. This trail was different. It was packed with self absorbed riders who felt they were the ONLY ones on the trail which they owned.
Next it was such a pathetically easy trail that calling it a "trail" is a lie. How about referring to it as a paved sidewalk winding through some of the ugliest urban settings ever.
What a shame other trails aren't given the attention this one is.
It was filled with the self absorbed from Philadelphia.
Any trail is better than this paved poor excuse for getting back to nature joke.
Trail is really well maintained and you'll get to see alot of the area leading up to Philadelphia. Valley Forge park is really historic. The trail will take you through little towns like Conshohocken and Manayunk and Kelly Drive which is located right next to the river.
The trail will end at the Philadelphia Art Museum but you can keep going along the river into the city.
Trail is crowded on the weekend with runners/biked etc but a great way to see the area around Philly.
I live in the area so I'm on the trail all the time. Lots of little coffee shops and restaurants as well. Enjoy!
Had a great time on this trail. The scenery was sweet. Rowing races made that area congested, nice trail to relax and enjoy a slower ride and take in the sights. Loved the new boardwalk. Will be coming back to complete this trail.
Trail was great, flat and clean. We rode round trip from Oaks to the Art Museum 46 miles total. Good food in Manayunk, great scenery along the trail
Trail was great, except for a small section in Manayunk which is under repair (just take Main Street for 1/4 mile to get around. There is also a new place near Conshohocken (on the trail) to get a bite or a drink!
This is a great trail. I rode it twice this year so far, once from Valley Forge to Philly and back and today from Oaks to Philly and back. Weekends the trail can get somewhat crowded at certain areas as is the parking areas. Manayunk can get a little tricky and you have to ride the Main Street.
I ride the Schuylkill River trail every summer from Valley Forge Park to Philadelphia. Subtle improvements in the trail in 2012 make it safer for the whole family. New pavement, handrails, and bridges along the way have increased the appeal. My 21 mile ride each way makes my visit to Pennsylvania a great time.
James - Orlando, FL
The trail is quite level, and there will be walkers, recreational bicyclists, and speed bicyclists encountered. It is trivial to go 20 mph without breaking a sweat.
I will start from the Betzwood Bridge, at the border of Valley Forge NHP. All macadam, and less busy then the lower end. There are a few road stretches, but they are not well used roads, and I never encountered traffic. The roads access private property.
Between Valley Forge and Norristown, there is a small rest area with a drinking fountain.
There are also benches along the entire route.
There are mile makers, and also mile posts at regular intervals. Between Norristown and Spring Mill, there are three abandoned RR track crossings, with the trail set up for a 90 degree crossing, and rubber cushions.
From Spring Mill to Shawmont, it is fairly new macadam, and it ends at a street crossing, then commuter rail tracks, and a short section (about 25') of cobblestones. You may want to walk your bike for part of it. (Total distance of about one block.)
Then, until Manyunk center, is is a combination of fine packed gravel, some boardwalk and some macadam. The trail abruptly departs from along the canal tow path into traffic for about a mile or so. There is a bike lane, but I ride the sidewalk. Not much pedestrian traffic, and much safer.
Even in wet weather, this section is no big deal.
Along the tow path you will encounter more traffic.
You can ride the sidewalk down past the theater complex, and the bus terminal, then hang a right onto the trail along East River Drive.
Then you are in Fairmont Park, all macadam, and much more traffic, both pedestrian and bicycle.
If you want to make time, do the upper end north of Shawmont. You can ride into the city proper, past the Art Museum, and ends at Walnut Street.
They are working to get a work around for the street section in Manyunk, as well as extending it past Walnut Street.
As a biker with an allergic reaction to being knocked off by nutty car drivers this trail is perfect. You can go out for a long (or shorter) ride on a great surface without the fear of being killed.
If only there were more trails like this!
My wife and I rode a short section of the trail, from the Betzwood Trailhead to Norristown and back, on 27 May 2012. The trail is in excellent condition, and we had a great ride. It was quite busy, with a variety of walkers, runners, casual bikers and more serious bikers. We look forward to returning for a longer ride toward Philadelphia.
