Northwest Lancaster County River Trail


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Northwest Lancaster County River Trail Facts

States: Pennsylvania
Counties: Lancaster
Length: 15.9 miles
Trail end points: 6 Collins Rd (Bainbridge) and 157 N. Front Street, near Columbia Crossing River Trails Center (Columbia)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6123089

Northwest Lancaster County River Trail Description


Spanning over 15 miles on the banks of the Susquehanna River, the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail is a tranquil and easy-going meander between the towns of Bainbridge, Marietta and Columbia. In addition to striking views of the river, the trail weaves beneath a historic rail bridge and tunnel, and past limestone “cliffs” along its course. Fully paved, shady, and well-served by trailside amenities like drinking fountains, bathrooms, and bike repair stations, this riverside trail has something for everyone.

About the Route

The Northwest Lancaster County River Trail’s western endpoint is at 6 Collins Rd, in Bainbridge, by the Falmouth Boat Launch and the Fisherman’s Wharf Trail. The trail takes off eastward through the Falmouth Forest Garden, a floodplain forest within the Conoy Wetlands Nature Preserve that uses regenerative agroforestry — a sustainable land management practice of re-introducing native, crop-producing plants to the ecosystem.  In Bainbridge, the trail passes Koser Park, offering one of several boat launches along the trail. 

After continuing for 1.5 miles southwest out of Bainbridge, between the river and an active freight railway, the trail finds the White Cliffs of Conoy. This unique landmark was formed over time by the waste products of a limestone quarry, creating a hilly area of limestone “cliffs” on the shores of the Susquehanna. Just ahead to the southeast, the trail passes under the stone-arch Shock’s Mill Bridge, providing stunning views right from its base. From the Shock’s Mill Bridge, through the outskirts of Marietta, the route becomes straighter and occasionally leaves the tree cover to travel through open cornfields. In Marietta, several parks and trailheads offer an opportune spot for a break. Dining and convenience options are also an available in town in Marietta, a short ways off the trail.  

For a short segment in Marietta, the trail splits in parallel segments spanning either side of the railroad tracks. The main trail runs on a dedicated path along Front Rd and Donegal Place, in Marietta. The alternate route remains adjacent to the river, before finding Robert K. Mowrer Drive, which, if followed, quickly re-joins the main trail at Furnace Road. From here, the trail takes an on-road segment east on Furnace Road for another 0.4 miles. The on-road segment along Furnace Road has a dedicated bike lane.  

Continuing east, the trail finds Chickies Rock County Park, where up above, where trail users may be able to spot rock climbers scaling the craggy face of Chickies Rock, via the 0.5-mile Chickies Rock Overlook Trail spur trail that’s nearby. Ahead, the trail passes the historic Henry Clay Furnace, marked by a historical placard. After continuing south-east through this forested stretch, the trail passes through the abandoned (and allegedly haunted) Point Rock Tunnel, also known as Chickies Rock Tunnel. The unlined 180-foot-long tunnel was blasted through solid rock when it was built in the 1850s for the Pennsylvania Railroad. After leaving the tunnel, the trail passes another historic furnace, the St. Charles Iron Furnace, as it enters the town of Columbia.

The Northwest Lancaster County River Trail’s eastern endpoint is at 157 N. Front Street, just two blocks from the riverfront Columbia Crossing River Trails Center, which offers exhibits, restrooms, parking with accessible spaces, drinking water, picnic tables, a bike repair station, and information about the trail and nearby attractions. Columbia River Park also has a launch site for canoes, kayaks, and boats.    

Trail History 

The Northwest Lancaster County River Trail follows the route of the historic Pennsylvania Main Line Canal. The canal was built to aid westward development in Pennsylvania, following the recent success of New York’s Erie Canal. Beginning in the 1830s, the canal transported freight that arrived by rail in Columbia from Philadelphia, and carried it northwest along the canal to Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and points further east.  Later, in the 1950s, a railway was installed on the route — one still active today as a freight line run by Norfolk Southern. 

The White Cliffs of Conoy developed out of byproduct from a limestone-dolomite quarry that began business on the riverbanks in 1846. The now ghost-town of Billmyer surrounded the plant and once had a population of around 1000 people. The “cliffs” were closed to the public for decades until the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail opened in the mid 2010s.

Parking and Trail Access

The Northwest Lancaster County River Trail runs between 6 Collins Rd (Bainbridge) and 157 N. Front St, near Columbia Crossing River Trails Center (Columbia), with parking available at both endpoints. 

Parking is also available:

  • 8 Race St (Bainbridge)
  • Riverfront Park at 551 Vinegar Ferry Rd (Marietta)
  • 29 Furnace Rd (Marietta)

There are numerous parking options along this route, see TrailLink Map for all parking options and detailed directions.

Northwest Lancaster County River Trail Reviews

Fantastic and well maintained trail

We had heard good things about this trail, and were able to visit and ride circa 26 miles out and back yesterday, (June 4). This is a wonderful and very scenic trail with amazing views of the river and bucolic landscape. Much of the trail is shaded which helped during the heat but also adds to the allure of the trail. The Trail Welcoming Center is well maintained and the staff there very friendly and helpful. In addition, the rest room(s) were immaculate! I can't recommend this trail highly enough, and we will absolutely, (the Good Lord Willing), return to ride anytime we have the opportunity! Thanks for developing and maintaining such a marvelous and beautiful venue for relaxing and enjoying nature at its finest. We also stopped and had lunch at a wonderful tavern about 10 miles from the Welcome Center that is right along the trail. Very welcoming, great food, and very friendly clientele! Fantastic all around Great Experience!

Great trail

What an amazing trail. Beautiful scenery, smooth, lots of areas to take a break, or break the trail up. Great for new riders.

Go and ride this trail

My wife and I drove up from Maryland to ride this trail and it was worth it. We’ve done a lot of trails but this was one of our favorites. We started at the Columbia Crossing River Trail Center and completed the full 14 miles. Except for the first 1/4 mile or so at the start with some street crossings, the trail is extremely well marked and maintained. Mile markers and info signs along the entire route. Plenty of benches with shade trees. The trail had a few bumps from roots but not many. The views of the Susquehanna are fantastic and most of the rider is shaded.

A must for south central PA!

One of our favorite trails in Harrisburg/Lancaster area. 13 miles of asphalt makes if easy to ride. Lots of turns and great views of the river make it fun. We stop at McCleary's Pub in Marietta for some refreshment either during or after the ride. Great pub food and long beer list. In Marietta a stone hill to get over the railroad tracks is a bit rough, may be easier to walk across, the trail continues on the other side. There is an ice cream shop at the Columbia end that serves hand dipped and refreshing drinks.


Gorgeous trail, mostly shaded

There’s some really great views along this trail that are worth stopping to enjoy. It gets too busy on weekends to enjoy a bike ride, but this time I rode it with my adult daughter on a Monday and it was not crowded at all. It takes me more than an hour to drive here but it’s well worth it.

Great for roller skiing

I roller skied the entire trail from Falmouth to Coffee and Cream in Columbia. Other than one tiny section that joins the more rural part to the urban beginning it is all great for roller skiing. Many people had never seen roller skis before so I got a lot of comments, mostly curiosity and some appreciation.

Great ride!

All paved with turns and dips to make the ride enjoyable and provide a good workout ! Views of river are nice! Highly recommend!

Furnace Rd and Front St finally completed

I'm in bike heaven! With little fanfare and almost no online updates, Furnace Rd is completely repaved, with a dedicated bike lane and additional parking area. Adding to my delight, the short on-road section at Front St is now a paved path bypassing the public street altogether for those wish to avoid metro Marietta. It is now possible to travel off-road the entire way from Columbia to Falmouth "on 2 wheels" as promised. I've attempted to update over the years the progress of this gem of a trail, but sadly my membership lapsed, as my previous reviews are now mysteriously listed as "anonymous". Enjoy this trail, and keep on biking my friends!

exceeded my expectations!

The NW Lancaster County Trail exceeded my expectations. The trail was paved, smooth and well maintained. Nice combination of shade and sun. Easy trail, no hills. We went from Front Street to Bainbridge. We were hoping for more spots to sit by the water but couldn’t find a nice shady spot. But there are plenty of benches along the way. We ate at Marietta Tavern in Market…I wouldn’t recommend. Our food was way over cooked…but the soup was good. Trail was pretty crowded but it was Fathers Day Sunday. Will definitely do this trail again!

perfect for bikes, walking, running, family

So many things to see, side paths to the river, white cliffs of Conoy, historic towns, interpretive signs, and frequent potties ¿ The whole 14 miles was paved, but there was a small detour told it would be done soon. Nice mix of sunny and shady. Pretty busy for a weekday, don’t recommend a weekend if you avoid it.

Nice trail

Nice trail along the river. Completely paved, but not as wide as some reviews have insinuated. Yes, certainly wide enough to pass, but not as wide as other trails in the area. Because it is such a nice trail everyone seems to be out enjoying it - family walkers, casual bikers and the serious bikers. Spent most of the day saying “on your left”. I prefer a crushed stone trail over paved, all in all beautiful day.

Regional Treasure

Awesome trail to ride and a draw for Lancaster County

Best in the area, maybe the state?

