Amidst Pennsylvania Dutch Country, land of the covered bridges, The York County Heritage Trail connects the historic district of York, PA with the Northern Central Rail Trail in Maryland. The well-maintained, picturesque, 10 ft. wide, hard-packed, crushed stone surface rails-to-trail with a gentle grade makes for easy cycling and a nice bike ride for the whole family. Mountain bikes or hybrids are recommended.
If you start from the trailhead behind the Colonial Courthouse replica in York and travel south on a slight uphill grade to the Heritage Trail's highest point at New Freedom, you'll have a nice downhill grade for the return trip.
About a half mile from the start you'll pass near the Gates' House (circa 1751) & Golden Plough Tavern (circa 1741). Accessible from the trail, both are worth a detour to see. The scenery along the trail is varied and includes towns and residential neighborhoods as well as woods, streams and farmland. Sections of the trail hug the banks of Codorus Creek, a local trout stream. Along the way, there are benches and covered picnic tables where you can stop to rest and enjoy a snack. More facilities are available at the communities you pass through.
You can opt to start your bike trip at the Brillhart station trailhead. From there it's about a half mile to one of the rail trail highlights, a ride through the 370-foot long Howard Tunnel, the oldest operational railroad tunnel in the America.
Other trail features include, The historic York County Courthouse, stone arch bridges, and historic train depots in Hanover Junction and New Freedom (both listed in the National Register of Historic Places), where you will also find restaurants, museums and restrooms.
At New Freedom, you can opt to bicycle another mile and a half to the Mason Mason-Dixon Line at the Maryland border where the trail continues as the Northern Central Rail Trail for twenty miles, ending near the Baltimore Beltway.
Pretty at any time of the year, spring summer or fall, it is an especially nice weekend getaway during the fall foliage season. Spend the night in one of the many historic inns or bed and breakfast lodgings you will find in the quaint towns along the trail.
The Northern Central Railroad connected Baltimore, MD with York, PA and points north from 1838 to 1972. It led to the growth of communities such as New Freedom, Railroad, Glen Rock and Seven Valleys as it transported goods and passengers.
York County Courthouse
New Freedom Junction
Golden Plough Tavern
For more information:
For other long distance multi-use rail trails in this region see Pennsylvania Rail Trails
York County Parks:
Phone: (717) 840-7440