Schuylkill River Trail

Pennsylvania

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Schuylkill River Trail Facts

States: Pennsylvania
Counties: Berks, Chester, Montgomery, Philadelphia, Schuylkill
Length: 82.4 miles
Trail end points: SR 61 (Frackville) and Overlook at 61st Street (Philadelphia)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt, Boardwalk, Concrete, Crushed Stone, Dirt, Gravel
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6017043

Schuylkill River Trail Description

Overview

Once an important thoroughfare for commerce carried by canal barges and railroad cars in southeastern Pennsylvania, the Schuylkill River (pronounced skool-kl) corridor now accommodates walkers, bicyclists, and others on the Schuylkill River Trail.

The trail forms the backbone of the five-county Schuylkill River Greenways National Heritage Area, currently stretches about 82.4 miles, and follows the route of old canals and the Pennsylvania Railroad that hauled resources out of the anthracite coalfields. Planning for the trail began in the late 1960s, with construction starting in the 1990s and continuing today. 

Frackville to Reading

The northernmost section of the trail, between Frackville and Reading, is the most disconnected with several small sections in the towns of Pottsville, Hamburg, and Leesport. This northernmost leg is also commonly known as the John Bartram Trail. This section of the trail is entirely composed of crushed stone.

In Frackville, the northernmost short section of trail runs south towards St. Clair along SR 61. In Pottsville, another short section travels south from Mount Carbon. The longest section here is a 6-mile segment near Hamburg, with two other short nearby sections in Auburn and Landingville. Here, the trail also crosses paths with the Appalachian Trail.

Between Hamburg and Pottsville, Horseback riding is allowed on these three disconnected segments.

Reading to Pottstown

The Schuylkill River Trail is a nearly continuous route south of Reading. As the trail heads south through Reading, the trail crosses the Schuylkill River three times. A short section of the trail between Gibraltar and Birdsboro is on-road, although the road is lightly trafficked and signage points the way. The southernmost portion of this section is paved south of Riverfront Park in Pottstown.

This section of the trail is also known as the Thun Trail.

Pottstown, Industrial Highway to Rte 422

The trail's route between Reading and Philadelphia is only briefly interrupted by an interruption in Pottstown as the trail crosses the Schuylkill River. This segment of the trail that parallels Route 422 over the river is complete but remains closed to the public pending the construction of a 0.95-mile segment between Industrial Highway and the U.S. 422 Bridge in Pottstown. 

Pottstown to Valley Forge

On the opposite side of the Schuylkill River from Pottstown is Kenilworth where the trail continues south along a largely rural route, alternating between shaded forest sections and open grassy sections. As the trail heads towards Spring City, the trail also skirts the infamous Pennhurst Asylum, a former mental hospital and famous haunted house. Although the trail doesn't directly cut through this site, it is worth a visit for those interested.

South of here, the trail cuts through downtown Spring City, opposite the town of Royersford. South of here, the trail briefly follows French Creek as it passes through the heart of Phoenixville, whose vibrant downtown is just steps away as the trail meets the confluence of French Creek and the Schuylkill River and then continues along the banks of the Schuylkill. Here, in Phoenixville, the trail is mostly comprised of crushed stone.

Just south of Phoenixville, the trail cuts through Oaks and the confluence of the Schuylkill River and the Perkiomen Creek and travels just along the other side of the river from Valley Forge National Historical Park.

Valley Forge to Philadelphia

After leaving Valley Forge, the trail cuts through Norristown and Conshohocken, just opposite the river from King of Prussia and Bridgeport. These towns are just north of the city of Philadelphia and just south of here, there is one last rural stretch before the trail reaches dense and urban Philadelphia. In Norristown, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) commuter rails parallel the Schuylkill River Trail here, creating the opportunity to travel by train.

The trail first passes through the Manayunk neighborhood where a brief on-road section travels along Manayunk's Main St. This section is on a busy and highly trafficked road, and continues until the road crosses Wissahickon Creek and then regains its off-road route. 

Here begins the most popular section of the Schuylkill River Trail as it enters Philadelphia, trail users will be treated to skyscraper views of downtown Philadelphia as the trail passes iconic landmarks like the Philadelphia Museum of Art (and popular Rocky Balboa statue), Fairmount Waterworks Park, Boathouse Row, Lemon Hill Mansion and Fairmount Park. Vendors often sell snacks along this section of the route in busier months.

South of Center City Philadelphia, a short section traverses Gray's Ferry Crescent, an old industrial area turned park, and then crosses the river and continues along the west bank of the Schuylkill, cutting through Bartram's Garden, the oldest botanical garden in North America. The trail comes to its current southern end here, just south of Bartram's Garden.

Connections

At the northern end of the trail, the Schuylkill River Trail connects to the State Game Lands 326 Trails.

In Reading, the trail intersects with the Union Canal Trail, Neversink Connector TrailWyomissing Creek Trail, and the Angelica Creek Trail.

In Oaks, the trail connects with the Audobon Loop Trail and the Perkiomen Trail.

In King of Prussia, the trail connects with the Sullivan's Bridge Trail which leads to the Schuylkill River West Trail.

In Bridgeport, the trail connects to the Chester Valley Trail.

In Conshohocken, the trail connects to the Cross County Trail (PA).

In the Manayunk neighborhood of Philadelphia, the trail connects to the Manayunk Bridge Trail, the Pencoyd Trail, the Cynwyd Heritage Trail, and the Wissahickon Valley Trail System.

In the East Falls neighborhood of Philadelphia, trail users can cross the river and continue along the parallel MLK Drive Trail.

The Schuylkill River Trail is part of the Circuit Trails, a developing 800-mile urban network of trails in Greater Philadelphia. 

Parking and Trail Access

The Schuylkill River Trail runs between SR 61 (Frackville), which offers parking, and Overlook at 61st Street (Philadelphia).

Parking is also available at:

  • Schlegel Park, 100 E Wyomissing Blvd. (Reading)
  • Longford Park, 100 Longford Rd (Phoenixville)
  • 5 Lock St (Philadelphia)

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

Schuylkill River Trail Reviews

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