The NW Lancaster County River Trail is my go-to for weekend rides. Notwithstanding the fact that it's only 12 mins from my house, it is as all the other reviews attest to a most pleasant ride. It is almost entirely paved and even part of that one very short section is being repaved as I type this.

It is wide with varied scenery, has very few hills and even those are short and low grade. The entire path is very well maintained and has many portable toilets along the way, two covered picnic areas, tons of park benches, two air pumps, mileage signs, and a rock climbing wall (real rock).

Most of the time you'll be in woods or going past fields that are farmed. In Marietta at Furnace Rd you there's a place to rent kayaks, bikes, and he sometimes has a food stand open (be sure to buy something!). After passing an excavating company and a small water treatment plant you'll see the interesting Mussellman Vesta Furnace Museum. The trail then takes you on E. Front St, where you'll pass a couple blocks of houses and then you cross back over the RR tracks and back onto the trail. If you get hungry there are tons of eateries in the town there. After that, you may notice a sort of sweet food smell in the air on certain days emanating from the Perdue Grain elevator complex I believe ( I could be wrong though).

You won't see any more civilization until you get to Bainbridge (burgers and beer at the Bainbridge Inn) and then another three miles of scenery until you get to the trailhead at the Falmouth Boat Launch. Speaking of trailheads, there are many boat launches and parking areas along the way but most people including yours truly park in the shade under the old bridge in Columbia, and it's a 13-mile ride from there to the end. When you get back there is a popular ice cream stand across from the Columbia Crossing River Trails Center, where you can also park.

My final recommendation is that if you're there on the weekend the earlier you start the less crowded it will be with groups of casual walkers. It's nothing bad but you'll be slowing down while uttering "On your left" a lot.

Following is a link to a video I made recently of one of my rides. It took place shortly after a nasty local storm had knocked down many trees along the trail but they were cleaned up almost immediately.

Fantastic trail!

This trail has it all- paved surfaces, beautiful scenery, a good mix of shade & sun, benches, and porta potties all along the way. Early mornings are best to beat the crowds.

Love this trail!

First time on this trail and will definitely be back. 99 percent paved surface and very well maintained. The wide path winds through woods, farmland, and local areas with amazing scenery of the Susquehanna River, historic buildings, flowers, farm fields and more. Lots of shade and benches to rest on along the way…

Will be back

This is a very pretty, flat paved trail. Very enjoyable and the town of Marietta in the middle of the trail is a great little trail town.

Great Trail

Paved and fun for all skill levels

Fantastic paved trail

This trail is so good I almost can't believe it exists. It has a little bit of everything scenery-wise: Winding, curvy stretches through the woods, long straight sections through open fields, mild ups and downs through wetlands with river views, a great climbing cliff, a neat tunnel... etc. Plus the entire thing is paved and there are several parking areas, making it accessible to people of all abilities. I've ridden it many times and it's always enjoyable. One minor thing to note is that while it is very peaceful during the week, it can get quite crowded on weekends, especially the areas closest to Columbia. Still, it is one of my go-to rail trails.

Great for skating, a few sections aren’t skateable though.

This is the best trail I’ve found for skating in this section of PA. It’s long, windy, paved most of the way and only has a few parts where the hills are steep enough to be a potential danger on skates. There are a few wooden bridges that inlines can roll right over but may be sketchy on rollerskates. Also if it rains, I wouldn’t recommend skating until it dries because wet forest litter is like ice. I also wouldn’t go anytime after a wind storm. Otherwise it’s a fantastic trail with lots of rest spots.

Biker Heaven

This trail is great for bikes. Nice paved trail, great views, very scenic. Note that the trail around Marietta is closed for construction.

How to control the Hamsters.

The 'newly' paved section is great.

I think the paving will slow down the traffic on that section of the trail.

For a paved trail... It's rough. Was it planned that way? If it wasn't you should ask for a refund from the paving company.

Easy Shaded Trail

Our first ride on our bikes! This was so recommended we thought we would start with this one. We did all 28 miles and stopped at the coffee/ice cream place in Columbia. Had quiche and coffee. Perfect day, perfect food, wonderful scenery.

Smooth ride and Great Views

Rode this today and was amazed how friendly the trail is. Parking in Columbia was easy, but believe you can say the same for multiple points along the trail too, but in Columbia you do finish right next door to an ice cream parlor. The trail itself is paved and a smooth ride. The views of the river are excellent. The crowds are there on the weekend, but every person I came across was accommodating to the various levels of riders, walkers, and runners. There are a couple no passing zones, but only a few short turns until you’ll have a chance to pass. Can’t believe I’ve never been here before, but will definitely be back.

Great macadam trail.

Great trail. Most people respectful and follow the rules. You do get the occasional knucklehead that doesn’t announce their approach though. There is a street crossover in Columbia that can get busy and confusing to everyone. There is a pedestrian right of way that cars don’t pay attention.

Great Outing

I have ridden this trail from Falmouth to Chickies Rock and back again. Beautiful. Easy ride. Avoid weekends if you can as it gets very busy. My husband uses a mobility scooter and th trail is a great one for people with such devices.

Paved meandering trail with scenic riverviews with gentle hills and curves

The trail is paved. In places the trail is straight and others it has small hills and gentle curves. The trail gets beside the river, goes by farmland, and through the woods. Its really a wonderful bike trail.

Recreational biking when leaves are down Falmouth->Marietta

Started at new section in Falmouth, great big paved parking lot. Nice paved trail on a Saturday in December. A roly-poly trail with turns. Great varied scenery when the leaves are down.

Significant water views with several spots with truly spectacular views (RR bridge). Nice fields and some woodsy areas. Paved trail is about 6-7 feet wide. There were several areas with picnic tables and several benches on this 8 mile stretch. Even a telescope to view Bald Eagles. About 5 places with facilities.

It was crowded in areas (Saturday in December), especially around Bainbridge. People are mostly friendly, but it is paved so there are the "stationary bike exercisers" that only look straight in front of them and down (even at gorgeous river front scenes). It seemed the narrower the tires the more miserable the demeanor. No dangerous road crossing. Many 4-6 person groups having a great social time.

Bring a picnic and enjoy this wonderful ride. Would recommend when leaves are off trees for more varied scenery. One of the most scenic trails we've done in the USA.

We biked from Falmouth to Marrietta and back. Awesome trail!

We biked from Falmouth to Marrietta and back. Awesome trail!

Great ride from Falmouth to Bainbridge

10/24/20 - friends and I rode the newly completed section at Falmouth. What a beautiful job they did. Nice wide path to Bainbridge, where it connects to the rest of the trail. If walking, beware of snakes! My friend almost ran over a rat snake that blended with the pavement. Copperheads are blending with the leaves.

Bainbridge to Falmouth Trail Extension is First Rate

We (3 couples) rode the trail from the Chickies Rock County Park up to Bainbridge and on to Falmouth on October 20, 2020. The section from Bainbridge to Falmouth had JUST been completed. They did a great job on the new section. The trail is all macadam and much less twisty than the first part of the trail. We met a work crew in trucks while going up the trail, and they were very considerate and courteous to us as we passed each other.

This is probably our favorite Rail-Trail, and the fact that there's a Pub with great food and a bike rack right on the trail certainly doesn't hurt. Now, if there were only an ice cream shop on the trail....... !!


As of 10.20.2020 it’s paved to Falmouth but sign said Falmouth section will be closed Monday the 28th for maintenance so be warned.


As of 9/27/20 the segment from Bainbridge to the Falmouth trailhead was still gravel BUT there was a noticed stating from 9/21/20 to 10/9/20 it would be closed for construction with heavy equipment and trucks on the trail. Another handwritten notice said it would be closed starting 9/28/20 so the schedule may have been pushed back a week but perhaps by late October the northern end will be completely paved.

Take your time and enjoy!

Enjoyed our afternoon on the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail. Started in Bainbridge at Koser Park. Picked up some ham sandwiches at the Bainbridge Inn. Gorgeous sunny day, busy trail, but friendly people. About 1.5 miles in spent time on the White Cliffs of Conoy, amazing views of the river. Climbed down to the water's edge. Moved on to the impressive Shock's Bridge, passing thru farmland. Turned around at the park after hiking on rocks out into the Susquehanna River. Watched an egret and heron fish. On our way back had our ham sandwich snack on the wooden bench viewing Shock's Bridge. Spent an hour watching the sunset over the river from the White Cliffs of Conoy, then back to the parking area. Ten mile or so round trip ride, but lots of time spent checking out the surroundings. Very enjoyable!! Highly recommended!! Take your time and enjoy!

Great trail getting even better (longer)

We learned from the friendly folks at the visitor center in Columbia that the section from Bainbridge to Falmouth was open, but not yet paved so we rode to see for ourselves how it was. Unfortunately just as we got to Bainbridge it started to rain and seeing how the temps were in the low 40s we decided to turn back. We returned 2 days later and this time started from the parking lot at the Falmouth Boat Launch (111 Collins Road, Bainbridge, PA 17502). We rode the stone path the 3 miles to Koser Park in Bainbridge where we turned around before. After using the very well maintained porta-potty we noticed that it was starting to rain again so we headed back to Falmouth. The trail is a little rough but very rideable with 700x40 tires. This section of trail is scheduled to be paved next year. We are looking forward to riding the trail when it is paved and hopefully when it is sunny and a bit warmer.

new favorite trail!

