Union Canal Trail

Pennsylvania

Union Canal Trail Facts

States: Pennsylvania
Counties: Berks
Length: 6.3 miles
Trail end points: Columbia St. at Stonecliffe Action Park (Reading) and Palisades Dr. (Blue Marsh Lake)
Trail surfaces: Crushed Stone
Trail category: Canal
ID: 6031984
Trail activities: Fishing, Wheelchair Accessible, Mountain Biking, Walking

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Union Canal Trail Description

The Union Canal Trail parallels Tulpehocken Creek between Stonecliffe Action Park northwest of downtown Reading and Blue Marsh Lake. The original Union Canal ran 79.5 miles from the Schuylkill River at Reading to the Susquehanna River at Middletown Harrisburg. Completed in 1827, the canal was not very successful for transporting goods boatmen were hesitant to use the narrow channel and locks. The scenic trail passes several historical stone buildings built during the canal's heyday; many are now used for park offices and add interest to the towpath trail.

The Union Canal Trail occupies property managed by the Army Corp of Engineers. It leads across farmland to surrounding Blue Marsh Lake, which also has its own trails. Much of the trail is a well maintained crushed stone surface, 12 feet wide. At the Stilling Basin entrance the trail turns to single track.

Note: Horses are not allowed on the Union Canal Trail but are permitted on the multi-use trails at Blue Marsh Lake.

Parking and Trail Access

Parking is available at the eastern end at Stonecliffe Action Park along Columbia Street and at the Berks Heritage Center on Tulpehocken Road (opposite the creek from the trail; bridge access to trail available). You can also park at Gring's Mill off Red Bridge Road (includes a seasonal weekend concession stand), off Rebers Bridge Road (south of the creek) and off Palisades Road.

Union Canal Trail Reviews

No pets are allowed on this trail which was not well advertised on any internet website we visited prior to our walk. So when we got there, we were surprised to see the signage and ultimately had to go somewhere else. It was disappointing.

Biked this trail last Friday. Nice views of the creek and lots of historical interest along the entire path. The Action Park entrance can get extremely busy during peak periods I started around 4.00pm with two cars in the parking lot and when I returned around 6.30pm there where no parking spaces left.

Recently rode this trail. It is an extremely well maintained¿ surface suitable for all types of bikes. Started at Action Park around 4pm with only 2 cars in the parking lot. You get to view the stream about 80% of the trip and there are numerous park benches, historical buildings and informational postings. When I returned, Action Park was so crowded you had to walk your bike through it and there were no parking spaces available. Return trip will be to check out Blue Marsh Lake.

Accordion

Rode this trail this morning from beginning to end and back again. Started early and it wasn't crowded but got busier as the morning went on. Very well cared for and really quite beautiful. Nicely shaded for most of the way. Several "Kodak" moments along the trail as well!


Fabulous


This is a fabulous rail. Why it is not in the top 100 trails I do not know.
I walked this trail North starting at Grings Mill up to the Blue Marsh lakes, on a day with max temp 20 - chilly. The trail is amazing - excellent underfoot, and almost always very natural, and in sight of the beautiful Tulpehocken creek (a river to any of us Brits!!).
Saw fox, birds, signs of deer and a Bald Eagle on the route, not to mention very loud geese.
Terrific trail - and a nice length going North.
10/10 for me. Mike.

Trail was very well kept. Was there on a Wednesday afternoon and not very busy so it was quiet and very beautiful, but hot. We started in the middle and rode south east to the end. Seemed like it got a little rougher neighborhood towards that end. Graffiti and such but was still very well kept. North West end was just as beautiful. Stopped at the little shop and had ice cream. Very nice ride. Only down side is some bikers there to exercise fly past, but they were polite and called out before flying by but seemed a little fast for a problem developing. Otherwise beautiful scenery and very well maintained. We will be checking out all the other Reading trails in the next couple weeks.

Constructed along the towpath of a long-defunct canal that once zigzagged through the Lebanon Valley, the 6.3-mile Union Canal Trail is by far the most scenic of the numerous hiking and biking trails that crisscross the Reading metropolitan area.

Featuring a crushed-stone surface, the trail is level for most of its length and passes almost entirely through wooded areas, providing cool shade during the warm spring and summer months. Although the canal, where still visible, is now just a swampy, and in some places completely dry, ditch, the rippling waters of the Tulpehocken Creek are never far off, giving ample opportunity for fishing or observing waterfowl. The route also provides a non-motorized link between Stonecliffe Recreation Park, on Reading's west end, and the much larger Blue Marsh Lake Recreation Area, threading numerous historical sites in between.

Starting from the western terminus at Blue Marsh Recreation Area, the trail can be divided into 3 segments heading east toward Reading. The first section, from Blue Marsh Rec. Area to the Route 222 bridges, passes largely through unspoiled forests. Aside from the small park at Reber Bridge and the restored canal lock about 1/2 mile to the east, there are few signs of civilization along this westernmost segment of the trail.

East of the twin spans that carry Route 222 over the Tulpehocken, the trail enters the western suburbs of Reading. Users pass numerous historical homes and other buildings on this section, some of which were originally built to serve the canal, some of which predate it. Significant historical sites on this segment include the Berks County Heritage Center, which includes the Gruber Wagon Works, C. Howard Rustler Canal Center, Stoltzfuss Homestead and Gring's Mill. Painted bright red, Wertz's Covered Bridge supports a connector path that leads to a park off Tulpehocken Road. Users can also access the trail from the combination dam and bridge at Gring's Mill, or a cantilevere pedestrian bridge further downstream. Several homes built in modern times are also visible on this segment of the trail, and are built in a way that enhances the scenery on the trail.

