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Southeastern Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill River Trail forms the spine of the Schuylkill River National Heritage Area, a five-county expanse between Philadelphia and Pottsville. Built along former railroad lines and canal towpaths that transported anthracite coal, the developing rail-trail will span 130 miles when complete. Work began on the trail in the late 1960s and continues today; currently, more than half the trail—71.7 miles—is available for public use.
Connecting urban, suburban and rural areas, the multi-use pathway serves as an important piece of two much larger networks: the Circuit Trails, a developing 750-mile network in the Greater Philadelphia region, and the East Coast Greenway, which will one day span 3,000 miles from Maine to Florida.
Beginning in Philadelphia, the Schuylkill River Trail’s southern tip is known as Bartram’s Mile, as it traverses Bartram’s Garden, the oldest living botanical garden in America. This section ends at the western riverbank, but across the river, the next section of the trail winds through Grays Ferry Crescent, a South Philadelphia gem that has turned a former brown field into a beautiful recreational amenity, connecting residents with the river.
After another short gap, the paved trail picks up again at Christian Street, continuing along the waterfront up to the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk, which skims over the water, 50 feet from the shoreline, offering great views of the city skyline.
At the northern end of the boardwalk, you can hop on one of the Schuylkill River Trail’s most popular sections, the nearly 30-mile stretch from downtown Philadelphia to Valley Forge National Historical Park, which is almost entirely paved. In the city, you’ll traverse Fairmount Park, home to not-to-miss attractions like the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Fairmount Water Works. Many sculptures and public artwork also adorn this section of the trail. If you want to take a shorter ride, you can cross the Schuylkill River on the historical Falls Bridge, and loop back to the art museum on the MLK Drive Trail, which follows the western shoreline of the river for just over 4 miles.
Continuing northwest out of Philadelphia and entering Montgomery County, you’ll travel through the former industrial towns of Manayunk, Conshohocken and Norristown, passing red brick mills and old factories tucked alongside modern office buildings and restaurants. A commuter rail line run by SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) also parallels a portion of the Schuylkill River Trail here in a configuration known as rail-with-trail.
A highlight of this section is Valley Forge National Historical Park, where travelers can learn about this important American Revolutionary War site by visiting the park’s museum and historical structures. Just north of the park, the Schuylkill River meets Perkiomen Creek. Here, the Schuylkill River Trail offers a direct connection to the Perkiomen Trail, which follows the creek for nearly 20 miles north to the borough of Green Lane.
To stay on the Schuylkill River Trail, head west at the confluence of these two waterways, seamlessly connecting to the Phoenixville to Pottstown section, which is largely crushed stone. In less than 2 miles, you’ll reach Longford Park and Reynolds’ Dog Park, where there are restrooms and a parking area. You’ll soon reach the village of Mont Clare, crossing the river on Bridge Street (Route 29) to enter Phoenixville and Chester County. The trail continues through town paralleling French Creek, then heads northwest through Spring City and ends in the community of Parker Ford (not quite reaching Pottstown yet).
There is currently a gap of 5.5 miles to the next section of the Schuylkill River Trail. This Pottstown to Reading section, which includes the Thun Trail, spans 18.3 miles and is well shaded. Beginning at Pottstown’s Riverfront Park, the trail is paved, but switches to crushed stone as you cross into Berks County. Note that there will be some on-road sections as you make your way to Reading, as well as some stretches of rail-with-trail.
Between Reading and Hamburg is a gap of approximately 20 miles, which can be navigated largely with signed on-road riding. North of Reading, there is a short stretch of open gravel trail between Ontelaunee Township and Leesport Borough.
The final leg of the Schuylkill River Trail is known as the John Bartram Trail. It’s currently completed in three disconnected gravel sections between Hamburg and Pottsville, which will be the trail’s future terminus. The largest of these sections begins in Hamburg, near Kernsville Dam, and runs 6 miles following the old Pennsylvania Railroad route to the city line of Auburn. Along the way, the scenic trail enters Schuylkill County and crosses the Appalachian Trail south of the village of Port Clinton. After a short gap, another piece of the Schuylkill River Trail, spanning three-quarters of a mile through a heavily wooded area, can be found east of Auburn between River Road and Market Street. The last segment of completed trail runs through Landingville, paralleling Tunnel Road and Canal Street.
With such an expansive trail, there are many places to park along its route. Below are a few options; see the TrailLink map for additional parking locations.
In Philadelphia, parking is available at the Lloyd Hall Trailhead (1 Boathouse Row), located just off Kelly Drive near the Philadelphia Art Museum. Public restrooms, drinking water, a seasonal cafe and a bike rental company can also be found at this trailhead.
To reach the trailhead and parking at Valley Forge National Historical Park, take the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-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.
In Phoenixville, parking is available at Longford Park (100 Longford Rd.), at the Mowere Trailhead and at the Cromby Trailhead (intersection of Cromby Road and Township Line Road).
For the Thun Trail section, parking is available at Riverfront Park on College Drive in Pottstown. From RT 422 East in Pottstown, exit at W. High Street, turn right onto College Drive, travel under a railroad underpass and turn right at the sign for Riverfront Park and immediate left into the park.
For the Bartram Trail section, parking is available at the Hamburg trailhead. From I-78, take Route 61 North and turn right onto Jetson Drive. At the T intersection, turn right onto Industrial Drive, and follow this road to the railroad tracks. Make an immediate left onto Kernsville Dam Road and follow it straight to the trailhead and parking.
Well maintained, wide and easy to use if you want a good long distance trail.
We rode the Douglassville to Pottstown section of the trail yesterday. Most of the trail was in shade which was welcome in the heat. The Berks County portion is hard gravel and easy to ride. When you cross into Montgomery County the trail is macadam, but as a previous writer mentioned, it is marred by numerous raised sections, probably due to tree roots. This is the reason for a 4 star rating. When we ended our ride in Pottstown park, I was excited to discover a Little Lending Library and picked out a book to read. The Douglassville trailhead is located in Old Morlatton Village. Not only is this a quiet trailhead, but there are several historic buildings with descriptive placards to read.
New macadam surface from Conshohocken to Spring Mills, removing san area of washboarding, and indications of imminent resurfacing from Conshohocken to near Norrristown, so from Valley Forge to near Manayunk it is a very smooth ride. (site doesn't seem to offer an chance to edit a review.)