So much fun! Just decided to pick a new trail to explore last weekend and drove to Columbia. Terrific scenery, paved, beautifully maintained, nice people, very well used with a park in-between, and all the “stuff” that makes rails to trails biking enjoyable. Plenty of opportunities to leave the trail to explore the charming town of Marietta—even drove back for dinner.

Fav trail

My family loves this trail!

My favorite biking experience

I grew up in the outskirts of Bainbridge, just two houses away from the Haldeman Mansion on the river side of Locust Grove Rd, and as a young girl spent hours reading at the mouth of the Conoy Creek, rafting down the Creek to the river, swimming under the railroad bridge if the water was high enough. We went to the annual Strawberry Festivals at the Haldeman mansion for fresh pie. Our property bordered on the railroad tracks which were flanked by the overgrown empty canal, and my dad and I would descend one bank and climb out the other to fish in the river.

What a great use of nature to fill the abandoned canal and pave a trail! Now I wish I still lived in the area--I would be on the trail every weekend!

The trail is ideal for walking or biking, and there are great parks to stop for a view or snack, plus benches periodically for walkers who need a rest. Biking the trail is a great half-day workout. The trail is mostly flat and well paved, and the only slightly difficult part is the detour through Marietta.

I highly recommend to anyone traveling to Lancaster County in any season of the year.

Very Scenic

So far this was my favorite ride of the summer. Well maintained! Diverse scenery!

Biking at its finest.

I feel so guilty! Someone did some fine planning to make this wonderful trail happen, and it's maintained and beautified! All I did was show up and ride. It was heaven. Thank you to whoever contributed to making one of the best trails I've experienced in the two years I've been biking.

Awesome Trail

Trail is along the Susquehanna River following the railroad from Falmoth to Columbia. The Northernmost section goes through the woods and is a little rough but getting to the North end let's you see an old lock which was part of the canal system. Starting in Bainbridge and going South the trail is asphalt suitable for road bikes. If you go on the weekends, the foot traffic is pretty heavy. For the most part the trail is shaded with sections going along open fields.

Almost done on the Bainbridge to Falmouth section

Just walked the NLCRT on Sunday June 30th in beautiful weather. The Columbia to Bainbridge sections have been paved and landscaped for some time now and of course they are wonderful. We have been waiting for the last 2.9 miles from Bainbridge to Falmouth to be finished for a couple years and we are almost there. Two new bridges and two new trestles are in so technically the trail is complete from end to end. But...word to the wise...start at the Falmouth end unless you are walking in hiking shoes. The trail from North to South is in good shape for two miles of walking (the last five minutes on the grassy shoulder which is wide and flat. The fair amount of the 0.9 miles to Bainbridge is large, loose ballast stone that is miserable to walk on and impossible to run or bike, unless you have one of those four-inch wide tire bikes. The ballast was put down to fill in low spots, and is doing a great job. It will make a great base once the smaller stone is dumped and rolled in, and support the planned paving which our local paper says will be complete before summer's end. The new forest garden is only a five minute walk from the Falmouth end, and is beautiful. We are so close to having a finally paved and finished NLCRT! It will be a real gem when complete. The Marietta bypass section still needs some work but it is roughed out and quite passable on a hybrid or mountain bike. I had heard there were still some property acquisition issues last year, so not sure when it will be paved. Once we have our NLCRT train fully completed, we can start planning the connectors to the Conewago trail to the Northeast and the Enola Low Grade trail to the Southeast.

Fantastic, with one exception

This is a fantastic trail with great scenery along the way. But be vigilant in downtown Columbia!

We have done two sections: 1. starting in Columbia and going north through Marietta and 2. starting in Bainbridge and going south to the Shock's Mill Bridge. Both sections are mostly flat (a few whoopdee do up and downs, but no sustained climbing). Much of it is shaded and it is mostly paved.

Columbia - Marietta (8.5 miles round trip):
The only reason I detracted a star from my review is because of the short section going through Columbia (if starting/ending at the Visitor's Center). It is on a narrow sidewalk paralleling PA 441, which is a heavily traveled road with tractor trailers, dump trucks, and of course cars. There is no barrier or separator. You have to cross 441 twice, and also cross Bridge Street. This half-mile section is treacherous for kids and nerve-wracking for parents. I thank God that my son escaped unscathed after accidentally rolling over the curb and nearly being hit by a car.

Heading north, once out of the tumult of town, you head under the rte 30 bridge and into the good stuff. On your right, the remains of several iron operations remain visible. Interpretive signs are at a few. Chickies tunnel is short, but exciting. The Chickies rock outcropping itself is quite striking. There are also a few stream crossings before coming up on Marietta.

There is some misinformation (or more accurately, outdated information) regarding the Marietta section, with many having stated that you have to ride through the town. The trail actually diverges--with an option to go through town and an option to remain on the rail trail--both marked with white painted bicycles on the street. If travelling north, you only need to go two blocks on the Marietta streets (which are very wide, pleasant, and lightly traveled) before you can head back down to the paved trail along the river. At the intersection of Front and Bank St, across from the Front St. Park, go left up over the railroad tracks and it will take you back to the paved trail. That said the Marietta streets were very accommodating and scenic with rows of historic homes, and several places to stop for food or drink. There were many access points to and from the rail trail along the Marietta section.

Bainbridge to Shock's Mill (about 6.5 miles round trip):
Lots to see along this section as well. A bald eagle lookout, the White Cliffs of Conoy, small streams, industrial ruins, and of course the awe-inspiring Shock's Mill bridge. There are benches on the north side of Shock's Mill bridge--a great spot to stop for a snack with kids. As others have noted, be mindful that the trail near the bridge can flood, and even if not under water, several inches of slippery mud can remain after the water recedes.

I have read mixed information about the section north of Bainbridge (Falmouth to Bainbridge). When we went last year, the section north of Bainbridge disintegrates before abruptly ending about 1/2 mile north of Bainbridge.

work in progress

Started at the northern end of trail they are working on several bridges and trail was a rough ride on cinder bike. Only went 2 miles. Will try again at a later date.

Nice ride along the Susquehanna

Rode this 11 mile trail out and back with a friend on a warmer than usual January day. Started in Columbia and rode to Bainbridge. Trail is a mix of paved sections with smooth, compact gravel with some riding on town streets.
Free parking at the Columbia River Park with a short 1/4 mile ride along the street to the beginning of the trail, which takes into historic Marietta. The trail disconnects here and you ride along the streets in Marietta which offers some very nice historic buildings to see along the way. There is signage pointing you in the right direction through town, but you may want to map out your route as well.
Once outside of Marietta, the trail opens up through some farm land before coming right up to the river (great photo op). CAUTION: If the river is high, this section may be flooded. I'm not aware of a detour around it. From here, it's a few more miles to Koser Park in Bainbridge where the trail ends.

spring rains and flooding

Ahh, spring - the time of year I wonder, how far will I really be able to ride from Columbia today? If the Susquehanna is pretty well over the riverbank at Marietta, then Schock's Mill underpass will be flooded too. That makes it about 9 miles in length, not 11 (those who read the reviews know the last 3 miles are only for hikers and extreme bikers). I wanted to share a tidbit that another rider offered while we navigated the inch or so of muddy water covering the lower end of the walkway, which quickly deepened to a 6 inch deep fast flow on the upside - and both decided it wasn't worth the risk. He said when the river hits 42 feet, it overflows the walkway. NOAA ( shows it at 42.5 feet on 3/24. Thank you, kind sir! Also, could someone please bring a chainsaw for that huge tree blocking the Charles Greenway? Or at least some orange spray paint? I was so in the zone I nearly plowed right into it...

Street parts need repaving. Bad.

The paved trails through the woods are great, but if run in the parts downtown on front street you have to seriously watch out you dont fall into a pothole. Really needs updating before someone gets hurt

Sunday ride

My husband and I started in Bainbridge and rode to Columbia. I have a walky for my dog to run beside me and and trailer for when she gets tired. There were many turns and a few small uphills. The traffic on the trail was a little crowded around Chickies Rock. We all had a fabulous ride. I even seen a lizard. Who knew Pennsylvania had lizards. The eastern fence lizard. We also seen a few bald eagles. The views of the Susquehanna were nice too.


Very nice paved trail from Columbia to Bainbridge. Beyond Bainbridge you need a mountain bike and know how to use it. We struggled for about a mile on a hybrid but it wasn't worth it. Beyond Bainbridge trail turned to dirt and intermittant large gravel. Trail kind of peters out into tall grass.

Ride offers parallel trail at Marietta one through town and one along river, both are nice and suggest both especially for round trippers as the 10 mile ride each way is nice for a round trip. Traffic on trail became heavy on weekend after 10 am. Trail is narrow so for those who like to cruise I do not recommend a weekend.

Northwest Lancaster County Trail

The portion from Falmouth to Bainbridge is not currently bike friendly. i'm told it will be soon, but there's no evidence yet of work to be done. It is dirt, rutted and washed out dirt and heavy gravel. It's a hiking path. On the contrary the 11.7 mile ride from Columbia to Bainbridge is great. It's asphalt 99% of the way; the other 1% near Marietta is RR right of way you can get around. There are narrow windy sections with close vegetation but overall it's a great ride. Plan to stop in Marietta for food. We rode on a Sunday afternoon. The trail's crowded with all types, but it's not really bad. Not recommended for class A "club" types.

