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Blue Marsh Lake Mountain Bike Trails

Pennsylvania Dutch Region

MTB Skills Area, Family Friendly Biking, Recreation Area, Bikes & Beaches, Bikes & Kayaks, Wildlife Watch & Photo-Ops

Directions
Trail Description

Location: Leesport, Berks County

Length / Configuration: 30 mile loop trail around Blue Marsh Lake

Terrain/Surface: Combination of dirt / grass lanes, old roads and singletrack passing through forests and fields.

Technical Difficulty: Varied terrain along it's length but not very technical. Easy to moderate. Many sections are suitable for beginners.

Elevation Change: Rolling terrain with several moderate climbs about 100 feet or less.

Trail Use: Main Blue Marsh Border Trail is open to Mountain biking, Hiking, XC skiing, Snowshoeing

Caution: Trail routes traverse areas open to hunting. Wear bright colors, (flourescent orange) during hunting season.

 

Blue Marsh Lake Trail System Map

This trail map is a geographical representation designed for general reference purposes only.





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Blue Marsh Lake Overview

The majority of Berks County lies partly within the Piedmont Plateau and partly within the Appalachian Valley and Ridge Province of Pennsylvania. Blue Marsh Lake is located on Tulpehocken Creek, a tributary that feeds into the Schuylkill River within the Delaware River basin. The scenic Blue Marsh Lake and Recreation Area is managed by the Army Corps of Engineers for flood control and outdoor recreation. When the lake levels are optimum, it covers 1,150 acres, runs 8 miles long, and has 35 miles of shoreline.

The 32-mile multi-use Blue Marsh Lake Trail is recognized as a National Recreation Trail. It's a user-friendly trail system with a small MTB Skills Park and mountain bike optimized trail spurs and loops to accommodate riders all skill levels and today’s leisure time limitations.

Facilities

Blue Marsh Lake Visitors Center

The Visitor Center is located in Bern Township along Palisades Road. Stop there first for more information on trails and water safety, drinking water and an official trail map.  Bring an ample supply of drinking water as there is none located along the trail. In addition to various exhibits, a wraparound outdoor deck provides visitors with panoramic views of the lake.and dam.

Trail Access

1268 Palisades Dr, Leesport, PA 19533

Blue Marsh Lake Trail Connections

Blue Marsh MTB Skills Area

Mileage / Blaze: 0.25 mile, beginner, intermediate, mountain biking

The Blue Marsh MTB Skills Area was developed in partnership with the USACE, the Berks Area Mountain Biking Association (BAMBA) and DirtSculpt – expert designers and builders of Bike Parks. Two one-way dirt tracks snake through the woods. Obstacles such as man-made MTB obstacles and Pump Track features make for a fun mountain bike skills course.

Trail Access

Stilling Basin Access Road parking

Union Canal Towpath

Mileage / Blaze: 4.5 miles, All ability levels

A Desinated National Recreation Trail.  The crushed stone path follows the Tulpehocken Creek between Stonecliffe Recreation Area and Reber’s Bridge Road. Established in 1828, the canal extended over 79 miles from the Schuylkill River at Reading to the Pennsylvania Canal and Susquehanna River at Middletown, PA. It incorporated 91 locks, 93 bridges, 16 dams and 17 aqueducts. Many of these historic canal structures have withstood the test of time and can be seen along the trail.

Trail Access

The 1.8 mile, compacted gravel Union Canal Connector Trail is part of the Schuylkill River Trail System. It links to the Union Canal Bike Path. Trail Access Trails can be accessed from various locations around the lake. From Palisades Drive, the Stilling Basin Access Road provides parking areas at each end.

Blue Marsh Lake Mountain Bike Trails

Mileage / Blaze: 32 miles, Marked with brown posts with white directional symbols, Beginner to Intermediate

The main Blue Marsh Border 32 mile trail completely encircles the lake. Several optimized mountain bike spur trail and interpretive nature trails for hiking branch off the main route. The trail system utlizes a combination of old pavement, dirt and grass doubletrack and singletrack trailst hat travel through and around marshes, meadows, grasslands, open fields and forest of mainly Maple, American Beech, Oak and Hickory. At times, when trail skirts the shoreline, stunning viewpoints of the lake open up.

Even though there are some some moderate climbs and fast descents, the trail is not very technical and can be ridden in any direction. While most of the riding is not for beginner mountain bikers, there are many trail sections for Family Friendly Bike Rides anf beginners to enjoy.

The Intermediate level trails are mostly located in the northern and southwest section of the Reservoir. The easier trails are the several miles of access paths near and around the Army Corps of Engineers Visitors Center. These access trails provide several easy loop options with opportunities to connect into the main Blue Marsh Lake Trail.

Along the route are junctions with several mountain bike optimized spur trails. You can extend your bike ride by another four and a half miles by travelling the Union Canal Bike Path.To do a complete circuit of the Main Blue Marsh Trail will take about a half day.