I wasn't able to ride it for a number of years, but now, what nice improvements are there to be found. From Norristown to Valley Forge, mainly new macadam surface, plus the addition of several spots of racks of bike repair tools. And, the water fountain is about 1.2 miles from Valley Forge Park. There are areas of washboard type macadam around the Conshohocken area, and from Spring Mill to where it branches down to the Schuylkill River, relatively new macadam. Once you leave the tow path in Manayunk, it sort of tosses you into the street, which is crowded, so take the sidewalks, giving care for pedestrian traffic. Once you hit the Fairmount Park area, relatively decent trail surface, but expect heavy traffic all the way to what is now the end of the trail in Philadelphia. I take away one star due to the heavy Philadelphia traffic, and right now the detour around the Art Museum due to construction and confusing signage. The entire route is relatively level, so easy riding.
Since the upper end (above Philadelphia) is far less crowded, one may encounter cycling groups that travel at high speeds and can be annoying if they think they own the trail.
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".
Was in Pottstown for an event decided to take a ride while there.
Parked at Grosstown Road. Rode into Pottstown River Front Park. Trail was paved but rough because of tree root growth. Then rode west to the Main Street crossing. The trail west was mostly gravel in good condition.
Montgomery County portion of trail needs maintenance to the pavement. Tree roots are making the ride uncomfortable and possibly hazardous. Restrooms? Are there any?
Overall a good ride.
There is a short spur trail, the Schuylkill Highlands Trail. East of Birdsboro, just after crossing PA 724 at the Fork and Ale restaurant the trail is on the right, there is a sign at the trail junction. The trail climbs via switchbacks through mostly open fields and ends at Crusher Road. There are great views to reward you for the climb. The trail is wide and smooth and climbs at the maximum grade for an ADA trail. You can see the trail on the satellite view of the Thun section of the SRT.
After our recent rains, this trail has gotten soupy and hazardous in places. Be especially caution of these wet areas especially in the shaded areas on upper half of the trail. These spots could really benefit from an application of crushed stone. Otherwise this is a fun and friendly rail-trail.
Nice and well maintained trail for an easy relaxing walk or short bike ride.
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.
Had a terrific ride on this trail yesterday. Early autumn weather was perfect. The parking was great, road intersections very well marked and designed. Trail surface was ideal.
We did the north half, from Cromby trailhead to the northern point in Parker Ford. I'd hoped to see more of the Schuylkill River from the trail, but it's mostly hidden. We stopped a few times so that I could climb to a spot for a photo.
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 on this section of the SRT 4-5 times a week and always love it. Normally in the morning for a run, or on weekends on my bike. More riverwalks like this could be added to the SRT. It's a gem and huge bonus to the city recreation scene.
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.
Did the trail today, the grass is trimmed and the trail is in excellent condition , I only wish it were longer. Looking forward to returning in the fall. Oh, and lots of good places to eat in the area.
This trail could use a good steam rolling. I use it often, but I have to say it's surface is very loose and sandy, like riding your bike on the beach! I have been with other riders who have wiped out when their bike wheels sunk in the sand. It's a shame really. I know this trail section would get a lot more use by riders and runners alike, if it was paved. Lets face it, as other another reviewer wrote, there is nothing much to see on this route anyways. I also was happy to see the hilly sections near Phoenixville get paved, it definitely makes for a safer ride and run. I hope the trail builders consider a different base material, or a lot less of it, when the new section is completed from Parkersford to Pottstown. For now though, it is better than nothing, and if I can get a thousand people a day to ride it, maybe two grooves could be cut for a safer smoother ride!
This is my favorite trail in PA, but it's not 9.6 miles. It's 6 miles but wonderful nonetheless
I reviewed this trail earlier and rated it very high! But we just rode it again for the second time this year and sadly I have to down grade my rating. It appears that nobody is doing any maintenance to the trail any longer. There has always been an narrow section nearer the end of the trail but you could always ride on the grass to make room for oncoming bikes, but now that grass is at least 3ft high on both sides of the trail and impossible to use for riding. The trail also has spots that need repaired with gravel. The Kiosk in the parking lot appears to have had the legs sawn off and is just leaning on the ground. The trail is in dire need of TLC and it has been like this for at least 2 months if not longer.
We started at the trailhead in Reading. Very urban here - parking at this spot is iffy and the only real option is an abandoned parking lot at the bottom of a dilapidated neighborhood. The trail is in really rough shape for a while and several homeless people were camped out. Once we got downtown it was a bit better but even then it is a trail bike route here. We had hybrids and it was ok, but much better trails exist. We only rode about 5 miles before we turned around and found another trail in the area.
If you do try this trail from Reading - park downtown and skip the first mile.
rode this trail 3/12/16, it was in great condition. A recent improvement was the paving of the short hill just north of Phoenixville.
It was a good walk - though I was a little disappointed as to how little I saw of the river. I did the stretch South from the Penn Avenue Bridge in Reading to Birdsboro. This trail is excellent underfoot though, and provides a good work out. The industrial heritage on view - for example the old power station - are points of interest.
I would say it's probably best on a bike - and if you are looking for a scenic walk, then this walk has its moments, but is not amongst the real stars.
It was an exceptionally mild December day today. There quite a few runners, hikers and bikers on the trail. The real surprise was the cool holiday decorations added to the mile markers. A very clever person added garland and miniature Santa dolls to the markers and decoys. Very cool.
Rode from Valley Forge to Philadelphia and back... Nice ride... Great scenery.
Even though I volunteer with maintenance on another section of the overall Schuylkill River Trail, the Bartram section is my favorite. Yes, it is 6 miles from the main parking lot to the fence at the Auburn bridge, but if you read the literature closely it says 8 or 9 "disconnected miles". There are actually another few miles on the other side of Auburn which might be connected some day. But there is ample opportunity for additional miles by going the other direction from the main parking lot on Kernsville Dam Road. There is the very lightly used dead end macadam road down to the dam and also a mile and a half trail (just behind the Job Johnnie) that goes to the edge of downtown Hamburg and on to the Reading Heritage Rail Museum. Just beyond the bridge over the Schuylkill River there is also another option to your left along a park and the river. The best things about the 6 mile section are that there are absolutely no road crossings and the grade is virtually flat. I always find the surface to be in fine condition no matter whet the weather has been. There had been a few drainage issues when the trail was first opened but they apparently have all been remedied.
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.