Beautiful, but a word of caution

This is one of our favorite trails to ride. The winding path along the river with views of eagles and historic sites. The word of caution is because the trail does wind so much and as the kudzu grows so fast, it blocks your view of oncoming riders and walkers. Best solution, slow down, enjoy the wild flowers and remember that lots of others also love this trail every day of the week.

Beautiful and Peaceful Ride. We ride this trail at least 4 times a week. Plenty of places to park. A tons of places to eat on Front Street in Marietta. Definitely gets crowded on nice weekends. 5 stars from us.

Beautiful and Peaceful Ride. We ride this trail at least 4 times a week. Plenty of places to park. A tons of places to eat on Front Street in Marietta. Definitely gets crowded on nice weekends. 5 stars from us.

awesome trail along the river.

Nice views of the river. Plenty of parking along the trail.

trail improvements continue in Marietta

Just wanted to share that the section from Marietta Boat Club to and including the parking lot at Decatur St is now completely paved. This is the formerly dirt, then gravel, "woods" section that is an alternate to the "town" section that now has signage in Marietta. The lowermost section extending down to the boat ramp parking lot off Furnace Rd is not paved, and from what I understand may never be completely finished due to Norfolk Southern's right of way for the active railroad tracks. Also, for trail users beginning in Columbia, there is parking off Front St directly under the Route 462 (Veteran Memorial) bridge. This eliminates the active railroad crossing for those who wish to get right on the trail across front St.

Nice Scenic Trail

I enjoyed this bike trail but the entrance was a little confusing and awkwardly located . I was only able to find the entrance with help from another bike rider. First you park in the Riverfront parking lot, get on your bike, crossover 2 train tracks and cross a busy street and then back over to the other side via a 3-way intersection, to get to the trail entrance. But once you're on the trail it is awesome; going through the tunnel, seeing the high cliffs of chicques' rock and little streams.There are plenty of places to have a picnic too on the trail and watch the rock climbers or just sit relax and spend time with your family. I gave the trail 4/5 because the entrance of the bike trail is somewhat hard to find and confusing. Perhaps, in the future, they will build an easier trail entrance and then I would give it 5/5.

An Outstanding Biking Trail

This is one of my favorite trails. All paved, it is scenic and has variable terrain and surroundings. Usually do the North Marietta to Bainbridge portion.

Nice early fall ride

This is a very nice trail, although it is a bit confusing past the Furnace Museum/Furnace road. One need a to use the "Downtown trail" and go through local streets, as the "trail" between the river and the railroad tracks is very rough (large loose stones) at this point. Other than that, it is a very nice and easy ride all along the path. Some of the sharp turns are blind, so make certain to stay to the right. Plenty of places to stop and rest, and nice historical interpretation signage not to be missed. Make sure to check out the ruins of the Furnace complex next to the old canal.

favorite place to enjoy life

This Trail is great for short and long walks and also short and long bicycle rides! Portions of the trail at the Columbia end give people the opportunity to rock climb or hike up to Chickies overlook. Going toward Marietta and Bainbridge, there are multiple historical signs telling you what the area used to be along with the sites from the quarry and an eagle's nest watch area. It's great to see everyone out and enjoying the river as well. It is a clean trail with paved paths.

Excellent for Walking and Biking, Shady and Good Views

Shady and interesting scenery. Busy almost all the time. As both a long-distance walker and a cyclist, I see both walkers and cyclists not paying attention to the rules. Don't let this ruin your day!

Walkers: You must walk to the right. If you don't, expect others to pass you with less space because you are not following the rules. Walkers in groups always spread across the trail, forcing cyclists to not just yield but sometimes stop and wait for them to realize other people are using the trail. I've said, "On your left" and been completely ignored by groups of people spread across the trail. So it's not just cyclists who disregard the rules as another user complained in his biased review.

Cyclists: Announce yourself loudly when approaching a group spread across the trail. I'll admit that if I'm passing a single walker or runner who is far right, then I may not. I've found it depends on the age and athletic ability of the person. I always announce myself to older people and kids (who tend to get ahead of their parents). They get startled more easily by passing cyclists. I may not say anything to a serious runner, particularly one with ear buds on, but I will move far left and slow down to the trail speed limit for everyone.


My husband and I found this trail through a runner-friend at the Viking 10K on Saturday in Mannheim. We had brought our bikes and planned to ride afterwards. We found that many of the parks use mountain bikes - we had our road bikes. Anyway, we found this trail and absolutely loved it! It is beautiful to view the corn fields, river and encounter so many people out having a great time We are so grateful to God for His beauty and showcase of nature. You will NOT regret the trip!

More for families and slow riders

Rode this popular trial on a sunny Sunday afternoon...walkers, kids, and dogs. Paved trail is tree lined and curvy. Good and bad. My road bike liked the pavement. There were so many trees, I did not even miss sun tan lotion. But, some of the curves were tight/blind. Due to the curves and people traffic, I rarely got the bike over 20 mph. Several places to stop and eat/drink along the trial. With it's nice views, take a slow bike and a friend.

Not for walking, bikers expect you to leap out of their way. Very lovely for bikes I'd imagine though.

Nice, flat, well maintained trail. Once you get into the trail (first mile is kind of industrial) it is lovely. Unless you are walking/running for fitness this is not a nice place to walk with others though. The printed rule on the map is: stay to the right and announce when passing. Out of the 300+ bikers that passed us, one announced his group, and one screamed at us to get over to the right. No others made their presence known as they came up behind us and whizzed past. A majority buzzed us by at a foot or less. You can't hear bikers coming, so you have to constantly have your head on a swivel and walk only in single file. Quite a few bikers would come up right behind and then quickly swerve out right behind you, as if to make it known that you are an inconvenience to them. If there were bikers coming the other way, the bikers going our way would squeeze in between and force us off the trail. As stated before, when we switched sides for our safety so we could at least see the bikers coming, we were screamed at that "get over to the right- the RULE is stay right..." by a biker. You know, the rule that has in the same sentence "announce when passing".
So, if you are a biker, don't be a jerk and share the 'road' and this is a very nice trail. If you are looking for a nice place to stroll and get some exercise, find somewhere else because the prevailing attitude here is that you are an inconvenient roadblock that needs to be taught a lesson, and it's not worth it to have to be insanely vigilant for your own safety the entire time you're walking - that just makes for a terrible walk.

Great ride with family

A great ride for the fourth of July. I appreciated all the other reviews and took their advice. I thought I would add a combination of the reviews that helped me, along with some of my own additional notes.

I took the advice of dcar777 and started our ride in Bainbridge and headed towards Marietta. The entire ride was paved and smooth for my entire family to enjoy.

I would agree with jerandvic about the psedo-Tour De France riders. They fly on the trail, which would be okay if they used bike riding etiquette to let people know they were going to pass. Nonetheless, there were far more family riders than those club riders who used appropriate etiquette, but its still something to keep an eye out for.

This was the first big ride that my 7 year old son completed and he did an outstanding job on our 15 mile ride. To help keep his interest we did a little geocaching ( I've attached a short youtube video that explains what geocaching is in the most basic form. I highly recommend doing something like this to keep the kids interest (or the kids at heart interest; it's an adult friendly activity too). There are several geocache along the trail to be found.

The last bit of information that I would add is a nice pizza shop that we stop at for lunch along the way. Parma Pizza and Grill has outstanding pie's, friendly service and is just off the trail in Marietta (

Our family likes to try different trails, but we would have no problem going back to this trail again. Hope this information helps, happy riding!

Not a lot of river

Nice asphalt which is always a pleasure. Some spots a little grown over but not anything to affect the rating. Do your homework before you go as where to park. The link for directions on TrailLink took me to the wrong spot-there are other points of entrance as well, but anyone is nice-except the one I went to first. Not nearly as much river view as I thought. A few places to take a look, but mostly farm and "woods". Nice. I would do it again.

The trail starts in Columbia

I have ridden this trail numerous times and I plan to ride it again tomorrow. It is as good as it gets. The description in traillink is somewhat misleading. The trail actually starts in Columbia. There is parking available and there is a visitors center with full facilities. The section from Columbia to Marietta is called the Susquehanna Heritage Trail. According to the description on the website there is no parking in Columbia but there is parking.

Beautiful trail, Be careful of psedo-Tour De France training riders

Absolutely beautiful trail. A real treasure, and many thanks to those who made this trail possible. Its a real historical and relaxing place for people to ride, and experience the rich history of this region in Pennsylvania.
The only draw back that I have seen, today especially is an arrogant, speed demon of a biker, worried more about cadence, heart beats per minute, and his so called exercise regimen, and in turn just about ran down numerous people. This should be addressed on the trail via, signs, or warnings that for speed training, etc, watch out for the elderly, small kids on bikes, babies in strollers. If your looking to do that kind of riding, the terrain, and elevation is not the place anyway.
All in all an enjoyable ride, one of the best, and plan on coming back, but the dude, in the green jersey, riding like he is trying to win a trophy, just about ruined it for me. If he caused a crash, or injured someone this trail would be in trouble for ages to come.

awesome trail!

Nice scenery and even sturdy path!