I did this Trail mid day July 7th, it was a hot sweaty day and I was on my old Mt bike with a street tire but because I started at Pawling Trail head and rode to Mannounk the lack of canopy took some of the fun from this ride, I would have had a much better ride if I had done more home work and had been on my road bike The section I did was about a 34 mile round trip and all but about four miles, two in each direction was paved. This is a family friendly trail and is fairly flat. Very good scenery and buy in large you fallow the Schuylkill river. They have done a great job on the Norristown to Conshohoken section of the trail. The trail is well marked and they give you mile points to almost every point on the trail. this was not one of my best rides but like the old saying goes a bad bike ride is better then a good day of work. In the fall I will come back and do the whole trail on a nice cool fall day.
Once again we rode the SRT from Oaks to Fairmount park, the SRT was busy as always. There is a detour from the route along Kelly Drive just north of the park, this isn't the safest detour as it crosses busy on/off ramps. The good news is that they are improving the trail along Kelly drive to be more than a skinny sidewalk.
The Manayunk canal trail section is still rough and unsuited for road bikes, sending the skinny tire crowd to the narrow downtown streets.
My husband and I started on the trail a bit above Oaks, we hoped to ride to Philadelphia. I was really looking forward to riding in Fairmont Park. The ride was smooth and pleasant, just a few hills and they could be counted on one hand. Even though we started early the path was very crowed with people so you must be prepared to pay attention most of the time. The ride was so enjoyable and it was exciting to peddle from Montgomery Co. and end up in the City of Philadelphia. My husband and I took a few moments to sight see a bit before heading back around Fairmont Park and heading home. My Son lives in Roxborough and I was able to peddle the Tow Path toward Manyunk and say Hello to him on my way through. It was awesome. I had one bike reck in Fairmont Park due to a small child cutting me off, I was fine and it was all good. Our ride was a total of 53 miles. We live in Berks County and CAN NOT WAIT for the trail in Berks to completly group up with the trails to Montgomery to Chester...Dream Come True!
For those of you doing this for the first time. This turn was not marked well enough for me coming from Philly. I think I lot of serious riders stay on Main Street rather than ride the Mannyounk Tow canal path so I followed them thinking I was on course I ending up going up Umbria Street to Shawmont Ave still thought I was on course because I lot of bikers around. Finally up a hill still going away from river. I asked another biker who sent me back down hill and got back on course at Nixon Street. The way back from Valley Forge no problem. It was a great ride for me and my son ( 13 years old ). He needed a 50 Mile ride for the Cycling Merit Badge for Boy Scouts. If you start at Locust and South 25th add a couple detours for lunch/drinks then go under and past Route 422 on another trail ( the Permokin trail I think )and back its a good 50 miles. Looking forward to do it again.
This is one of my favorite bike rides because it gives you both a chance to "people watch" and a time for solitude. I like to start behind the Art Museum in Philadelphia (get there very early for available free parking spaces and fewer walkers/runner/roller bladers) and peddle to Valley Forge and return. Begin by peddling through Fairmont Park and enjoy the statuary and the rowers on the river (Note: If you have only seen Boat House Row lit up from the Schuylkill Expressway, it is kind of neat to see the back of the buildings up close). Stop in Manyunk at the Manyunk Diner for breakfast and continue on the canal towpath. You may even see a freight train passing you along the way. Once you get to Valley Forge, take a walk through the visitor's center, which has interesting exhibits, nice cool air conditioning, and clean restrooms. On the return trip walk your bike through the center of Manyunk and enjoy the little shops and restaurants, and buy some water ice. Once back in Fairmont Park be careful of the people along the way because many of them will not share the path (People from Philly are rather proud of their rudeness so I learned to not take it personally).
Most of this trail is smooth, but because there are rough sections including cobblestones, I consider this a "Fat tire ride".
If you're looking for a place to ride that is paved, flat, and off-road, generally speaking you can't beat this trail. While there are still a couple of missing links (see suggestion #3 below), a ride from Valley Forge to Philadelphia and back is easily feasible, provided one is in shape to ride that far.
A brief historical perspective: This trail was first planned in 1976 to mark the Bicentennial. The trails within Valley Forge National Park were all built that year, but the Schuylkill Trail was a slow process. It was not until 1995--19 years later--that there was an unbroken trail from the Betzwood picnic area to Port Royal Avenue in Philadelphia. There are roads we have to use, described in reviews on this site, to get between finished trail segments. This network of routes that cyclists like to use is generally referred to as the "Schuylkill River Trail" today, even though presently it isn't 100 per cent trail.