My wife and I recently purchased hybrid bikes and have been on a mission to complete every trail around us. This trial is very flat and very scenic the entire way. Almost every half mile there was a bench or picnic table and we stopped about half way and ate a packed lunch we brought with us. Overall it was a good experience. The only thing is that its says the trail is about 8 miles long, but we got to mile 6 and there was a large fence and the trail just ended at the Schuylkill River with no way across.
It was a nice trail and we much enjoyed it but it is not 8 miles long. More like 6
So far a favorite just couldn't finish the trail. Don't think we had that much more to go. Beautiful trail with excellent scenery. Started at the Pottstown end which is a great little park. Can't think of anything negative to say about it at all. So far is one of the best we have ridden.
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.
Just starting riding again, and for some dumb reason I start with round trip on this trail.....omg, I survived, barely but had a great time, the trails were excellent, missed a couple signs so I added another four miles, was a little uncomfortable crossing a couple big roads but all in all a great start to riding again!
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!
Should be 5 stars, but the "new" piece already needs work. Rode it for the first time the other day. From Cromby westward, this is a fantastic trail. Nice and flat, reasonably quiet and isolated, and hardly any walkers meandering four across the entire trail. The crossing at Bridge St. in Spring City can be hairy, but they have installed a light, and the motorists were very good about stopping.
Then I came back and explored the new section from Cromby to the Low Bridge near the Foundry building. Just east of the Cromby trailhead is a pretty nasty hill that has already significantly eroded the trail. MTBs may like it, but this newbie cruiser thought it was downright dangerous. After crossing Fillmore St, there's a pretty steep downhill--not surprising, since you're essentially going from the high point in town to the low point in about a mile. However, significant erosion is already happening here too, leaving really deep ruts. These areas will need to be paved. Ironically, the remainder was very nice, flat and paved. Had they reversed the paved and stoned pieces, they'd have been fine. Still, very enjoyable and recommended--especially westward.
Rode this trail for first time today. The surface was nice and smooth; very few ruts or problems. Very scenic ride with views of the Schuykill River.
The path runs through the forest and will be completely shaded during the summer.
It was a beautiful spring day and there were a number of riders, walkers and joggers on trail. Quite a few dogs but all were leashed and seemed accustomed to bikers. The trail is wide at the southern end, near Hamburg, and easy to move around walkers, joggers and dogs. The trail narrows at the northern end, but, the trail is used mostly by bikers in that area.
The trail ends at the "Auburn Bridge." The bridge is in sad shape and would require rebuilding of the deck to allow the trail to continue northward.
As is, the trail is a nice 6 mile ride from the trail head at Hamburg to the Auburn Bridge. Recommend for anyone to enjoy.
a nice run. It looks like there are mile markers every half mile, but some were missing at 46 and 47.
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.
Just the ideas in philly to promote bicycle transportation. Loved this along with the portion from manayunk to here.
It's only about 2 miles long, but an important segment linking downtown Phoenixville to the Crombly Rd trailhead seems about 95% complete. I ran on it the other day, and except for some parts that will probably be paved and would have been soft for bicycles, it was completely passable. This segment replaces a very hilly and high traffic road connection.
Named in honor of a local conservationist, the Thun Trail segment of the Schuylkill River Trail connects two major cities on the middle Schuylkill; Reading and Pottstown.
Although only 18 miles long, the multi-use trail takes users through a diverse array of environments. Most of its route follows abandoned rail lines, and two segments are "rails with trails," paralleling active freight lines.
The trail's western terminus is just upstream from the Reading Area Community College. After passing under the Penn Ave. bridge, the paved, urban trail crosses the grounds of the college campus and Reading's Riverfront Park. This section is noted for the ultramodern buildings of the campus as well as murals painted on an old RR bridge that was moved to the site. A small meditation garden is also located off the trail.
After bearing right at the junction with the Neversink Connector Trail, users cross the Schuylkill River via an old steel trestle. Although both the trestle itself and the modern viaduct that carries the Route 422 Expressway down the southwest bank of the river are impressive works of architecture, the segment from here southeast to Old Wyomissing Road is marred by the presence of graffiti and shady-looking people, creating an uninviting atmosphere (I can understand why some female reviewers felt spooked passing through here). The surface of the trail also changes from asphalt to crushed stone on the southwest side of the bridge.
Though still in the Reading city limits, the trail enters more suburban territory southeast of Old Wyomissing Road (users have the option of passing under the adjacent railroad tunnel, then following the Wyomissing Creek Trail to the Reading Museum and continuing deep into the city's western suburbs). A well-constructed pedestrian bridge carries users over Lancaster Ave., and while the trail is never far from busy Route 422 on much of this segment, surrounding woodlands screen out most of the noise.
After leaving Reading, the trail passes high above the Schuylkill River on two restored, concrete trestles on either side of Poplar Neck. In addition to providing spectacular views of the river and nearby Neversink Mountain, these bridges also look out onto both Route 422 to the north and an active, Norfolk Southern freight line to the south, providing excellent photo opportunities. Though largely wooded, the section from Poplar Neck to Route 724 in Ridgewood also passes a power plant, an abandoned landfill, incinerator and a quarry, all attesting to the river corridor's industrial past. Also, while Reading may no longer be the prominent industrial and transportation hub it once was, the trail's proximity to the aforementioned Route 422 and Norfolk Southern rail lines, as well as I-176, are clear reminders that these roles have not completely disappeared.
East of Ridgewood (where users are urged to use caution while crossing busy Route 724), the trail enters the countryside of southern Berks County. Users are urged to descend the stairs at the bridge over a small, unnamed creek and observe the impressive masonry, before continuing east to Gibraltar. With a little luck, a freight train may come rumbling down the active RR line that parallels the trail for much of this segment.
A signed, on-road route guides users through a 4-mile gap between Gibraltar and Birdsboro. The trail resumes behind the athletic fields off Armorcast Road on the town's east end, with the nearby, now-abandoned smokestacks attesting to Birdsboro's past as a mill town. After passing behind a nearby residential neighborhood, the trail turns through the woods to the Union Twp. Recreation Area, where it forms the southern part of a circumfrential walking path. The old Schuylkill River Canal, now just a swampy ditch, parallels the segment through the Rec. Area.