Great trail

We parked at River Park off Vinegar Ferry Rd. Great spot. Use caution though... there is a railroad bridge as you near the entrance (by car) that is very low. We traveled toward Marietta and the trail sort of ended. You could take the "stone path" but it was big chunky rocks. So we went out the driveway toward town and there were great trail markers into town. You travel on Market St with all kinds of quaint houses. Maybe some shops too but it was Sunday and most of Lancaster County shuts down on Sundays.
We turned around and came back. The trail was marked well coming back through town.
We road in the opposite direction as far as the eagle nest. Very busy on a Sunday.

More Trail than Rail

The 3.6 miles north (closest to Harrisburg) is pretty rough - more dirt roots and rock - not your typical rail to trail hybrid and road bikes be warned.

Probably started from the wrong end

I was really looking forward to riding this trail but started at the Collins Road, Conway end and fought with mud, badlg exposed tree roots, a dog that chased me for some way and getting th stick the was carrying caught In my spokes. The last straw was having turned around in order to escort the dog back to where he latched onto me, I was confronted by an abusive owner, who lived on the trail, felt that I should have stopped to prevent him having to chase the dog. He didn't appreciate being told that if he couldn't control his dog, then why should I trust it. I need to give it another try but start from the Columbia end, as I didn't find any paved areas.

Fantastic with a few caveats

For a road bike, this trail is a gift. It's paved (mostly), not too many people on the north end, and really scenic.

The transitions are choppy and the heavy gravel is such in a couple of the trailheads that you will need to dismount and walk your bike through them to get to the next section. The trail ends rather abruptly without any signage at East Donegal (which is as far as I got from Columbia).

But it is truly worth the effort. Once you get through Marietta (which is on-road biking but fun), you're back on a paved trail along the river, and there is virtually no one on this section compared to the new Columbia section.


Beautiful experience (and three pieces of advice)

Excellent trail. My wife and I rode it for the first time in late August 2016 and enjoyed every mile. We are mid-50s riders (‘advanced novices,’ perhaps?) and liked the experience of riding a paved trail since we’re usually on packed gravel. It was 90 degrees on the day we rode but the trail is well-shaded; the pavement makes for a faster ride that creates a steady breeze, so even the sunny sections were comfortable. The trail is beautifully maintained and largely level with enough gentle hills to provide a periodic challenge (on the uphill) and a bit of rest (on the down). The river scenery is beautiful. The trail was being used by walkers, joggers, and bikers, but it was quiet enough to be very peaceful.

We rode from Bainbridge to Marietta and back, about 14 miles round trip. On this ride we didn’t have time to continue the four additional miles to Columbia. So, after this first experience, here are three pieces of advice:

First advice – unless you have a mountain bike, start from the Bainbridge parking area. One of the reviewers has noted that the trail is very rough between the Collins Road parking area and Bainbridge. It appeared that way to us, and a man we met on the trail told us that he sometimes hikes that portion of the trail but he doesn’t bike it because of the ruts and gravel. The Race Street parking area in Bainbridge was full when we arrived but the overflow parking right beside it had plenty of space. As the trail leaves the parking area it goes up a hill that was probably the steepest we encountered, but after that it settles into a very gentle ride.

Second advice – if you’re going to continue beyond Marietta to Columbia and you like a smooth ride, you might consider riding through Marietta rather than staying on the trail. One person we spoke to alerted us that the trail adjoining Marietta is fairly rough and crosses the railroad tracks a few times. That might not have been a problem but we took his advice and went through the town instead. It was easy to find the turnoff: the trail runs into a parking area (the Decatur Street parking area, I believe) and to your left you can see the road traveling under the railroad tracks. Follow that road and you’ll see signs showing you the path of the River Trail through town. The streets had very little traffic and the route was well marked. Had we continued following it we would have ended up back on the real trail, but we didn’t continue, which leads to the last advice.

Third advice – Eat at Nick’s Bistro. Marietta is a good place to stop for lunch. After we got on Market Street (the main road through town) we saw Nick’s Bistro on our left and decided to stop. They didn’t have a bike rack out front—though they said they would have one soon—but they told us to stash our bikes in the back while we ate. Nick’s is a bar, but a very sophisticated one (no smoked-filled rooms here) with an excellent chef in the kitchen. My wife had a beautiful salad and I had one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten (ham and brie with a blackberry glaze—it sounds kind of funny, but it was terrific). The food was a little pricey, but the taste was actually worth the price so we didn’t mind. The manager waited on us and was very friendly without being annoyingly friendly (if you know what I mean). They seemed to specialize in craft beers, so if you’re a beer fan you’ll enjoy it even more, I suspect.

After that it was time to retrace our route to the car. There are a lot of places to pause along the trail and we took advantage of a couple of those on the way back. This trail immediately made our list of favorite trails.

nice smooth ride

Relaxing ride along the river. Nicely paved path with trees that provided shade on this very hot July day. We rode on a Sunday and it was pretty busy.

love it!!

This is one of the most beautiful trails! Love the paved surface that now stretches into Columbia! Would really like to see this extended to link up with Conewago/LVRT! That would put it over the top!!!!

beautiful trail!

This trail quickly jumped up to one of my top 5 trails and the only thing keeping it from being a top 3, is the length of the trail. If they could only finish the northern end of the trail, that would add another 2.5 miles and maybe, just maybe someday connect with the Enola Low Grade trail, this would be a Hall of Fame trail! What a wonderful trail it is now and can be a super trail if totally completed!

Nice scenic ride

Just rode the trail yesterday. There are now directional signs up through Marietta at every place there is a turn. The rest of the trail that is bike friendly has great pavement and plenty of toilets along the route. The section that ends at a park in Columbia seems to have been very recently constructed.


Started at the northern end. The path here from Collins Rd to Koser park at Race street is largely undeveloped. The flora is lush and several cool wooden bridges take you across streams and creeks. The surface is well packed dirt with patches grass, some of it mildly overgrown. Expect slight but quick ups and downs, lots of winding, some of it sharp and a few too many fairly large stones and exposed tree route systems on this part of the path that make it a bit rough for some bikes and bones. My hybrid with 700x28c tires begged me to walk it through a few sections and I almost ate it a couple times when I didn't listen. Unless you come with a mountain bike and an appetite for some mild risk, then (as of June 2016) do yourself a favor and skip this part of the trail; choose instead (if starting somewhere on the northern end) to park at the Race street lot and head south. From there the trail is suitable to people of all ages, abilities and equipment. Flat, perfectly paved and beautifully maintained, it winds gently parallel to the river through shaded wooded areas punctuated with manicured lawns, picnic areas, and open fields. Very serene. Great job to the folks who helped put this trail on the map. I hope the proposal to develop the northern section has legs.

great but lacks signs

This is a great trail! We began at the visitors center in Columbia and had to ask where the trail was. Need go back across the tracks to find the trail. Make sure some one in your party has the map because there are no signs thru the town of Marietta - none! Ate at McCleary's - good choice! We rode to Bainbridge and then the trail (not suitable for bikes) was closed off. Enjoyed the eagle viewing area and walking on the white cliffs. This trail is not flat and it is not straight - kinda narrow and curvy but a really fun ride if not heavily being used.

Best trail in Lancaster County

We love this trail. It has lots of variety in scenery, some twists and turns, and small ups and downs. The trail is mostly paved with unfinished sections nearing completion. It is heavily used on the weekend.

Southern Trail head and Vistor center now open!

This new segment opened on 3/16/16. Goes north to connect with Chickie's Rock County park. Currently it has a compacted stone dust surface. Paving will take place in the late Spring/ summer of 2016.

The northern most 2.5 mile segment of this trail has not yet been improved! It is only suitable for hiking or mountain bike usage!!! But still very scenic. Improvements will take place over the next several years

Great Trail !

This is a great trail, just needs more parking, when are they going to open the Quarry to allow access to 441 and the additional parking?

A Gem in the Making?

In observance of the recent weather, we rode this trail on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. It was very nice to see so many other people out enjoying the trail as well. As usual we decided to park at the most downstream parking lot to begin our ride. The traillink map took us to a parking lot for a boat landing on the Susquehanna. We noticed several people just sitting around in parked cars and were a little uneasy about the situation. Anyway, we unloaded our bikes and rode the section of the trail to the south of the parking lot. This part went for about 2 miles down to the highway 30 bridge. On the way we noticed a new parking area right along the trail about 1/4 of a mile down from where we parked. We decided to move our vehicle to the newer parking area. After relocating the car we commenced to head north to the end of the trail at Bainbridge. What a nice ride. So much history to see. We finished off our day by stopping at a nice little pub on Front Street in Marietta. If this trail is ever fully developed it could easily become one of the premier bike trails in Pennsylvania. We plan on heading back this way from time to time to enjoy this beautiful trail and monitor its progress.

Lanc Cty River Trail

Path is a little narrow, but paved well and dotted with plenty of benches and resting places. Nice river views.

Nice trail, once you find it!

We are bike riders and thought we would venture on this path. We downloaded the map and thought we could start at the Falmouth boat access. We had a very difficult time finding the path and when we did it was more of a hiking path, than a bike path and it crossed over private property that clearly marked NO TRESPASSING.. So we loaded up the bikes again and went down the road to the Riverfront Park Access area. That was a much better plan! It was obvious where the bike path was, it was paved and we headed toward Falmouth just because we wanted to see if our original start point really was a start point. The paved path turned back into a hiking path again--if you are a real mountain biker, you could probably do this, but we are more rail trail riders than mountain bikers--the tree roots on the unpaved portion were tough! We turned around and went the other way, went through Marietta as others note and it really was not all that hard to find the path again--you do have to have some sort of sense of direction, though. The path crossed over Chiques Creek and is unfinished after that, but there were signs noting that part of the path would soon be under construction for improvements. At the end of the trail there is an old railroad tunnel which is pretty cool, but beyond that it turns into a graveyard for old railroad parts.. This really is a nice ride once you figure out where you are going. I agree with others that better signage would be helpful.