Trail Access

Other less developed access points other than the Dry Brooks Day Use Area for the Blue Marsh Lake Border Trail are available at the State Hill Boat Launch, Lamms Road, Peacock Road, Lake Road, Church Road, Old Church Road, Tulpehocken Drive and Mt. Pleasant area (along Route 183).

Fees may apply.

Suggested Mountain Bike Trail Spurs & Loops

Tulpy Flow Trail

Mileage / Blaze: Blue, 2 miles, Easy

Machine-built, dirt singletrack Flow Trail with requisite hills, berms and switchbacks connects to the main Blue Marsh Lake Trail

Trail Access

Accessible from the Stilling Basin or Water Road Parking Areas.

Hollis Loop Trail

Mileage / Blaze: Blue, Holls East 1.23 Miles, Holls West 2.68 Miles, Easy, Intermediate

There are two dirt singletrack sections. They can be ridden as out-and-back or combined to form a loop.There are some roots, rocks and hills. It links back into the main Blue Marsh Lake Border Trail.

Trail Access

Accessible from the State Hill Boat Launch or Highland Road.

Disclaimer: Plan ahead and know the rules, bike with a trail buddy or two, wear and bring proper gear, know your ability level, wear blaze orange during hunting season and watch out for other trail users.

Trail Highlights and Nearby Points of Interest

Bikes & Beaches

Dry Brooks Day Use Area

The Brooks Day Use Area is the largest and most heavily used recreation area at Blue Marsh Lake. There are eight parking lots, a concession stand, public telephones, swimming area ("Swim At Your Own Risk"), bathhouse, play areas, picnic areas and pavilions and volleyball courts. The beach area is a small narrow rocky strip with a large beach grass area to hang out on. This area provides the best shoreline access.

For those who travel with their dogs, there is a separate dog-friendly beach.

Bikes & Kayaks

lWhile there are no boat or equipment rentals at Blue Marsh Lake, there are local businesses in the area that provide kayak, canoe, and paddleboard rentals.

Wildlife Watch & Photo-Ops

Blue Marsh Lake borders the 2,800 acres of State Game Land 280 to the northeast. The Army corps of Enginners in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Game Commission have installed in strategic locations, bird feeders and nesting boxes and wildlife viewing areas and warm grass reas for owls, Ring-necked pheasant, cottontail rabbit, groundhog, squirrel, waterfowl and white-tailed deer are likely to be seen in the area.  

It's also an Audubon listed Important Bird Area. In the forest, among brush and shrub areas you can't miss the flashes of color as the Blue-winged Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Scarlet Tanager, White-eyed Vireo dart and between the open areas. The fall migration season is another great time to see wading birds and waterfowl especially hawks and osprey and migrating gulls such as the Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Ring-billed Gull and Herring Gull.

Skinners Loop Trail

Mileage / Blaze: Purple, 1.5 or 2 miles, Easy, Intermediate, Loop

The trail consists of two loop trails with a connector between them. The ride is over a mix of unimproved packed gravel/dirt double track, dirt singletrack, old pavement and grassy doubletrack with ruts. The loop trails travel through mostly woods way out into the water on a long and narrow isolated penninsula so you get two viewpoint perspectives (east and west) of open water and shoreline – perfect for a quiet mountain bike ride and Wildlife & Photo-Ops experience.

Trail Access

From the Lake Road parking area

Historic – Bike Rides into History

Gruber Wagon Works

National Historic Landmark. Founded in 1860 by Franklin H. Gruber, Gruber Wagon Works produced farm wagons, hay beds, and specialized wagons for heavy freight and ice. It was a prime example of craftsmanship of a bygone era. In 1972 Gruber Wagon Works was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

When the dam was built, the army Corps of Engineers dismantled the Gruber Wagon Works into four pieces during the winter of 1976-77. It was moved to the Berks County Heritage Center, where it was reassembled. The County Parks Department now conducts tours of the facility.

Wertz's Covered Bridge

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Bicycle to Wertz’s Red Covered Bridge, circa 1867. It is one of only 5 original covered bridge structures left standing in Berks County. It spans an impressive 204 feet across the Tulpehocken Creek which makes it the longest single-span wooden covered bridge in the state of Pennsylvania.

Trail Access

1102 Red Bridge Rd, Reading PA. Bicycling on the Union Canal Bike to the Berks County Heritage Center is one of the best ways to get there. The covered bridge is closed to automobile traffic.

Historic Notes

To come

Directions

From Reading take PA Rte. 183 west about 6 miles. turn left onto Palisades Drive and travel past the Dry Brooks Day Use Area. Pass the Vistor Center (trail maps available) and turn left. Park at Stilling Basin, below the dam.

For More Information

Land Manager Contact

Blue Marsh Lake Office

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
1268 Palisades Drive
Leesport, PA 19533-9750

Website: Blue Marsh Lake

 

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