Schuylkill River Trail

Pennsylvania

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Schuylkill River Trail Facts

States: Pennsylvania
Counties: Berks, Chester, Montgomery, Philadelphia, Schuylkill
Length: 71.7 miles
Trail end points: South 56th St near Eastwick Ave (Philadelphia) and Main St & South Greenview Rd (Landingville)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt, Boardwalk, Concrete, Crushed Stone, Dirt, Gravel
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6017043

Schuylkill River Trail Description

At one time an important thoroughfare for commerce carried by canal barges and railroad cars in southeastern Pennsylvania, the Schuylkill River corridor now accommodates walkers, bicyclists, and others on the Schuylkill River Trail. Projected to stretch 120–130 miles when complete, the trail forms the backbone of the five-county Schuylkill River Greenways National Heritage Area.

The trail, now covering about 71 miles, follows the route of old canals and the Pennsylvania Railroad that hauled resources out of the anthracite coalfields. Planning for the trail began in the late 1960s, with construction starting in the 1990s and continuing today. Check the Schuylkill River Greenways website before setting out for information on closures or trail gaps.

The trail helps make up part of the Circuit Trails, a developing 800-mile urban trail network in Greater Philadelphia, of which 350 miles are currently complete. It’s also included in the East Coast Greenway, which one day will span 3,000 miles from Maine to Florida. The Schuylkill River Trail links with other trails as it heads deep into Pennsylvania, and it’s a component of the September 11th National Memorial Trail that connects the 9/11, Flight 93, and Pentagon Memorials.

Philadelphia to Valley Forge: 25.9 miles

Beginning on the west bank of the Schuylkill River in southwest Philadelphia, the trail traverses Bartram’s Garden, the oldest botanical garden in North America. Resuming on the eastern riverbank as a paved trail, it passes through an old industrial area—Grays Ferry Crescent—that’s now a park. A pedestrian bridge to connect both sections of trail is scheduled to open in 2020.

Another paved trail segment begins about 0.5 mile upriver and continues along the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk that runs out over the river about 50 feet from the shoreline. Future plans call for extending the boardwalk downriver to the Grays Ferry Crescent segment.

At the northern end of the boardwalk, you can hop onto one of the Schuylkill River Trail’s most popular sections, the nearly 30-mile stretch from downtown Philadelphia to Valley Forge National Historical Park. Along this segment, which is nearly all paved, you’ll pass many attractions, such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Boathouse Row, Fairmount Water Works, Lemon Hill Mansion, and the 2,000-acre Fairmount Park, a premier outdoor Philadelphia destination. Vendors often sell snacks along this section of trail.

A part of the 8.5-mile Wissahickon Valley Park Trail System connects with the trail about a mile north of Falls Bridge. Beyond are the former industrial towns of Manayunk, Conshohocken, and Norristown, where you’ll pass redbrick mills and old factories tucked alongside modern office buildings and restaurants. In Norristown, the trail connects to the Chester Valley Trail via its new 3.8-mile extension. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) commuter rails parallel the Schuylkill River Trail here. Nearby SEPTA regional rail stations create an opportunity to travel by train.

Please note that a portion of the Schuylkill River Trail in Manayunk is on busy roads. The City of Philadelphia is working on easements to solve this problem and until a bridge is constructed, one cannot connect directly with Bartram's Gardens. At Port Providence (past Valley Forge on the trail) there are restrooms, a fountain, a dog park and the towpath picks up there as well. The route to Phoenixville can be done by riding along the towpath, which is fine crushed gravel, or one can go on paved roads, which are not heavily traveled. 

Valley Forge to Parker Ford: 14.3 miles

About 4 miles north of Norristown, you’ll arrive at Valley Forge National Historical Park, the winter encampment of the Continental Army in 1777–78. You can visit the museum and historical structures by crossing the newly opened pedestrian bridge that spans the river parallel to US 422. Just north of the park, the Schuylkill River Trail offers a direct connection to the Perkiomen Trail, which follows the creek more than 20 miles north to the borough of Green Lane.

To stay on the Schuylkill River Trail, head west toward Phoenixville on a mostly crushed-stone section. In 3.6 miles, you’ll reach the village of Mont Clare, crossing the river on SR 29/Bridge Street to enter Phoenixville and Chester County. For the next 8 miles, the trail continues through town along French Creek, heads northwest through Spring City, and ends in the community of Parker Ford.

Pottstown, Route 422 to Industrial Highway: 0.95 miles

The Montgomery County segment of the trail that parallels Route 422 over the Schuylkill River is complete but remains closed to the public pending the construction of a 0.95-mile segment between Industrial Highway and the U.S. 422 Bridge in Pottstown. Construction is expected to be complete by spring 2024. 

Pottstown to Reading: 20.3 miles

After a 5.5-mile gap, the trail resumes on the eastern shore of the river in Pottstown. The 20.3-mile Pottstown to Reading section, which includes a section known as the Thun Trail, is well shaded. Leaving Pottstown’s Riverfront Park as a paved trail, it switches to crushed stone entering Berks County. A 5.8-mile section beginning in Birdsboro is on road. Back on the trail, the route arrives in Reading after crossing the Schuylkill River three times.

Reading to Landingville: 11.2 miles

A 20-mile gap between Reading and Hamburg must be navigated by following a signed on-road route. A short stretch of gravel exists between Ontelaunee Township and Leesport Borough.

The final leg of the Schuylkill River Trail is known as the John Bartram Trail. Horseback riding is allowed on three disconnected gravel sections between Hamburg and Pottsville, which will be the trail’s future terminus. The longest section runs 6 miles from Hamburg to Auburn. Along the way, the scenic trail enters Schuylkill County and crosses the Appalachian Trail south of the village of Port Clinton. Another piece of trail spans 0.75 mile through a heavily wooded area east of Auburn between River Road and Market Street. The last segment of completed trail runs through Landingville, paralleling Tunnel Road and Canal Street.

Parking and Trail Access

Parking is available at a number of locations along the trail. View the TrailLink map for all options and detailed directions. Parking locations include the southern trailhead at Bartram’s Garden off South 56th Street. The road dead-ends into the trailhead parking lot. The Sullivans Lane trailhead at Valley Forge National Historical Park is on Sullivans Lane. There is a trailhead parking lot. A spur in the back of the parking lot leads to the trail. The Reading trailhead has a parking lot off South Front Street. The trailhead in Hamburg has a parking lot on Franklin Street.

Schuylkill River Trail Reviews

It was fun. Was severely dehydrated and had to call an ambulance the end, but it was definitely worth it! Would do it again just not to Phoenixville lol

It was fun. Was severely dehydrated and had to call an ambulance the end, but it was definitely worth it! Would do it again just not to Phoenixville lol