Recent improvements in Norristown and Conshohocken on the trail make the ride more enjoyable. In Norristown, a short stretch was repaved, and both corridors over the Dannehower Bridge approach are now part of the trail, for safety. Previously only one corridor was paved. The trail has also been reconstructed and rerouted through the Norristown Transportation Station. In Conshohocken, a new housing development was built, also requiring rerouting of the trail. A definite change for the better. Westbound cyclists still face a climb when leaving the main part of Conshy, but nothing like it used to be. The proposed Cross County Trail also runs into the Schuylkill Trail at this point.
If you're thinking about taking this ride, the best advice I can give you is avoid Saturdays and Sundays if possible, especially April through October. For obvious reasons, parking at trail heads is hard to find, and the bike path along Kelly Drive becomes a human obstacle course. But if it's weekends or never, you do have an option, at least in the city: Martin Luther King Drive (formerly West River Drive) is closed to all vehicular traffic from 8 to 5 on Saturdays and Sundays from April through October. That gives cyclists, rollerbladers, and everybody else the whole road to themselves. The only caveat here is there are "invisible hills," so if your legs are telling you to downshift, do so. The stretch between the Betzwood picnic area and Port Indian is also heavily used on weekends.
The one problem with riding to Philly from Betzwood, or from anywhere west of the city, is the wind. More often than not, winds blow from the west, which means if we plan a round-trip ride from Betzwood to Philly and back, we're going to get a head wind on the return trip--ouch. There isn't much we can do about that except plan for it and deal with it.
While I would rate this trail four stars out of five, which isn't bad, my suggestions for improving it are as follows:
1. Replace the gates at highway crossings with bollards. They serve the same purpose, are just as effective, and are safer. It's mind-boggling how often you and somebody coming the other way meet at one of those gates, and somebody has to slow down or stop to yield. It doesn't have to be that way.
2. Use mile markers in Philadelphia, as well as in Montgomery County.
3. Complete the missing links. There is at least one other website devoted to just this cause. One proposal is to continue the trail eastbound on the abandoned rail bed past Port Royal Avenue, across the river at Manayunk, down the south side, and back across at the east end of Manayunk. Converting the sidewalk on Main Street to a shared bike path is also part of this plan. It also wouldn't hurt to widen and resurface the section along Kelly Drive from Ridge Avenue to the Falls Bridge. That's a sidewalk being used as a bike trail, which isn't the best but is better than nothing. If the aforementioned rail bed project falls through, then don't pave the Manayunk Towpath, but make the surface bicycle-friendly the entire length of it, now just the lower end of it. And please! get rid of those cobblestones at the old Shawmont train station. Almost anything would be better than grunting up 7 or 9 per cent grades and having to share narrow streets with flustered Philly drivers.
4. In Conshohocken, at the east end of the Fayette Street Bridge underpass, there is a rough spot that should be paved over or smoothed out. Not only can an unsuspecting cyclist get a flat, it's also a rude jolt or a crash waiting to happen. I try to ride as close to the grass as possible here to lessen the blow. There's a similar hazard between the Montgomery County line and Port Royal Avenue in the "westbound lane." Somebody does keep this well marked, but the city can't leave it that way forever. Fix it.
5. At the Betzwood Bridge trail connection to Valley Forge Park, take down those silly signs. They're put there to keep horses off the bridge--thank you--but it also forces cyclists to dismount, which is totally unnecessary. (Ironically . . . around the time the trail was finished in Montgomery County, the old Betzwood Bridge, which was an open-grate single-lane bridge, was demolished. If it were there today, it would be a much better place for cyclists to cross the river than a 4-foot-wide cattle chute along route 422!)
Check out the new trail from Oaks to Port Providence. The trail has recently been completed with the addition of a steel and concrete bridge and additional asphalt. This trail leads to Port Providence. At the end of the trail is a very nice and new parking lot as well as restrooms. Now your not too far from Phoenixville, so stop on in for some food and shopping. Sorry, for plugging my own town.