I did this trail on 8/9/15 and had a very nice ride. I did the trail round trip end to end. Between the two disconnect segments the signage is poor at best Mariette should step in as i talked to a number of riders that had the same problem as I did. The north end is more of a Green Way then a Rail Trail. It has great views along the way, park benches, mile marker every half mile, has historic markers and lots more. There was a lot of traffic, this is a well used trail.

be patient, it's not 100% complete yet

Fellow Trailfolk, we know trails are works in progress and this one is no different. To avoid the disappointment that some reviewers have expressed, read the reviews and note that while all of the trail is open, not all sections will meet our high expectations. Bikers will probably wish to avoid both the northernmost segment from Falmouth (Collins Rd access) to Bainbridge (American Legion Park)and the southern end from Chiques Creek bridge (Furnace Rd) to Columbia Riverfront Park. These sections are undeveloped dirt paths better suited for hikers. The remainder of the trail is five star - a scenic paved pathway along the train tracks and the Susquehanna River through parks, farmland, woods, and small town streets. Pass through Marietta on surface streets or take a detour on the dirt path between Robert Mowery Dr (Marietta boat lauch) to Decatur St access (under the railroad overpass to the parking lot). Yes, you still need to cross the tracks to bypass the Marietta boat club property, and you might encounter some surly dogs or people, but good trail users make good neighbors. Be positive and friendly and get out there and ride the Northwest River Trail - my bet is it will become one of your favorites too.

Great ride and sites to see, but lacking signage

I rode this trail near the end of July 2015. I don't try to rush my trail riding experiences, allowing for time to explore and to take some photographs and also read the historical markers along the path.

I first drove to what I thought would be the trailhead just south of Falmouth (off Collins Road) at a boat launch. I was unable to find a trailhead, or even something resembling a trail, so I opted to continue to Bainbridge.

I parked at the Bainbridge boat launch and headed south from there.

The path is clearly newly paved, but there are sharp bends and "s" curves, which would have been nice to have some signage warning about.

I rode to the end of the paved path and continued on a narrow, unpaved portion for a short distance, but that came to an end where I encountered two other riders who followed the unpaved trail to marked private property.

I opted to return on the unpaved section and cross over the railroad tracks via Gay Street into downtown Marietta. I rode up and down Market Street and looked at some of the spectacular Victorian-era homes. (I highly recommend checking out the town as an addition to the ride.)

I eventually headed back north toward Bainbridge -- but it would have been nice to have signage in Marietta about accessing the trail or which points/streets you can get into town from the trail.

On the ride north I stopped at the markers and stopped for a break at the Shocks Mill Bridge, and closer to Bainbridge I explored what appeared to be abandoned limestone piles.

I recommend exploring the limestone piles (I walked my bike up the mounds) because the views of the Susquehanna River are awesome.

All in all, a nice trail, not for a long-distance ride, but a trail that is fairly shaded (expect the miles through the cornfields).

Would definitely be a nice ride in the autumn months.

Decatur St to Riverfront Park

We parked at Decatur St and walked the trail to Riverfront Park. If you are biking, it is awesome....walking not so much. The paved path is like being on a road. Parts are out along a cornfield. It is well maintained, but not the kind of trail we enjoy walking (prefer gravel path in the woods)...will tell bike riders about it though.

Something for Everyone!

My wife and I rode this trail from Falmouth to Columbia and back in the fall of 2014. It is a gem of a trail but it is not your typical rail trail! There is enjoyable riding here for every level of cyclist. My wife and I are avid road and MTB cyclists and enjoyed every mile of this trail on our mountain bikes! However, if you are not an experienced rider, be sure to study the map and read the reviews to know where the paved areas of the trail are located vs the unimproved areas. This will ensure a more enjoyable ride! Hopefully additional signage will be added soon in some of the areas to make the trail more visible, at least until more surface improvements can be made! Now go have fun and explore!!:)

june 2015 update

This trail is a real mix of riding experiences! We started at riverfront park in columbia and rode north the length of the trail. you need to ride front street in columbia along the tracks and then continue through the Norfolk Southern rail yard. The gates are open and there's very little activity in this area so there are no problems riding through. Follow the tracks until you reach the old tunnel. Pass through the tunnel and you'll finally see signs for the trail.

The trail follows some roadway again in Marietta -- you'll need to follow the street until you pass McCreary's Tavern. Cross back over the tracks and you're back on the trail!

The most surprising part of the trail was from Bainbridge north to the trail head in Falmouth. A mix of apparent private property, unimproved trail with some challenging tree roots, rocks, off-camber turns and boardwalk bridges ending with a gravel lane (again through what looked like private property). I stopped and checked my phone a few times in this segment just to make sure we hadn't ridden past the trailhead !

Defintely a mountain bike ride if you intend to ride the full length. Parts of the trail are paved and parts are somewhat technical. Fun trail and a great ride. Scenery along the river is just off-the-hook gorgeous.

Fun but not what we expected!

If you're looking for a traditional Rail Trail then park in Newville and ride south. We parked at the Falmouth launch area (convenient), had difficulty figuring out where to get on the trail (private driveway, misc hiking areas and no signage to indicate bike trail).

Apparently this northern section is very primitive -- we really thought we were in the wrong place. It's the width of a deer path with rocks, roots, and wooden bridges; however there are no steep hills. Don't even bother if you have a road bike. That being said, we had a lot of fun with it!

Trail Link map makes the route obvious.

The trail is pretty straight forward if you don't over think it. It is more obvious riding North to South. The trail link map is right on the money. From the Southern end park at Riverfront park. Ride out of the park and take the left once you cross the tracks. Just ride North and you will reach the old railroad tunnel. Then you are in the old canal section that you ride all the way to the new bridge. after crossing keep on up furnace road, through the little wooded area, and onto Front Street. Continue up Front till you see McCreary ' s pub on your right then cross the tracks at York next cross over. The trail winds through the woods for about five to ten minutes before reaching Decatur where it is paved all the way to the Shocks Mill underpass. After one mile or so of crushed stone, the paved trail picks up and goes all the way to Race Street in Bainbridge. The rest of the trail to Falmouth is wooded but very walkable.


This to me is not a Rails 2 Trails but a Greenway//Non-Rt as I did the Trail 4/19/15 and only about 1.3miles are on an old Railroad bed, with that said I had a great ride on a great day. I rode from River St Marietta. Pa to Race St Bainbridge. pa The on the Road detour is not marked but I did find my way. Like a lot of trails that are not complete it still needs some work but over all is a very nice ride. When this trail is completed it will be one great trail. The high light of the ride was the rock climbers on the Marietta end. there was a three year old girl climbing with the help of her Dad.

Portions are great, others unsafe

Experience from 4/6/2015 -
Last night I thought "I'm going to bike the whole way from the Columbia trailhead to Bainbridge" on the Northwest River Trail. That's a long ways for me, a novice rider. I came home, installed my bike rack, loaded up my bike after a few failed attempts and off I went. I saw what I thought was the trailhead at the Columbia Trail Center. Off I went, past a couple making out, and it dead ended. Hmm. I looked around, no luck. A nice family who was fishing asked if I needed help and tried to explain where to go. So I went where I thought they told me. I ended up at the on ramp of Route 30 East with no trailhead. I turned around. Another biker was approaching so I asked him where it was. He didn't really know but he was pretty sure it was on the east side of the railroad tracks and I would have to go into the industrial complex. Hmm...but there were no trespassing signs everywhere. I made my way towards the industrial site when two other bikers came up "Hey, do you know where the trailhead is?" I asked them. "No, we were hoping you did" they said. Hm. "Well, let's go together through these no trespassing signs and hope we find our way". And we did, and they quickly pulled away from me ahead of the trail. I made my way through the no trespassing signs, along the tracks, and through the rocky tunnel. On the other side was a fork in the road. I guess right. First time I was right.
I made my way to what was the part of the trail I was familiar with which connects to one of the trailheads in Marietta by Chiques Creek Outfitters. I head past the outfitters towards Marietta where again, the trail goes missing. I make a left into a boat access and it looks like it dead ends. Oh, but there's a trail! I passed some folks and their dog and make my way through pretty rough terrain, grateful for my mountain bike tires on my beach cruiser. Into another boat access area where I believe it's the Decatur Street trailhead. It's not. I head towards the end of that parking lot when two dogs quickly approach-a large bushy black lab and a german shephard, unleashed. I stop in my tracks and yell to the owners "Are they safe?" to which I can't hear a response and they're calling the dogs back. The dogs obey, albiet slowly, and I make my way. Then the German Shephard comes bounding towards me AGAIN, this time barking and growling. I start yelling at the owners to get their dog. I stop. He backs off just before he reaches me, when I'm feeling certain he's about to take a chomp at my ankle. So pissed (on another note, leash your freakin' dogs!). I make my way...until the trail takes a sharp right up a hill and directly adjacent to the tracks. Well...this doesn't look right. I push my bike up, along the tracks, and back down. Then I see the "private property" signs. What the heck? Seriously? I'm furious at this point, defeated. I see a railroad crossing ahead and push my bike over it, onto the other side is Front Street in Marietta. I stop at the curb and sit for a while, calming down after the near dog attack. I could go further, and attempt to find the trail head at Decatur Street...where I think it is, but I'm defeated. Best to cut my losses and bike home. And I do just that, staying along Front street in Marietta, cutting across a backyard to the trailhead at Chiques Creek and back to Columbia.
It's been posted on, back in October, that the entire Northwest River Trail is completed. Folks, it is most CERTAINLY not. This was a vast difference from biking from Riverfront park in Marietta to Brainbridge two weeks ago which is really lovely, mostly paved, and well signed. This portion of the trail (Columbia-Marietta) lacked much prep, NO signs whatsoever except when you get near Chiques creek. Frankly, it's unsafe for a novice like myself. Now that I know where to not go, I can go again, but I wouldn't attempt it alone until they have some directions and signage up. The beautiful new trail center in Columbia is gorgeous, but without a proper trail and signage to connect to it, I have to wonder how many bikers will be visiting. I have an inquiry into the Susquehanna Gateway Heritage area, who I believe organizes the trail, to find out the status of signage/construction on the lower portion of the trail.