The trail turns abruptly to the right at the entrance to the Union Twp. Rec. Area (do not go straight or you will circle back around the park), crosses Route 724 in the small hamlet of Monocacy, then heads back into the woods. Caution is advised at this crossing, as well as a second about a mile to the southeast. Steep slopes on either side of the second crossing make it particularly dangerous, though the dense woodlands that line the trail for most of its length from Birdsboro to Douglassville provide welcome relief from the hot sun and make it ideal for warm days in spring and summer.
The trail crosses the Schuylkill River one more time west of Douglassville. Though not as high as the trestles at Poplar Neck, the remote location of this bridge makes it a great place to stop and enjoy nature. Heading further east, the trail follows another active rail line, providing more opportunities to "rail fan" and photograph trains. Another highlight of this segment is Morlatton village, a colonial-era settlement that widely believed to be the first European-American town in Berks County.
The rural nature of the trail abruptly ends after crossing the border into Montgomery County. The sometimes rough and uneven stone surface again gives way to smooth asphalt, and factories can be seen around the Grosstown Road trailhead. Mostly light industrial now, the presence of large concrete pads east of Old Reading Pike hints that there were once larger factories in this area. The presence of young vegetation poking through deteriorating concrete floors of now-razed factories gives this area a surreal feel.
After passing under Route 100, the trail enters Pottstown, though the shaded trees in Riverfront Park do not give the impression of being in an urban area. The trail currently ends near the intersection of College Dr. and Hanover Street, though a signed, on-street route leads to a small park off Queen St. in the town's (admittedly uninviting) east end. Eventually, the next segment of the Schuylkill River Trail should directly connect with the Thun Trail in this area.
Despite passing through some rough-looking areas near its west end, the Thun Trail is an excellent, multi-use rail trail that connects two southeast PA cities and forms a vital link in the continuous greenway that will one day extend from Pottsville to Philadelphia. In addition to linking several local parks and recreation areas, the trail also forms the backbone of the region's burgeoning trail network, with more extensions planned in the near future.
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
My wife and I live near Reading so this trail is one we ride frequently. It's easy to get to and the trail is always well groomed. It's plenty wide enough to easily share with hikers and other riders although it's rarely crowded. Our favorite times to ride are from mid-June through mid-July when the white rhododendrons are blooming along the trail and in the fall when the weather is cool and the autumn colors make the ride extra special. Don't let the occasional whitetail startle you as it leaps across the trail in front of you.
Flat wide trail great surface for biking and well maintained. Rode it for the first time in August 2014 and will be back! Great trail for train lovers as Port Clinton has a wonderful rail yard and station. My only complaint is it needs to be extended past the 6 miles. It would be awesome to ride across the trestle bridge that is fenced off and is the end of the trail now.
Beautiful!!! Lighting throughout the trail would make it feel safer!
I started my run on the Angelica Creek Trail and headed towards the Thun Trail. I made the right on the Thun Trail (I think that's heading west and then north). Very quickly the trail took me into areas I was not comfortable running in as a female running by myself. I sent my husband a text letting him know exactly where I was on the GPS and that I was turning around to head back towards the Angelica Creek Trail. Keep in mind that just last weekend, I ran in South Philly and never felt as nervous as I did on that portion of the Thun Trail.
Once I returned to the area where it meets up with the Angelica Creek Trail, I decided to give the east/south direction a try. Wow, what a difference! That section was great ~ the trail was in excellent condition, went through nice areas of Berks County. I would say the only downside to that portion of the trail was the lack of restrooms/porta-potties.
This is a really nice trail. We visit this trail 2 to 3 times a week. Very scenic! You can watch the train yard in Port Clinton. And if you hit it just right - you can watch the train pull out and go under the bridge of the trail. In the evening we see deer crossing the trail. Really nice to get out after a long day. Well maintained and a nice 12 mile round trip from hamburg.
We started at the trailhead near Cabela's and rode the entire six-mile length to where the trail currently ends at the old railroad bridge. The entire trail's in great shape. A fantastic 12-mile, round-trip ride.
First trail ride since getting back in to biking. We had a good time on the trail. Got to see the other side of routes traveled by car, with no traffic. Have plans to ride other trails in next couple of weeks.
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!
I have traveled, and I can say this is a wonderful addition to Berks County. Those of you in fear for your life, stop watching so much tv. I have walked every section of this trail many times, and there is nothing to be afraid of. You have more chance of getting car-jacked. The experience of being outside on trails with no cars to fight is a gift. Sure there are some places where there are ruts and run-off spots but this is nature, folks, not some man-made pristine manufactured environment. So, come on, check the map, find a trail head, park the car, and get moving. You'll be glad you did.
The trail is well maintained and provides a nice scenic ride. The paved areas are nice and smooth and you can get some speed up. Transition areas of the trail need some work, but over-all not bad. The major concern is the horseback riders. Why is it that dog owners are required to clean up after their animals, but horseback owners can leave a knee high pile of crap and not think twice about it? Also when the horse is taken to to a gallop, it tears the trail up. There are sections of the trail that have to be ridden standing because they feel like, as I heard someone describe it accurately, "rumble strips". So much potential, but horseback riders, show some common decency and clean up after you animal!
I was visiting family in the Phoenixville area in July of 2013 and I read reviews regarding this trail. I started at the Oaks trailhead and made it to the art museum in Phila. The weekend I rode was great, a bit warm but I am from FL so no big deal. A regatta was taking place on the river as I got closer to the city. In total it was a 55 mi trip and well worth it. Many people were on the trail and I enjoyed some conversation and healthy challenges by keeping up with some bicyclist on the trail
Back in late June I did this trail from Spring City at Old Schuylkill rd to Phoenixville at Township line rd where there is a new Trail Head and a great parking lot that looks like it has a lot of shade. This is not a great section of trail but when it is done on both ends it will be a great addition to the Schuylkill River Trail. I would say that this 5 plus miles of trail are family friendly as there is only one cross road that is a little tricky and that is Bridge st Spring City. There is a lots of shade and it is a flat ride. Oh yes the trail head at Township Line road dose have a port-a-potty. I did talk to a couple of locals and was told the section of trail going towards Pottstown is another year and a half to two years away as the bridge over the Schuylkill and route 422 is now under construction. My first plan was to ride the road over to the Thun Tail but I was running a little late so I drove over and am glad I as the six mile dose not look like it is bike friendly.