Yes, it is true that this trail map is misleading especially at the point where the SRT ends and joins a street called NIXON STREET. You have to continue on this road and make a left on SHAWMONT AVE. and then a quick right on to MINERVA STREET/UMBRIA STEET. There is no bike lane when you come down the hill and pass DOMINO LANE. Continue on UMBRIA STEET until it ends. Make a right at the traffic light and then a left at the next traffic light. You are now on MAIN STREET. This will take you into Manayunk. Famous for the Pro Cycling tour and location of "The Wall" and fine shopping and restaurants. Don't get too adventurous and explore off MAIN STREET or you could come face to face with a yunker.
If you miss this very important route deviation, you will end up on the Manayunk Canal Tow Path which is very hazardous to skinny tire bikes. The route is hard pack for a bit then cobble then very loose gravel. Not to mention confusing.
When leaving Manayunk by way of MAIN STREET you will come to an intersection where MAIN STREET ends. This is where it's gets a little tricky. At this traffic light MAIN STREET ends and meets RIDGE AVENUE. Continue right on RIDGE AVENUE and just past the SEPTA bus station is an entrance ramp to KELLY DRIVE. There is a narrow bike bath that will take you to KELLY DRIVE and the continuation of a proper bike trail. There is another way to get to the proper trail and for road bikes you may want to take this route as it's a bit less dangerous. After the SEPTA bus station follow RIDGE AVENUE straight into East Falls. I believe there is a bike lane here. Be careful of the entrance ramp to City Line Avenue and Rte. 76 as it attracts a lot of cars and trucks. Stay on RIDGE AVENUE and pass the traffic light at SCHOOL HOUSE LANE. Then pass another busy City Line Avenue Rte. 76 on ramp off ramp intersection. Continue straight to the next traffic light which is FALLS BRIDGE and make a right. At the next traffic light you will see KELLY DRIVE and a bike trail on the opposite side from where you are. Make a left on this trail and it will take you to the ART MUSEUM. Be careful on this bike trail. When it's busy in the summer or weekend there are lots of joggers, walkers, kids, baby strollers, fisherman, rowers, scullers, tanners, rock climbers, inline skaters and generally a lot of people with headphones so loud they couldn't here your bell or "on you left" if you were amplified. If you cross the FALLS BRIDGE and make a left at the end you will be on MLK DRIVE or WEST RIVER DRIVE. There is a bike trail over there too. You could also be rewarded two ways. The bike trail is usually less crowded and they close the road to cars and trucks on the weekends from 7AM to 5PM from April to October so you can ride on all four lanes. This trail will also lead you to the ART MUSEUM.
Have fun out there.
Just a quick update that the SRT goes below Walnut St. (at the Walnut St. Bridge where it crosses the Schuylkill River) to Locust St., where there is a roundabout to turnaround on. There are lights at night, and that's where the office to the Schuylkill River Trail Alliance's office for the public is (a temporary structure open to the public during business hours). There's a water fountain at the Water Works, where the museum is free and open to the public where the trail passes the Art Museum. There restoration of the restaurant is complete, and it's open. There's a water fountain that says "Peace, 1865" apparently in tribute to the end of the Civil War, that must have been for the horses of visitors to the Water Works after the Civil War. The outdoor restoration of the Victorian era statuary, with a tribute to the designer of the Water Works, Graff, is done, and you bike past it on the trail. There's a stunning new second overlook being restored above the trail about where the trail passes the Art Museum. Soon, the South St. Bridge will be closed for renovations this year, Fall 2008, and the new bridge has new bike friendly features that are to tie into the SRT. It makes for a bike excursion that is rich in history, Americana, Victoriana, and a stunning view of the skyline of Philly that makes it possible to see all of the detail of the newer buildings like the Cira Center (new light show every night, almost) and the subtle but tallest Comcast Bldg. Make it a point to get your excursion all the way down to Locust St. Locust St. is also the new end point of the Breast Cancer 3-Day in Philly, if I'm not mistaken. I think people are trying to keep it quiet because it is already getting crowded on the weekends and during good weather.
[I had a pretty long feedback that included warnings and route suggestions, but it disappeared. So here's a tiny version.]
