Union Canal Trail

Pennsylvania

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Union Canal Trail Facts

States: Pennsylvania
Counties: Berks
Length: 6.5 miles
Trail end points: Stonecliffe Recreation Area at Columbia St. and Montgomery St. (Reading) and Blue Marsh Lake Multi-Use Trail at Palisades Dr. just south of County Welfare Road (Leesport)
Trail surfaces: Crushed Stone, Gravel
Trail category: Canal
ID: 6031984

Union Canal Trail Description

The Union Canal Trail runs along the Tulpehocken Creek from the city of Reading up to Blue Marsh Lake in Leesport. The trail makes up a segment of the 71.7-mile Schuylkill River Trail in southeastern Pennsylvania. The flat, crushed-stone trail surface makes for a comfortable journey on foot, bicycle, cross-country skis, or even snowshoes.

The Union Canal historically connected the Schuylkill River in Reading to the Susquehanna River in Middletown, creating a means to ship coal and lumber from the rest of Pennsylvania to Philadelphia. Construction began during George Washington’s presidency but was not completed until 1828. The canal ran 82 miles and had 93 locks, the remnants of several of which are visible along the trail. The canal operated until the 1880s, when the combination of costly repairs and the emergence of the Lebanon Valley Railroad led to the canal ending service.

Beginning in a public parking lot at the Stonecliffe Recreation Area in Reading, you’ll head north along Tulpehocken Creek, a tributary of the Schuylkill River. About 0.8 mile into your ride, you’ll pass a bridge across the creek that leads to the Berks Leisure Area of the Berks County Park Rangers. This area has a picnic pavilion and restrooms.

Crossing back over the bridge and continuing down the trail another 1.8 miles will bring you to the Berks County Heritage Center, a historical interpretive complex. Here you’ll find the Gruber Wagon Works, a facility that made wagons from the 1880s to the 1950s. In the late 1970s, the building was relocated to its current location and designated a national historic landmark. The Heritage Center also includes the Red Bridge, originally known as Wertz’s Bridge. The longest covered bridge in Pennsylvania, the Red Bridge crosses over the creek to provide trail access from its southern bank. Another site at the center is the C. Howard Hiester Canal Center, which details the history of the canal system in the United States and southeastern Pennsylvania.

Another 1.8 miles will take you to the end of the main portion of the trail at the intersection of Rebers Bridge Road. There is parking available just south of the creek across the bridge. This area is known for its fly-fishing. The remainder of the trail is also known as the Union Canal Connector, as it bridges the gap between the Union Canal Trail and the 28.6-mile Blue Marsh Lake Multi-Use Trail.

The first leg of the connector has a similar surface to the previous section of trail, though it’s slightly less developed. In about 0.8 mile from Rebers Bridge Road, you will encounter a fairly steep curved hill as you reach a parking lot at Swiftwater Lane/Palisades Road. For the remaining mile of the connector, you’ll ride alongside fields and grassland. This portion of the trail’s surface is less compact than the rest and includes rolling hills.

At this endpoint, the trail seamlessly connects with the Blue Marsh Lake Multi-Use Trail that forms a 28.6-mile loop around its namesake. The lake is a recreational hot spot offering picnic areas, concession stands, a small beach, and boat launches; it’s a popular spot for bird-watching.

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

To access the Stonecliffe Recreation Area trailhead in Reading from I-176, take Exit 11B to merge onto US 422 W. In 4.9 miles take the exit onto SR 12 E toward Pricetown. Go 0.5 mile, and turn right onto Chester St. Go 0.2 mile, and turn right at the second cross street (0.2 mile) onto Columbia St. Go 0.2 mile, and the road terminates at the Stonecliffe Recreation Area parking lot, to your left.

To access parking at the northern endpoint near Blue Marsh Lake from I-176, take Exit 11B to merge onto US 422 W. In 5.8 miles continue onto US 222 N. Go 1.1 miles, and take the Spring Ridge Dr. exit. Turn left onto Spring Ridge Dr., and go 0.1 mile. Turn right onto Paper Mill Road, go 0.3 mile, and turn left to stay on Paper Mill Road. Go 1.1 miles, turn right onto Rebers Bridge Road, and then go 0.6 mile. After you cross the creek, turn left onto Palisades Dr., and go 1.0 mile. Turn left onto the access road, and then take an immediate right into the parking lot.

Union Canal Trail Reviews

Not for Seniors

Trail is very hilly and crushed stone is not good for hybrids. Shame because the trail looked like it was very picturesque if we could go further.

No pets

If I could give it a zero, I would. That goes for any place (with the exception of animal preserves) that does not allow dogs. Dogs are not allowed at any of Berks county recreational parks except Antietam Lake.

Union Canal Trail

Just rode this trail this AM and it was fabulous …scenic and interesting

Lovely trail, quite crowded

We enjoyed the trail and all of the areas of interest. However, if you are not comfortable being around large groups of unmasked people yet, give this one a miss - at least on a busy weekend day.

Accordion

union canal

Beautiful trail, well kept with historic features

No Pets Allowed

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.

Well maintained and scenic

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.

Scenic and Well Maintained

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.

Great trail!!

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!

Wonderful, tree-lined riverside walk


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.

First visit

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.

Jewel of the Reading-area trail network

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.

Great for Historic sites and photo opps

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

Runner's Paradice

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.

osborn2ride

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

Nice Trail - new connector trail to Blue Marsh Lake area

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.

Union Canal Tow Path

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.

Location of trailheads

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.

Thun Trail

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

Schuylkill Canal Trail / Union Canal Trail


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.

Stress no more.

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

Awesome Trail

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.

Union Canal Trail and Blue Marsh Lake

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.

Great Ride for the family

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.

Union Canal Trail

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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