The third segment begins just west of the Route 12 bridge in Reading. Far shorter than the other sections, the easternmost portion of the trail is a first-class urban greenway; the crushed stone surface gives way to asphalt, benches line the sides and colorful artwork decorates the sides of a nearby pavilion that includes restrooms with flush toilets. The trail's eastern terminus is located about a half-mile into Reading, at the Stonecliffe Recreation Area. Here, users can watch skaters and BMX bikers show off their skills in the Stonecliffe Action Park and treat themselves to cool refreshments available from food vendors.

Although not signed as such, it is likely that the Union Canal Trail will eventually form part of the Schuylkill River Greenway, a series of multi-use trails being developed between Pottsville and Philadelphia. Signed, on-road routes currently extend from the trail's western terminus north to Leesport, and in the city of Reading from Stonecliffe Recreation Area southeast to the Thun Trail, which begins just west of Reading Community College. These routes also indirectly connect the Union Canal Trail to the Blue Marsh Rec. Area's internal network of hiking trails and the Reading metro area's extensive greenway system, respectively.

Level, wide path with great scenery. Enjoyed several legs of this even after a couple inches of snow.

Crushed gravel trail, 5-6 feet wide, 6 miles long, Tulpehocken Creek makes for nice scenery, almost 90% shaded ... perfect for a run, walk or bike ride. Pets are not allowed in the park so you are generally not tripping over dogs either. Just a great path.

I was in the area to do the Thun Trail and I did this trail also. It is short but very beautiful and has a lot to offer. It has a great canopy and is fairly level. The trail follows the Tupehocken Creek and it has a number of historic buildings that are in great shape. It also has a Lock that has been rebuilt and a number of historic markers. There are mile markers at each cross roads and there are signs that tells you the distance to the next four or so cross roads. Again if you are in the Reading Pa area make sure you do this trail

I rode this trail today...it's a nice ride with a lot to see. At one point you ride under a large covered bridge and there are a number of beautiful historic buildings along the trail. There is now an extension of the trail at Reber's Bridge over to the Stilling Basin parking area of the Blue Marsh Lake area. It adds another 0.9 mi to the trail... part way you leave the Tulpehocken Creek (River?) and head uphill, but it's ride-able and a nice ride along fields of wildflowers.

My wife and I road this trail on sunday from Rebers Bridge to the SRT trail that ends in Reading at a paved street. It is a lovely trail and a nice ride, from Rebers Bridge it is mostly a slight down hill grade to Reading. The section of SRT trail that ends in Reading takes you through a slightly bad section of town. I did not think it was that bad but my wife said she would not ride that last section by her self. The section heading towards Blue Marsh is a very nice trail also we only road to the first parking lot. It has more hills on this section because it doesnt follow the canal path. All in all it is afive star trail.

If you come from Lancaster, I highly suggest the Wyomissing trailhead.
Exit 422E @ the Berkshire Mall / Crossing Drive exit.
Turn Left @ the bottom of the exit.
2 lights until Berkshire Blvd... turn Right.
over the highway & turn Right on Tulpehocken Road.

Resh Avenue & Tulpehocken Road, Reading, PA

I hope this helps.

We drove up from Lancaster, used directions, went up and down 422 never found it. Would appreciate any tips from anyone


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.

Or you can just start on that side of the river. A block west of Blair at Columbia and Montgomery you can park and start from there. Starts paved and goes to cinders. This is a beautiful 5-mile ride between the remnants of the Union Canal and the Tulpehocken River. Historic buildings and a covered bridge along the way. It terminates at Reber's Bridge Rd. If you cross the road, there is a 2-mile connecting path to a
30-mile loop around Blue Marsh Lake. There's a map there and if I remember correctly, there are several areas to park, so you can tailor the trip to the desired length.

I started walking the trail with my daughters, about a month ago. For the one its to stay fit for track, the other one just because. But for myself I go there to relieve my stress from a long day. We all enjoy it and the view its beautiful and no matter what time you go, people are always polite...I give it 5 star

I rode this trail from Grings Mill to Reber Bridge and back with my daughter today. It was very scenic and pretty flat but you will be pedaling the whole way. The only complaint that I have was that the trail was a bit narrow but overall its a nice trail. I will be back again.

I began the Union Canal Trail at the Heritage Center on Red Bridge Road and that particular site bisects the approximately 5 mile long trail. It's a scenic and easy ride. Great place for beginner riders and families. If you're interested in a much longer and difficult ride then the Blue Marsh Lake recreation area now adjoins this trail at Rebers Bridge Road marker 12. The Union Canal Trail ends there and directly across the street is an access path to Blue Marsh Lake. It's about a 2 mile connector leading to Stilling Basin and direct access to the 30 mile loop around Blue Marsh. There are more elevation changes at Blue Marsh and the trails are a combination of old fire roads and single track.

Very easy and enjoyable ride for the entire family. Kids can easily bike a few miles on the rather flat, gravel path. Parents can ride with little ones in a bike seat or in a bike trailer. Also, the trail is mostly in the shade from start to finish.

The trail is located in a beautiful setting. Sites along the trail include an Old Mill, Covered Bridge and remants of a canal lock. The trail runs parrell with a creek during a majority of the trip. Road bed has a limited grade since it was a canal towpath. Trail is a well maintained limestone base. Limited parking at Reber's Bridge. Use caution at Reber's Bridge, from the parking lot you must travel over a metal bridge that has significant traffic and there is no side walk available. This would not be a good place to start with children. I really enjoyed the ride and would highly recommend it to anyone.

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