This trail is nicely done, paved and isolated from the Oaks connection to the Perkiomen Trail (a couple miles northwest of Valley Forge) to a few thousand yards inside the Philadelphia city border. But be warned if you want to go further -- the "trail" goes on city streets and a gravel/dirt path for a number of miles before joining the paved/isolated and very crowded Kelly Drive trail. I tried going further and further from Oaks, and was totally surprised when I got to the street/dirt part because all the maps and all the (short) descriptions implied a paved/isolated trail all the way from Valley Forge to the Philly Art Museum. Not true.
Every map and description I've seen of this trail shows a nice continuous line from the Perkiomen trail in Oaks through Valley Forge (VF) and going to the Art Museum (and now to Locust St.).
The first time I tried to ride all the way from VF to the Art Museum, I found a nice isolated paved trail all the way to the border of Philadelphia, just as the pictures depicted. However, the nice paved trail ends less than mile inside the city boundaries. It then goes down a lightly-traveled neighborhood (OK), and then goes down to the river via smooth cobblestone bricks (the worst possible surface for bikes) and becomes a relatively narrow walkway with much loose gravel and rocks. Not cool for a road bike. The "trail" then goes on a relatively busy city street, without a marked bike lane. To stay on the "trail", you have to make an right on Kelly Drive that doesn't come into view until you're on top of it. Now you're on an even busier faster road (or on the narrow poor sidewalk beside it). At the other side of the "Falls Bridge" on your right, you get to go on an isolated paved trail again parallel to Kelly Drive and into the Art Museum.
I just don't want anyone to be fooled (like I was) when they see the map with a continuous trail all the way in, and fooled by the good parts on either end. There is an unpleasant and (if you're not used to city biking) dangerous middle part.
Some hints (have a map handy) for riding in from VF:
1) The end of the isolated paved trail dumps onto Nixon St. That ends in fork. The official "trail" goes to the right on the cobblestones and gravel. Good in-shape cyclists (I'm not one of them) can go to the left on Shawmont and shortly make an exterme right turn and an exterme hill climb onto Umbria St. This is a wide street for a quarter or half mile or so with a (often violated) bike lane. You can then follow maps through narrow city streets through the city village of Manyunk on Main St. and rejoin the trail on the same street.
2) Since I can't make it up the hill, I compromise: I go down the gravel trail until the first paved access to the left that connects with Main St. Going through Manyunk is dangerous along parallel-parked cars, but at least the traffic is (mostly) slow. I prefer it to continuing another quarter mile down the gravel.
3) On weekends, the West River Drive is closed to cars. It is a good alternative to the very very crowded trail along Kelly drive. At the "Falls Bridge" (a boxy girder bridge), make a right over the river and a left on the other side. This route will go back over another bridge just on the far side of the Art Museum. This route is slightly longer to the Art Museum, but it's much more pleasant because you don't have to avoid lots of other users (there are many users on West River, but they're on a four-lane smooth road instead of a 5-foot-wide trail).
4) Getting to Independence Hall is not too bad if you have a little comfort with city biking. Spring Garden street has bike lanes on both sides of the four-to-six lane road. (I'm not going to detail getting to it from the Art Museum, but it's just a couple hundred heart-stopping yards.) Make a right on Sixth St. that has a bike lane all the way down to the Mall and the Hall. Come back on Fifth St. and make a left on Spring Garden to return to the Art Museum. I only did it once at around 10am on a Sunday, so the traffic was light, but it wasn't bad even for this scaredy-cat.
"I recently road the SRT as part of the Freedom Valley ride, it is a lovely trail, but as others have pointed out there are some real speedsters running this trail. The connection to Valley Fordge is quite interesting, a very narrow pathway along the 422 bridge over the Schuylkill."
"If your primary interest is bicycling at a very fast pace on well-maintained asphalt surfaces, then this trail is for you. On the day of my visit, I estimated that about 85% of the trail users I saw were fast moving road bikers. Dog walkers using long leashes should be especially careful on this trail.
I rode the trail south from Valley Forge through Norristown. Views were mixed. Just south of Valley Forge (Port Indian) views of the Schuylkill River were pleasant and there was sufficient foliage to provide a cooling shade cover. However, approaching Norristown the views were spoiled by massive overhead electric company towers and there was no longer any overhead foliage to block the sun.