Nice packed gravel trail. No problems on my road bike. Start by Cabella's. Six miles to the closed bridge and then back. I hear you can go south into town, but we opted for Cabella's A/C. Even on a day when temps were in 90's, we were cool by the river, in the shade, with our man-made breeze (our peddling). Just wish the trail was longer.
Support rails to trails so we can finish the bridge!!
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!
One great ride on a great fall day. Mile for mile it is one of the very best trails I have done. I only did from the Kernsville Dam at Hamburg to the closed bridge a 6 mile ride up. When I got back to the parking lot and talked to a local I found out about a detour where I could have done the whole trail but it was to late in the day. He did tell me that there is a very big climb going and coming back though. This trail has a lot to offer, a great surface, Mile Markers every half mile, Park benches, a great canopy and great scenery. It is to bad that they just can not get the bridge re planked. I did this on a very old Mt Bike but it could be done on almost any kind of bike. It is family friendly and because of its short distance and not much of a grade it would be a great trail for a young family.
This is a very nice run. Up and back from the parking lot near the basin monument is approximately 6 miles (according to GPS). If I am not mistaken, you can probably run into Hamburg, cross the river to you hit the "Steel something or other" trail head, then make a left and follow the trail signs to the rail yard museum.
Started at Kernsville Dam Road. The roadbed is very compact and smooth riding. Rode to where the fence is up at the curved railroad bridge (approx. 6 miles) to this point. The scenery is great and when passing above Port Clinton you can look down at the Reading and Northern's engine facilities and offices. The grade is hardly noticable so even the rail trail beginner will have no problems. I hope they will complete more of the trail in the near future. The plus here is when your done riding the trail you have a wide choice of where to eat.
It's a shame this trail has to be located where it is. Coming from the Reading end we looked to park at the trail head on Angstadt Ln, which turned out to be inaccessible due to bridge construction. So we moved on to one behind several businesses. When we pulled in there was only one other vehicle, whose occupants appeared to be doing something other than planing to enjoy the trail. Weed? crackheads? I don't know they just looked sketchy, and I wasn't leaving my truck there. So we moved on once again. We finally came across another trail head behind some burger joint/bar and it was actually really nice, it appeared fairly new, and best of all no crackheads in sight. After we unloaded we headed out a trail from the parking lot, while somewhat narrow it still seemed nice. Turned out it was about a half mile loop that came out the other end of the parking lot. We realized the actual trail was across street. When we headed in that direction we noticed a guy coming out of the restroom carrying a bottle in a brown paper bag. It didn't look like gatorade either. We chose to head off and hope for the best. The trail was fairly nice although a bit narrow and doesn't show much use. I found it odd that on a fairly nice day we only came across about five or six other people on the ride the whole way to Pottstown. Bottom line is the closer to Pottstown you get the safer you feel. There's just an uncomfortable feel to the trail which is a real shame as it's a nice level, smooth, trail with some scenic sights along it. If you think I'm being a little overly critical regarding the security on the trail I'll just add that in today's paper there was a brief article about a body of a man who was found shot to death on the trail. I don't usually like to pack heat with me on bike ride my friends. But if I do it'd be on this trail. Stay safe my friends.
Took the mountain bikes out tonight from the Pottstown trailhead to the 724 crossing near Shed Rd. The trail is in great condition after a pretty heavy rain earlier this morning. Maintained an easy 10mph average with minimal effort. Encountered a handful of bikers and joggers along the way.
The Hamburg section is closed off 6 miles in the map is not accurate so this trail is really in 3 sections not just 2. The bridge needs to be replanked and the other side needs maintenance also. But besides that I enjoyed riding these trails. I prefer the section from landingville to auburn and a short road ride to the auburn trail head. The Hamburg section is nice and it also links to the Appalachian trail. The sections that are open and maintained are very nice.
Very nice ride the only issue I have is where the trails split there needs to be signs to tell you where to get back on. I rode from landing ville to auburn and after jumping on the second section in auburn the trail ends and I could not find the next trail head. The map shows a continuous trail from auburn to Hamburg. So today I'm driving down to Hamburg to ride the trail backwards and see where they connect. Also there is another trail in auburn that cuts off from the bartram trail and runs back in the direction you come in from auburn on the opposite side of the river along the railroad tracks. I am going to investigate that section this weekend.
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.
A great trail; gentle grade, nice surface. Mile markers and benches. For much of this section you have nice views of the river, at least before the trees leaf out, and you are away from roads and buildings.
Note I said views of the river: the trail meanders delightfully along the valley but far, far above the river, and not only would it be a steep scramble to get down to it, most of the trail is private land on both sides and signs request one to be polite and not trespass. If you want to dangle your toes in the river ride north on the public road from the Basin parking area toward the dam and lake; looking down from the trail (which, even at that point, rapidly becomes elevated) there appear to be quite a few places to pull over right next to the banks.
Map notes: As of this writing the map on this site shows the trail open north from the Basin parking area all the way to Auburn/Market Street. This is incorrect: heading north the trail dead-ends at a river bridge at the 6 mile marker. No idea if you can start at Auburn and ride south to the other end of the bridge, but you cannot legally cross the long, high, unrenovated bridge.
Also not shown on the map: the trail IS open south of the Basin parking area to downtown Hamburg proper, so you could add a couple of miles by starting/ending in downtown Hamburg.
Description note: The trail description mentions buying penny candy in Port Clinton. Unless you are gnarly mountain biker able to carry your bike down/up steep grades this would involve leaving your bike, scrambling down a precipitous section of the AT hiking trail (perhaps 40-50 feet of vertical drop, and did I mention it was steep), and hiking a short way into town, and then climbing back up. I'd plan on visiting the store before or after by car, especially if you have smaller kids with you.
Have done the landingville stretch and love it. Lots of birds to see even at this time of year. Can't wait til spring when the birds start coming back. Found a great new walking spot.
My family and I checked out this trail for the first time yesterday. With blue sky, cool temps. and some color still on the trees, we enjoyed a great ride. With fallen leaves, running down the trail with us in the breeze, it was quite magical! We started from the trail head in Hamburg, went out about 6 miles and then back again. We found the trail that we traveled on to be in great condition, smooth, and well marked. We passed a few other bikers and walkers enjoying the trail too. Our only caution about this trail is that it is not one for young children to bike on as the drop off is quite steep in some areas and there are no fences.
Not to stir the pot, but to help others avoid confusion, I have made three round trips through Birdsboro just this week alone.