Trail now fully contiguous for all 14 miles.

You can now walk from the Falmouth trailhead to Columbia Riverside Park, where you will see the nearly complete trail services building. The Shocks Mill underpass connects the Bainbridge to Marietta sections of the trail. Falmouth to Bainbridge section is too rough for a road or even hybrid bicycle for now, but Shocks Mill to Columbia is very rideable. Much of it is paved as well. The trail covers both a former rail line and former canal bed.

Great walking/biking trail

I take my dog to Bainbridge and park and we walk the paved portion, it is wonderful for us because my furbaby is allergic to grass(YES GRASS) poor girl, so this is perfect. LOVE IT.

Conoy Trail is not a rail trail!!

We started at Falmouth boat access and searched for the trail. I thought it was a deer path at first :-) The best way to begin is to go across the field, away from parking lot and pick up the trail behind the treeline.

The first 3 miles are not for street bikes as you will encounter rocks, tree roots and very narrow paths. I affectionately refer to this as a "Hike and Bike".
I was pretty sure we were riding across someone's lawn at one point, but that is the trail.

In Bainbridge, you will pick up the paved section. Great path. Wide and hilly- a fun ride. We met the Township Supervisor while on this path and he said eventually, there will be a paved path from Falmouth to Chickies Rock. He also told us that the Conoy trail is referred to as "primitive" and the plan is to put the paved path near this but not destroy the fun path that currently exists.

This was a great discovery and I can't wait to go back!

Lovely short ride

Rode this trail today for the first time. To call it a "trail" is misleading. It does not follow any rail line. It is a finely paved mini road that winds through the woods and between woods and meadows close to the Susquehanna river for 3.8 miles. I began at the southernmost trailhead just off Decatur Road in Marietta. This trailhead is undeveloped, dirt and gravel but has room for a dozen + cars. The trail runs slightly uphill to the north as you ride upstream along the river. The first mile or so runs through woods then the path emerges into the open with woods between the path and the river and meadows on the other side. The path runs through Riverfront Park. Eventually the paved path just stops at the tree line and a single 10" wide dirt track runs off into the woods and down to the river. I didn't explore that any further.

It really is a lovely ride. Very quiet and peaceful and the woods were lovely. Just wish it was a lot longer.

Nice trail to Trikke or Rollerblade

We were looking for a nice, paved path to ride our Trikkes.

We first went to the Falmouth Boat Access, off of Robert Mowder Drive (Marietta) but there was no paved path- only a narrow foot path.

Then we went to the Riverfront Park on Vinegar Ferry Road. This park had a nice pavilion, clean port-a-potties and great access to a paved path. YEAH!

We started off to the west. That section runs a little over a mile before it turns into stone and dirt. We returned to the park and traveled 2+ miles to the East before we turned around. The trail continued but we were out of time...

Unfortunately, we were not able to see much of the river from the section of the trail we were on, but we look forward to returning another day and checking out the rest of the trail.

trail upgrade completed

This trail has recently been resurfaced from Bainbridge south with a fine gravel/stone dust combination making it suitable for bikers of all levels and also handicap accessible. The remaining section north to Falmouth appears unimproved. There is paved parking at the American Legion park and a porta-pottie at the trailhead. Varying slightly in elevation and meandering between the river and active railroad tracks, this section offers some river views and an interesting array of industrial ruins. Plans to unite this trail with the Charles Greenway via a walking bridge under the railroad trestle will add another link in the NW river Trail. Four stars because the low elevation of the trail oscures the more interesting sights of the river and Haldeman Mansion. Perhaps some scenic overlooks such as those on the Manor trail could be worked out with the adjoining property owners? As this project is ongoing, I expect it to be a five star trail eventually.

What rail line was this trail?

Rode this trail and it is great--does anyone know what rail line ran here?

Nice Walk on a Fall Morning

My wife and I parked at the Falmouth boat launch and headed down the trail toward Bainbridge. We had trouble finding the trailhead (didn't notice that we passed it as we were pulling into the parking lot). The beginning of the trail passes right past someone's home and we weren't sure if we were actually on their property or not. Other than some initial confusion, it was a a nice hike - relatively flat - there were roots and rocks - but nothing too bad. We turned around in Bainbridge and returned. We would definitely do it again. Also, we went on a Monday morning and didn't encounter a single person on the trail. Our hike was 9/23/2013

Beware of ticks

Spent about 1-/12 hours hiking this trail beginning from the south end at Bainbridge. Will not go back. Picked up many ticks. We stayed on the hiking trail at all times.

Great relaxing river ride

Very lucky to have found this trail, it is not well advertised. The main trail is paved, but has adjacent dirt trials on the Marietta end well suited for light mountain biking.

Beautiful Trail

We have been using this trail for years now. It's a great place for bicycles and walking. Nicely paved and shaded in some spots and open and sunny in others. Great for exercising and easy to get to. Also the pavillion and picnic area was updated and truly a beautiful spot to sit and enjoy the view of the river. Thank you for cutting down trees and brush and showcasing our home across the river from your trail. It was a nice surprise to see that and know that other people will be viewing our house from one of the trails vistas.

Nice wooded trail run

Great shady place to run with no vehicle traffic and lovely scenery. Started my run from Bainbridge Inn area and turned around at the Falmouth river access. Total out and back according to my GPS was 6.7 miles (about .8 miles shorter than what it should have been if the stated mileage is correct). Perhaps the trail continued, but I couldn't find where it continued to. As a result I would say it could use better markings at intersections (to ease the burden of picking the trail up again). The long bridge at mile 2 (just north of King's) has some stability issues. It bounced so much as I went across, I feared it might collapse. Only came upon 1 other user on my run (Aug 18, 2012 evening), so there isn't much competition for use that I noticed. While I won't be taking the jogging stroller out on this trail any time soon, it is a beautiful trail to run/hike/bike without the danger of 441 traffic.

What's not to like? This trail parallels the river with frequent views of the water. It's smooth and paved, parts of it are sunny and parts in the shade - what a dream!

This trail has some nice sections but some sections where we had to get off our bikes and walk. This is a mountain bike or hiking trail, not a rail trail. You really can't ride this trail on a road bike at all, or even a cross bike. There are BIG roots and lots of rocks in some areas. I'm sure if you're an experienced mountain biker it's alright, but not for a beginner.

The wilder segment of the emerging Northwest Lancaster County River Trail

Stretching nearly 3 miles along the picturesque Susquehanna River in Lancaster County's northwest corner, the Conoy Canal Trail actually is one of two finished segments of the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail, which, when complete, will stretch from Falmouth to Columbia and form one of several links in the Schuylkill-Susquehanna Passage, a proposed intercity greenway that will connect Harrisburg with Philadelphia.

Unlike the other finished portion of the trail, the paved, multiuse Charles Greenway that currently extends from Marietta to a point just below the Shock's Mill Trestle (and will eventually connect to the American Legion Park in Bainbridge), the Conoy Canal Trail is a narrow, dirt and grass path that follows the towpath of the long-abandoned Pennsylvania Mainline Canal. Ruins of the canal can still be seen along its route, including the restored lock at Falmouth, stone walls that separate the trail from the river and the ditch between the towpath and railroad line, which is all the remains of the old waterway. Footbridges allow easy passage across several bubbling streams, as well as a couple locations where the towpath has since eroded. Users are treated to numerous panoramic views of the river, and the surrounding woodlands that have grown up on the route since its abandonment provide welcome cool shade during the hot, humid days of late spring and summer. The powerlines that soar high above the trail and river, and the stacks of the nearby Brunner Island Power Plant provide an interesting addition to the scenery and remind trail users of the area's signficance as an energy generator. An active railroad parallels the trail on the opposite side of the canal ruins, but it gets less use than the Norfolk Southern mainline that runs along the York County side to a point just above Codorus Furnace, where it crosses to Lancaster County via the Shock's Mill Trestle.

