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The Chester Valley Trail provides opportunities for recreation and alternative transportation in the congested commercial center at the northern edge of Greater Philadelphia. The paved rail-trail rolls for just under 15 miles between King of Prussia and Exton, encouraging a variety of users, such as stroller-pushing parents, colleagues on a walking meeting, or cyclists seeking a quick 30-miler.
The trail uses the corridor of the Chester Valley Branch of the Reading Railroad, which was completed between Bridgeport and Downingtown in the 1850s; the line hauled freight into the late 20th century (passenger traffic ended in 1935). Work by Chester and Montgomery Counties began in 2009 to convert the railbed into a trail. Plans call for extending it westward to Downingtown. A planned extension eastward to Bridgeport, which includes a connection to the Schuylkill River Trail, will create access to Valley Forge National Historical Park to the north and Philadelphia to the south. The Chester Valley Trail is also part of the Circuit Trails, a developing 800-mile urban network of trails in Greater Philadelphia, of which about 350 miles are complete.
The 10- to 12-foot-wide asphalt path, which is open daily, 8 a.m.–sunset, has a slight uphill grade from King of Prussia to Exton. A couple of mild, short hills face travelers in Malvern and just past PA 29. The trail parallels US 202, which you’ll barely notice as you travel through a wooded corridor that opens up to farmland approaching Exton.
The route starts near a cluster of hotels in King of Prussia, a community named for a local Colonial-era inn built in 1719. The renovated and relocated inn, which contains offices for the local chamber of commerce, stands 0.3 mile from the current trailhead. The future path of the trail extension to Bridgeport will pass by the old inn named for Frederick the Great.
The current trail immediately crosses I-76 on a pedestrian bridge and heads west past retail centers and office parks along US 202. The rail-trail takes a straight shot across the landscape, except for turns to accommodate busy road crossings. In the less congested western end, the trail utilizes short tunnels to cross US 202 and Swedesford Road.
There’s no lack of fast food and restaurants in the retail centers along the eastern segment. You’ll pass several small parks with picnic tables: D’Ambrosia Park at 4 miles, Cedar Hollow Park at 6.6 miles, and Ecology Park at 10.1 miles. The landscape opens up beyond here, with more farms and less congestion.
While Valley Forge is located north of the trail, other historic locations of the Revolutionary War are closer by. One of those is Battle of the Clouds Park, located 1 mile past Ecology Park, where the trail crosses Phoenixville Pike. The park commemorates a Revolutionary War attack in 1777 that was foiled by a horrific thunderstorm that drenched the soldiers’ gunpowder.
Another 1.3 miles ahead is Exton Park, which covers 727 acres and features a pond, picnic sites, and trails. The rail-trail ends in another 2.4 miles after passing through the community of Exton.
To reach the eastern endpoint in King of Prussia from I-76, take Exit 328B. Merge onto US 202/W. Dekalb Pike. Go 180 feet, and turn right onto King of Prussia Road. Then go 0.2 mile, and turn left into the King of Prussia park and ride lot. The trail starts across the street.
To reach the western endpoint in Exton from I-76, take Exit 320, and turn left onto SR 29. Go 1.3 miles, and turn right onto Swedesford Road. Go 0.3 mile, and merge onto US 202 W. Go 2.9 miles, and exit toward US 30 W. Go 0.7 mile, and merge onto US 30/Exton Bypass. Go 1.6 miles, and exit toward SR 100 to Exton. Go 0.4 mile, and turn right onto Pottstown Pike. Then go 0.3 mile, and turn left onto SR 100/Commerce Dr. Go 0.1 mile, and turn left onto Main St. Look for parking on either side of the street. Sidewalks backtrack to the trail next to Commerce Dr.
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