1) I have seen NO trail signs between where the trail enters Armorcast Drive (the roughest piece of concrete pavement I can ever recall!) and the one on Schuylkill Road AFTER turning off 724 north/west of the Turkey Hill.
2)Route 82 no longer exists -- at least, not in Birdsboro. Route 345 joins 724 south of town, then splits just above the Turkey Hill with 345 traveling a bridge over the Schuylkill, and 724 turning to run parallel with the river. I believe that road over the bridge was once 82, but has been 345 since at least 2010.
For what it's worth, the shoulders on Route 724 are fairly wide and quite smoothly paved from said Turkey Hill up to at least where Schuylkill Road crosses 724 above town and becomes Old River Road. I sometimes ride that rather than Schuylkill Road -- it's a trade-off of smoother paving for more sun!
All in all, I find the trail from Pottstown up to Brentwood to be a pleasant trip. This very day I ventured up beyond the Reading Area Community College and found that section a bit disappointing in condition, although passable.
Although it will be a vital link in a series of trails that will connect the Poconos to downtown Philadelphia (and the East Coast Greenway) when completed, the recently finished section of the Schuylkill River Trail between Cromby and Spring City does not offer much in the way of scenery. The trail closely parallels a high-tension power line and has little shade, and numerous utilities, including other power lines, oil and gas pipelines, the Cromby Power Station and a sewage treatment plant dominate the landscape (though it might be interesting to watch trains pull in and out of the active rail siding outside the power plant). The fact that dense vegetation obscures views of the river in most locations is another disappointment. Nonetheless, the trail has smooth asphalt and crushed stone surfaces, is wide enough to easily accomodate cyclists, hikers or horseback riders passing each other in opposing directions and adequate signage. The potential for playing a key role in revitalizing the riverfront and drawing business to towns like Spring City and Royersford also exists.
I live in the area, and often ride from Wyomissing home with my girlfriend on this trail. We ride Canonndale Quick CX2 Hybrids and the 700c skinny tires with knobby outer edges are perfect for these trail surfaces. These bikes are mostly road bikes until you get to the tires and straight handlebars. We usually ride at a pace of around 11-12mph (which would be slower if we had larger tires or heavier bikes like cruisers or mountain bikes). If you are a runner, I think you'll love this trail!
This trail extends further than what Rails to Trails shows by about three or four miles to the north through the city limits of Reading, PA to Grings Mill recreation area/park. From there, it continues seamlessly as the Union Canal Trail finally crossing Reber's Bridge Rd and heading into Blue Marsh Lake. Click the "google bike trails button" to see the extension in green. It is labeled Schuylkill River Trail - zoom in to see better. North of Reading at Grings Mill and again at the Gruber Wagon Works you can find soda machines, restrooms, and lots of leisure areas! This is a popular area for photographers, too.
This trail is almost totally crushed stone in and around Reading until Gibralter where you'll continue on roads into Birdsboro. The trail is adequately marked at the intersection of routes 724 & 82 (at the Turkey Hill) where it crosses over route 82 continuing into the old Armorcast property continuing to the right behind the baseball fields. Not sure how a previous commenter missed that? I also suggest you generally research the trail maps before you ride so you'll know what to do if a sign is missing... You'll also find a new parking area with restrooms and water fountains just completed in Birdsboro. There's a loop around the area, too, so you can ride that loop for an extra mile or two before continuing to Pottstown.
From Gibralter into Birdsboro, the riding on roads takes you on relatively quiet sections with little traffic for a few miles over some gradual inclines and declines, and you'll ride past some beautiful old farm houses along the way. Dismount to cross route 724 safely. South of Birdsboro the trail continues on crushed stone until you near Pottstown. There is one road crossing with a short steep hill on both sides, so plan on dismounting to cross safely and get up the to the level sections to continue riding. My front tire lifts when I ride up the hills, so in the future I guess I should walk up. Heading into Pottstown you'll eventually be riding on asphalt, and some areas aren't shaded by the tree canopy, but it's super nice riding!
I enjoy the scenery almost the whole way and my favorite section is a bridge crossing over the Schuylkill River outside of Pottstown... So peaceful. This trail isn't typically crowded, and there aren't road racers since it's mostly crushed stone. Unfortunately, we have to dodge manure piles on occasion (even though horses aren't allowed on the trail).
Riding right near (and in the city of) Reading, heading north to Grings Mill, you'll normally find lots of people including kids, walkers, pets, and so on as this trail leads to the river where some folks go swimming and fishing. most of these folks are oblivious that anyone is riding toward them on a bike. We shout "passing on your left" or something - anything - to let them know we're going to pass. There may be a language barrier there sometimes. The "crowded" conditions have the potential to make some riders nervous, and I was offered marijuana by a teen one day just past Reading Area Community College. We've encountered motorcycles and a few partiers in the city sections, too. All in all, I'd say don't sweat it, the city is the city so act like you own it and ride on! Everyone knows the trail is there for anyone wishing to be on it. I really like the ride, and tremendously enjoy the many miles we've shared on it.
To avoid city related headaches, a great start point is the Brentwood Trailhead off Rte. 10 not far from Alvernia University. Fom here you can go south and your ride will be great until the end in Pottstown!
I rode the trail down to Turkey Hill in Birdsboro. Nice ride and pretty well kept. But, when I got to Birdsboro, there were no longer any trail signs. When we ask at Turkey Hill, no one knew where we should go to get on the trail. Therefore, I will not return to this trail again or reccommend it to my friends. First part is pretty nice though. We did this ride on 07/27/2011
My horse and I have run into Santa on a bike twice and he's barrelled past us with in 6 inches. I'm trying to train my horse to not spook at bikes but this guy is a menace. Is yielding to horses a guideline or a rule?
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.
Today June 13th I did 12 and a 1/2 miles out of Pottstown past Birdsboro. The first eight miles is one of the best that I have been on. About 4 miles out of Pottstown a local Boyscout troop has built a nice rest area. This trail is family friendly and ok for a cross over bike. The first eight miles are is mostly tree lined and is a great ride on a hot sunny day.
Today I rode the Bartram Trail from the Hamburg trailhead to the Auburn Bridge and back. A bit cool and mostly cloudy but a great ride. I was expecting washed out areas due to all the recent rain but the trail is in excellent condition for this entire 6 mile section. A bit bumpy under the Rt. 61 bridge but that's it. Lots of areas/benches to stop and take a rest if you need it. I'm looking forward to returning with the entire family later this spring or early in the summer - it will be gorgeous. I am hoping there are plans to make the bridge at Auburn passable - this is a great ride!