Although the trail is useable with mountain bikes, its uneven, dirt and grass surface and narrow width make it best suited for hiking. This could present something of a quandary when the trail is eventually joined to the Charles Greenway and proposed extensions north to the Harrisburg East Shore communities, and east to Elizabethtown are completed and the vision of the Schuylkill-Susquehanna Passage is recognized. On one hand, its current, relatively undeveloped state makes it a unique experience and allows users to enjoy nature, fish in the river and hike under lush shade. However, its unsuitability for road bikes, wheelchair users and parents pushing babies and toddlers in strollers would leave something of a gap in the greenway, forcing cyclists to detour onto busy and dangerous Route 441. While fully restoring the towpath walls, placing safety rails on the dies and paving the trail with asphalt or crushed stone would upgrade it to multi-use status, this process would also likely result in the removal of many of the trees that shade the path and are homes to birds and other wildlife. It would also be a very costly undertaking.

For now, if you are looking for a wide, level, multi-use trail, you would be better suited checking out the nearby Charles Greenway, Conewago Recreation Trail/Lebanon Valley Rail Trail or Capital Area Greenbelt, but if you are looking to take a peaceful hike along the remnants of old canal infrstructure surrounded by woodlands and abutting the mighty Susquehanna River, the Conoy Canal Trail portion of the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail is worth a visit.

Conoy Canal Trail

Started this trail at the Falmouth boat landing which has plenty of parking evan for trailers. This trail is a single path not more than a couple of feet wide at places. It is slightly rough with tree roots and rocks going across the path. It would be good for beginer mountain bikers. There are approx 7 small bridges along the trail and good views of the river closer to Bainbridge. Only encountered 2 others on the trail both on foot and had to get off my bike to pass them. It was dry for a couple of weeks prior to my ride so trail was in good shape but would be muddy after rains being this is a dirt trail. Upkeep seemed good with fallen trees cleared from path and brush cut back off the edges. Ride was on 4-14-12.

Good trail for rollerblading

My wife and I were pleasantly surprised to "stumble" upon this great trail for rollerblading.
We went in mid-November. The western part of the trail was clear, and great for rollerblading on. The eastern half had a lot of leafs and twigs covering the path, so at times it felt like we were roller-hiking. The best part, though, was because the leafs had fallen, we had a clear view of the river on almost the entire trail!

flood cleanup in progress

Heavy rains in early March caused high river flow which flooded many areas of this trail. Barriers were recently set up across the Marietta access to the parking area, although walk in access was not restricted. Since both access roads go through rail underpasses which flood easily, this is common after heavy rains or when river flow is high. I have no problem passing the barricade on foot, however, use caution if ice or standing water is present. The trail itself is not damaged, but many areas of debris and dried mud are visible. It appears some equipment was brought in to clear the trail. Vegetation growth will eventually cover much of the flood damage. Even so, I passed only one other person on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

A great trail for everyone ... especially for beginners

We rode this trail on a delightful Labor Day Monday. The most difficult part was finding it! (I know now to print out the map and directions from this site and take them along). This was the first time I had climbed on my bike in more years than I care to remember, and this trail was the perfect first step back. The surface is beautifully smooth and the whole trail is relatively flat, although I think it qualifies as a 'workout'. There were very few others using the trail, which made the ride quite easy and pleasant. My only disappointment was with the river view. While the trail runs alongside the Susquehanna, the growth of underbrush and trees was so thick that the river was not really visible except at the end at River Front Park. We were hoping to see some bald eagles, but that didn't happen. We are already planning to return in the fall when the leaves have all dropped, hoping that then we will have a better view and maybe even see our eagle.

update- trail separated from roadway

This summer a small segment of the trail was added that separates trail users from vehicle traffic.
The new pathway runs from the parking area and pavilion of East Donegal riverfront park parallel to the vehicle road to where Vinegar Ferry road terminates at the gated portion of the trail. Additional parking spaces just for trail users have also been added near the gates.

Grants awarded for Northwest river trail

Community Conservation Partnerships Program administered by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Intelligencer Journal
Lancaster New Era
Jan 21, 2010 21:31 EST - Ad Crable

• Lancaster County, $306,500 for building a pedestrian bridge across Chiques Creek in Chickies Rock County Park for the Northwest River Trail.

The Northwest River Trail eventually will extend from Columbia to the Dauphin County line. This funding is for a 140-foot-long concrete bridge between Columbia and Marietta that can handle flooding from the Susquehanna River and Chiques Creek.

It will be built on existing abutments from the old trolley line that went to the summit of Chickies Rock.

• Conoy Township, $250,000 to build two other sections of the Northwest River Trail. The money will be used to build a handicapped-accessible paved trail for 7,630 feet from Shock's Mill bridge to East Donegal Township's River Park and a 4,075-foot section from Bainbridge to Conoy Creek.

In addition to construction, the funding will be used for erosion and sedimentation control, safety fencing, signage and landscaping.

These grants add will extend the newly paved segment another 1.5 miles making the trail length to 3.8 miles. The next road block will be dealing with the Shock's mill railroad crossing. The most recent proposal for dealing with this is to hang a pedestrian/cyclist bridge from the abutment of the railroad bridge,below the railroad tracks and suspended over the water. This would provide an excellent vista of the river.

A good first step

Lancaster County's newest, multi-use trail is really only the first segment of a network of much longer greenways that will eventually traverse the region.

Called the "Charles Greenway," the first, fully completed portion of the Northwest River Trail traverses picturesque agricultural and wooded lands between East Donegal Township's Riverfront Park and a recently upgraded parking lot at the end of Decatur Street on the west side of Marietta. The trail is accessible from either end, though signage designating it as such has yet to be installed. The waters of the Susquehanna River lie just to the south, while the heavily used Norfolk Southern freight line that parallels the river from the Harrisburg West Shore to Perryville, Maryland is situated just a short distance to the north of the trail, giving rail fans the opportunity to observe the hulking trains that often lumber by.

Although there are currently no benches or other amenities (a chemical toilet is located at Riverfront Park) along the trail, numerous identations and short cutoffs in the wooded section near Marietta suggest that these will be added in the near future.

East Donegal officials plan to build the next portion of the trail, which will extend along some recently reclaimed wetlands northwest of Riverfront Park, later in 2010, and the section southeast through Marietta and Chickies Rock County Park to Columbia is slated for construction in 2012. Further north, Conoy Township officials are studying options to extend the trail toward Bainbridge by either tunneling directly under the rail line, or, more likely, bringing it out to the river on a boardwalk that will pass under the Shock's Mill Trestle. The narrow, walking path along the Conoy Canal will likely be upgraded to multi-use status, extending the trail all the way to Falmouth, just south of the Dauphin County line.

Although this will be an impressive trail on its own right, plans to connect the Northwest Lancaster River Trail to at least three other existing or proposed greenways are already under consideration. Conoy Township officials eventually plan to extend the Conewago Recreation Trail westward to Falmouth, which will provide a connection to Lebanon, and Manor Township envisions connecting its section of the Atglen-Susquehanna Trail north to Columbia. A proposal to construct a trail parallel to Route 441 will provide access to Royalton and Middletown, and, if a suitable route can be found through the East Shore suburbs, a connection to the Capital Area Greenbelt may eventually be established.

The organization behind the Susquehanna Greenway project has already gone on record stating that the Northwest Lancaster River Trail will be an important step toward fulfilling it ambitious goal of eventually constructing a system of multi-use trails running the entire length of the Susquehanna River. The trail could also serve as part of a greenway connecting Harrisburg to the Philadelphia area if the Atglen-Susquehanna Trail (which is currently in development across southern Lancaster County) is eventually connected to the Chester Valley Trail, and officials at DCNR are studying possible connections to the York County Heritage Rail Trail.

The Northwest Lancaster River Trail may currently consist of a small, local greenway, but it may one day serve as an important nexus for the system of greenways that will eventually connect cities in the mid-Atlantic and beyond.

Northwest river trail

This former foot path has been upgraded to a multi purpose trail, suitable for cycling, rollerblades, and walking. It is located next to the Susquehanna river, and provides some greatviews. Also, The railroad tracks on the east side of the trail is part of Norfolk Southern's mainline and 100 car trains pass by several times a day. Unlike most rail trails, much of the trail curves through the trees. The northern most part , just before Riverfront park is in agricultural use on both sides of the trail. There are parking facilities at Riverfront park, and a single porta potty is located here as well( there is no drinking water available!!!). As you enter Riverfront park there is no signage( as of this time) to guide you to the trail head. You follow the one way road way to the boat launch and pavilion. This One way road way is also part of the trail. so you must share this small stretch of road with autos and pick up trucks. From the pavilion follow the road way south to the point where motorized vehicles must turn left, you will see the gated section straight ahead.

At the southern terminus, where the gate is located is another access road to a boat ramp in Marietta. This is a dirt road, and was very muddy on the day that I was there. If you turn left, and go through the Tunnel below the railroad tracks, you emerge onto the streets of Marietta. If you are hiking, you can go straight and follow the older dirt hiking path. Cyclists can follow Market or Front streets (Restaurants and shops) in Marietta to Furnace road which will take you to Chickies Rock County park and the dirt hiking cycling trail betwwen the cliff face and the river.
I give it only 4 stars because the upgrade is only 2.3 miles long and the lack of amenities at the trail head.
I found that there is virtually no grade and as a out of shape newbie to bike riding was able to go up and back 3 times quite easily

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