As you might expect to find on any suburban/urban trail, there are many access points along the way. Some of the former railroad right-of-way has been developed in Norristown, but well-engineered detours have been established. At several points the trail runs parallel to active rail lines (freight and passenger); a plus for any train buffs. All at-grade driveway/street crossings are well marked with caution or stop signs.
This is a very nice trail; an added plus is its convenience to a large population center (Philadelphia) and accessibility to mass transit (several SEPTA bus & rail stations)."
Construction is progressing on the new section of trail between the Art Museum and Locust Street.
New Ramps at the Market and Chestnut Street bridges will directly connect the trail to downtown and the Amtrak Station.
"I thought I had better do a long ride this weekend (to make sure I remember what going 40+ miles was like) before I tackle The Great Five Boro Bike Tour in New York City next weekend.
I decided to do a ride I dubbed the Liberty Bell Ride. You leave from either my house in Chesterbrook or Valley Forge National Park and head southeast on the Schuylkill River Trail. The trail takes you along the Schuylkill River and the Schuylkill Canal in Manayunk. It is a paved trail from Valley Forge to the Manayunk Tow Path, which is gravel. You have to ride on Main Street Manayunk for a little more than a mile before the trail begins again. The trail ends at the Art Museum, but there are actual bike lanes on most of the larger downtown streets. I took these to Constitution Hall and the Liberty Bell.
When I approached Boathouse Row in Fairmont Park, I noticed a loudspeaker blaring in the distance and realized there was a sculling race brewing. I got some pictures from it, but it was a lot cooler in person. While watching the race, I got a Philly Pretzel from a roach coach who had positioned himself close to the boat crowd (I’m sorry I didn’t get a picture of him).
All in all, it was one of nicest 50 miles rides I've been on in a long time!"
"I recently rode the newly opened portion of trail from the Betzwood Bridge at Valley Forge Park through Oaks and into Collegeville. I thought that it was fantastic. I especially liked the portion of trail that shadows the Perky Creek through Montgomery County Park in Oaks. Job well done. Can't wait for the next section to be completed so I can ride all the way to Green Lane.
Imagine going from Green Lane, Montgomery County, all the way to the Philly Art Museum!!"
"I've been using it for several years, even during the busy summer months on weekends. If you're riding a bicycle, do be aware of a brisk westerly wind blowing from the Valley Forge point. Most of the trail's well maintained and paved. However, a short section is lined with cobblestones and there's a packed dirt portion close to Philadelphia. The Montgomery County section is being connected with the Perkiomen trail which should add another several miles. "
"The Schuylkill River Trail is paved for a total of 11.5+ miles from Valley Forge Park to the start of Roxborough. There are no stoplights or major roads to cross and only a few stop signs. The trail runs along the old Reading Railroad line. It is therefore level ground the whole distance with grades less than about three percent. The trail is never very crowded (even in summer), so you can move fast non-stop for a round trip run of about 23 miles. Excellent!"
This trail is great if you like to ride a lot of miles. My husband and I do the trail as often as we can. Two miles of the trail is dirt so you would want to use a mountain bike or something that will handle the dirt of the tow path. Too bad there are not many trails like this in the area.
"I had the pleasure of visiting this trail Saturday afternoon 2/9/02. It was a great experience. I departed from Main Street Manayunk and headed west. As it was a mild February there were a few other bikers, dog walkers, and roller-bladers around. The first mile or so was dirt and a wooden bridge took me along the banks of the Schuylkill River. The trail then became asphalt and I was able to open up the speed. I kept pedaling for about 6 miles or so, keeping an average speed of 13 miles per hour. A few times the trail was separated by a cross road in which I had to slow down and heed to traffic. Forty-five minutes later I stopped and turned around to find that I was now headed into the wind! My speed dramatically decreased to about 9 miles per hour. I was working hard but all the while enjoying the beautiful scenery. Time and miles passed quickly and I found myself back in Manayunk. Next week I am planning on going all the way to Valley Forge!"
"This is a wondiful path for bikes. Rollerbladers beware, the path is not completly rollerblade friendly. From valley forge it is for the first ,maybe 10 miles, but then the path becomes crush and run."
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