We just road this section of trail on monday December 20 2010 it was 25 degrees outside and we still had a great time on this trail. It is a lovely well maintaned trail that is 6 miles long ( We started at Hamburg ) and stops at a unfinished bridge before Auburn. There is no way to get to Auburn until they finish the trail on the closed railroad bridge, you can however get to Port Clinton. Just pass the Port Clinton rail station you have to make a right onto another trail that goes down a steep hill, cross a bridge and into town. This trail is well worth the ride and with all the flowering bushes is probably lovely in the summer.
In the past, I wrote a post about pot holes in the trail. This is no longer a problem. And I will say that I love this trail. I ride quite frequently. I take my camera and stop to takes pictures of the beautiful scenery.
I think that a lot of effort is put into the trail and the organization that is in charge is doing an excellent job. I consider myself to be very lucky to live close by and to have the advantage of using the Schuylkill Trail and I want to say Thank You to all who are involved.
I have found so many different descriptions of this trail. They have all varied in how long it is and where the trailheads are, so I decided to go up and find out for myself. I live in South Jersey so it took me about 2 hrs. to get there.
I figured I would make it an out and back trip, so I parked at the Hamburg trailhead. This trail does not go all the way to Auburn. It is exactly a 6 mile trip to the closed RR bridge crossing the river. It is gated off with a couple benches and a picnic bench. Nice spot to stop for a snack.
There is no access to the river from this trail, nor is there a way to get across the river to visit this Port Clinton. I don't understand what trail all these sites are describing but it sure isn't this one.
Ok, an honest review of this lovely little trail. It is beautifully maintained. Great scenery the entire length. I met nothing but friendly people, everyone was courteous and followed all the traffic rules. I saw bikers(young and old), horses, hikers, dogwalkers, even a 2 person surrey, who had a rear view mirror and saw I wanted to pass even before I politely dinged my bike bell!
There were easy to read signs for mileage and interesting info along the whole trail. I highly recommend this out and back trail, which is a total of 12 miles to anyone. Pretty and well maintained for the more experienced bikers and weekend warriors alike! :)
I rode both the Pottstown to Birdsboro-Armorcast Rd. section and the Gibraltar to Reading section. I skipped the River Road/724 section as I value my life. Very nice, flat trail, except from some minor ups and downs and the need (for me, at least) to dismount crossing 724 in Monocacy as the original railroad bridge no longer exists and the path has a deep descent and ascent. Going west, the trail crosses 724 again at Tim's Ugly Mug Bar. Be aware that the trail is not well marked here. It picks up on the west side of the bar just behind a row of houses--looks like an alleyway or driveway.
For the majority of the run the Thun Trail is the right of way of the former Pennsylvania Railroad's Schuylkill Branch, and you actually ride over original railroad bridges. Very cool ride. Close to the end in Reading is a trail that branches off to the southeast called Neversink Trail that appears to run a few miles down to south of 6th and Canal St. Didn't ride that one--that's a future project.
I am including the Schuylkill Canal Trail because RTC does not have it listed and it is the connector between the Thun Trail and the Union Canal Trail. The Thun Trail ends in downtown Reading just north of Penn Ave. From there the paved path ends and continues as singletrack cinder/stones for a block along the railroad tracks until you reach a paved section that takes you into the woods and you follow the Schuylkill Canal and River. There are historic markers and remnants of the original locks. After about a mile the path exits the woods, crosses the tracks, and you ride a block up a city street to Schuylkill Ave. You'll see the Reading Public Library ahead across the street. Make a left and ride over the bridge crossing the Schuylkill to Blair St., then left down Blair back down to where the path picks up and brings you to the beginning of the Union Canal Trail.
I've used this trail several times now, and for an unpaved trail it's not bad. In fact, the surface is more bicycle-friendly--and foot-friendly, for that matter--than Montgomery County's Perkiomen Trail, except for a couple isolated areas I will allude to below. The Thun Trail provides a unique and mostly flat bike trek from Pottstown to Reading or vice versa without having to use heavily-traveled routes 724 and 422.
Cyclists who have gotten used to the wide, paved trails in Montco may be a little stunned--or even disappointed--when they see the Thun for the first time. It's different, but in some ways that's good. The number of users here is nowhere near what it is between Valley Forge and Philly, at least not yet. There are also a lot fewer unshaded sections in Berks County than in Montgomery and Philly. While the surface is bike-friendly, its being unpaved discourages speeding, which for the most part keeps the "racing" cyclists off the trail. In the wooded areas that front the path, you'll often see deer, especially in the morning or evening. And the barriers to keep unauthorized vehicles off are bollards; those are a lot safer than gates which can cause near-head-on collisions.
There are short sections of pavement in areas where it is needed most, but a couple more wouldn't hurt either. I'm not saying pave the whole trail (good grief, no!) but a strip of asphalt or macadam would make it a lot safer and more comfortable in these areas:
1. Within the Reading city limits. Of all the municipalities the trail runs through, if any of them can afford to pave their section completely, one would think the city of Reading can. On the campus of Reading Area Community College (RACC) and near the Brentwood Trailhead, it already is paved. Bridging the gap between those two landmarks would be nice.
2. At all highway crossings. How far to extend the pavement depends on conditions at each intersection. In particular, where the trail crosses 724 near the I-176 interchange and Angstadt Lane, it has eroded so badly on the north/west side of 724 that filling it and refilling it won't do any good. A similar hazard that needs permanent repair exists about 1/4 mile from the end of the cinder portion at Gibraltar.
3. Anywhere erosion is a problem, including the two aforementioned areas.
4. Armorcast Road in Birdsboro. THIS IS BAD for bikes, and to compound it, it is not only a highway, but one that is privately owned. So don't hold your breath waiting for that one to be resurfaced. All we can do is use caution if we are going to ride our bikes here. The only way around that is to use Main Street (724), which runs parallel to Armorcast Road, from 345 (light at Rita's) to the trail crossing at the Ugly Mug.
I don't want to make it sound like this trail should be avoided--that is absolutely not so. 95% of it is fine. The cinder surface works as long as the material isn't spread too thick. The section that uses Old Schuylkill Road/River Road provides a nice break for bikes with narrow tires. If you've never rode, ran, or walked the Thun Trail, give it a try. You'll probably want to do it again.
