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The York County Heritage Trail

Pennsylvania Rail Trails
Pennsylvania Dutch Region

Family / Historic / Romantic
Trail Description

Location: New Freedom to York. York County. (Continues in Maryland as Northern Central Rail Trail)

Northern trailhead: at York- Parking on Pershing Ave. between Market and Philadelphia Streets. Parking also in vicinity of trailhead at Colonial Courthouse.

Southern trailhead: at New Freedom- Exit 1 (Shrewsbury) off I-83. Head west on Rt.851 to Railroad Borough. Turn left, staying on Rt.851, 1.5 miles to New Freedom. Parking lot is at Front and Franklin Streets ( old train depot) Parking is also available at access points in Brillharts Station, Glatfelter Station, Seven Valleys, Hanover Junction, Glen Rock and Railroad.

Trail Length: 21 miles

Trail Surface: Crushed stone

Trail Difficulty: Easy

Trail Use: cycling, mountain biking, horseback riding, cross country ski, snowshoe

Caution: Be careful at busy road crossings. Stay clear of tracks at Howard Tunnel. Cross only at established crossings.




Local Resources: Bike shops, bike clubs, adventure travel, bike tours, bike events, trail maps, bike safety, camping, historical places, where to stay and other related sources visit our Resource Hub.

York Heritage Rail Trail Map

Note: The free trail maps on this website have been simplified to provide an overview with approximate locations of trails and special features. Read Full Disclaimer.

Trail Decription:

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.



Historical Note:

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.

Howard Tunnel
This 370 foot brick-lined tunnel (opened 1838) is Listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is the oldest continually operational rail tunnel in United States. Since the railway is operational, stay clear of tracks. Cross only at established crossings.

York County Courthouse
In what used to be called "Centre Square" (now Continental Square), stood The Colonial Courthouse. It was originally built in 1756, renovated in 1815 and torn down in 1841. A replica was constructed in 1976 by the York County Bicentennial Commission. Today, you can see it at the intersection of West Market Street and the Codorus Creek.

Hanover Junction
Abraham Lincoln stopped at Hanover Junction on his way to deliver the Gettysburg Address. A Civil War Museum is located on the first floor of the renovated Hanover Junction Train Station.

New Freedom Junction
The New Freedom Station was restored to its 1935 appearance in 2003 and a railroad museum is open to the public.

Gates House
Located at 157 West Market Street, York, PA. General Gates' House, circa 1751, was where Lafayette gave a toast to Washington, marking the end of a movement to replace him.

Golden Plough Tavern
Circa 1741, the tavern is one of the oldest buildings in York. The tavern reflects the Germanic background of many of the area settlers in its furnishings and half-timber architecture.



For more information:

For other long distance multi-use rail trails in this region see Pennsylvania Rail Trails


York County Parks:
400 Mundis Race Road
York, PA 17402

Phone: (717) 840-7440
TTY: (800) 654-5984 (Relay Services)

Trail Website: York County Heritage Trail



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