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".
I have walked, jogged, and biked this trail and could not wait to cross country ski it. I got my chance twice in February, 2010. The first was after about 7 inches of fresh snow, 4 miles up and back, absolutely heavenly, had the trail virtually to myself on a Sunday afternoon once past the railroad station. I had to wait for my second ski run another 2 weeks until the second 16" of snow was melted enough to make the Hamburg lot remotely passable. I noticed most people parked at the RV or Toyota lots at the Hamburg end after the second snowfall as the access roads & lot were incredibly messy and barely passable days after the snow. I skiid all 6 miles of the trail the second time on a warm day and on very soft snow. Again, beautiful scenery and had the trail absolutely to myself at the upper end. Can't wait for the Auburn bridge to be completed. A big downside to skiing the trail is that neither the Hamburg or Auburn access roads and lots are plowed at all in winter. My sister got seriously stuck in the Hamburg lot (with a 4WD) on an attempt she made a week after the second snowfall. Also would like signs posted on the trail for dog walkers to clean up after their animals. Will try to ski or run the portion above Auburn and post pictures of this end.
Took a ride on our bikes from Hamburg to about a mile past Port Clinton today. Even though it was sunny, 68 degrees, in November, it was not very busy. Beautiful trail and experience. Very clean too. We will be back soon.
This trail is by far one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Each day I have trouble deciding if I should walk with the dog, jog or ride my bike.
My property backs onto the trail, I think it is great, people on bikes, on horses or just taking a stroll always say hello. I think my only complaint would be the dog poop! i see many many people walking their dogs, I have three myself, but i do not see them picknig up after them.
with an average of 30 dogs a day taking a walk in the summer it becomes very unpleasant for the residents near the trail. I pick up after mine I am sure you can too.
lets all try and keep it a nice place for everyone.
We biked this trail on July 19, 2009 for the first time. It is great for beginners and for a leisurely ride. Beautiful scenery the entire way and the fellow bikers and trekers are also pleasant and friendly. The trail is also litter free and well maintained. Will definatly be back and hope that the trail is connected together soon!!!
2 Bikers from Kunkletown
My husband and I rode this trail on July3, 2009. It was a beautiful day and the trail was gorgeous.
The wild Rhododendron was all in bloom. There where also many other wild flowers blooming.
The old steam locomotive at Port Clinton train station was running and blowing its whistle. It brought back childhood memories for my husband.
We saw some hikers doing the Appalachian Trail and a number of families also biking. There where kayaks on the Schuylkill River as well. What a beautiful place to ride. We're new bikers and are enjoying the rail to trails.
We can't wait until the bridge is completed at the Auburn end so that we can continue on to see more of this beautiful area.
Donna Reinhart 7/5/09
Easy access to the trailhead. Path is pretty flat, very well maintained and easy to navigate. Not too crowded, even on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Can only do about half of this trail before reaching a trestle that hasn't yet been converted. Nice signs along the way that tell a lot about the railroad, development of the trail, and towns surrounding the trail. Nice family trail.
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!)
I would like to comment on a couple prior posts about the trail and it's users. I too am not fond of "Horse Pot Holes" and agree aquestrians should be considerate in riding single file on sections of the trail that are too narrow for other users to pass safely. However, we are all guilty of being inconsiderate at some point so if you happen upon a user(s) who is not sharing appropriately, instead of yelling please calmly explain to the user(s) how the trail should be used appropriately in consideration of others.
Regarding the surface of the trail I will say it is in good condition considering it is just spring time and all the maintenance that occurs after the winter thaw has not occured yet. The SRTS maintenance crews are making their rounds and I am sure the sections that incurred erosion from the winter will be maintained in the near future. In fact the SRTS has a volunteer Trail Keepers force that makes it's rounds on weekends to help with maintenance. You can volunteer your own time to help make the trail beautiful for all.
I ride the trail frequently to commute from home to work and back and most sections are fairly smooth for a crushed stone trail (with few exceptions noted above). I would encourage those of you who read the prior post to not become alarmed and think this trail is not a good trail to ride. Most of the people you encounter on the trail are pleasant and considerate and the trail leads to many sections or trailheads to get you where you would like to go for commuting or just for recreation.
This trail was always my favorite for a quick 1 hour ride after work until 6 months ago. Someone galloped their horse there and now the trail is way too bumpy for a bike ride. It feels like you are on rumble strips!
Today my husband and I just completed a round trip ride- Birdsboro to Pottstown. This was our first ride on this leg of the trail. We parked at the Armocast Rd trail entrance. This road does not have a street sign so we asked a local who pointed us in the right direction. As we approached the street parking we saw two horse trailers parked along the road. My first thought was, I guess it's a wide trail w/a bridal path along the side. Right from the get go we bumped along the horse "pot holes" for at least half of the ride. The trail was soft since it was a very warm early March day which resulted in an early thaw. The horse riders obviously did not consider the measures in which they were tearing up the trail. This was evident by the fact that they were riding abreast rather than in a single file. As we rode we exchanged comments w/two other groups of riders who too were annoyed by the lack of respect by the horse riders of the motto, sharing the trail. About half way to Pottstown, the trail was more firm and the remnants of horse "pot holes" was gone. At this point the trail was macadam surface and the ride was fine. The Pottstown river park is very nice and was very active w/both foot and bike traffic due to the 72 degree March weather.
This is a very nice trail ,I have biked this trail at least 5-times from Birdsboro to Pottstown, You can stop at Tim's Ugly mug, about 4 miles west of Birdsboro for food & drinks. A Narrow Bridge crosses the Schuykill River at the 5 mile point.the trail ends at Riverside Park in Pottstown.Down town Pottstown is only a block and a half from the park.Pottstown has Bike lanes on the main street [ High St.] Happy trails.
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.
The Schuylkill River Trail (Thun Trail) has an official, detailed website containing local maps and web pages for trailheads. http://www.schuylkillriver.org/ (Follow the Trail link on the bottom right)
The DCNR website, linked on this page, has no helpful information.
Update: Solar powered trail lighting was just installed in Reading near RACC, across the Bridge and up to the West Reading intersection.
It would helpful if specific directions were given to each trail juncture. Example: Where is Pottstown is the entry point to the Thun trail? Phoenixville entry point etc. Thanks.