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PA Trails and Touring Questions

Old 07-01-08, 08:56 AM
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PA Trails and Touring Questions

Despite my broken rib and busted friendship on my last rail-trail tour, I want to do more touring on trails. I see several trails in PA and MD that would make a good overnight tour, riding to the end and back the next day, but I have a couple of problems. One is parking the car overnight; most trailheads close at dusk, and I need to find somewhere I can safely park overnight. The other is finding somewhere to camp on each trail. Here are the trails in question:

1. York Heritage Trail/North Central Rail Trail - 41 miles from York PA to Ashland, MD.

2. Justus/Allegheny River/Sandy Creek Trails - 43 miles in Northwest PA.

3, Lehigh Gorge Trail - 26 miles north of Allentown, PA.

Anyone have any experience with these trails?
 
Old 07-01-08, 09:22 AM
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We rode the York Heritage/NCRT a couple of years ago. It is a beautifully maintained trail with a smooth gravel surface. At that time it was the cleanest trail I have ever seen. We rode from Maryland up to York. We then stayed overnight at the York Hotel which is just a few blocks from the end of the trail in York. It is not the cheapest place to stay in town, but it actually has a place in the garage to hang your bike and it is locked by a cable controlled by the parking attendant. That part of York has plenty of places to eat and such. I think that a more experienced rider (we had our 9-year-old with us) could ride through town and get to cheaper motels on the outskirts of York. I don't know if there is a whole lot for lodging at the MD end. There weren't even places to eat all that close to the trail.

It is a very nice ride with very minimal grades since it is a rail trail. The grade is a slightly steeper riding from MD into PA. Actually, you may feel the grade more as a down hill when you head into MD. The MD section follows the Little Gunpowder Falls River and is much more wooded and scenic. It is pretty shaded on a hot day. The PA part is more obviously an old railroad and you actually ride through several small towns past the old depots. This part can be hotter with less shade. I would make sure you have water and some snacks along. When we rode we found more facilities (water, bathrooms, food, etc) than some of our online information suggested, but depending upon when you ride you might find some facilities closed. Its a great easy ride I thoroughly recommend.

I have looked at the Lehigh Gorge Trail as another family ride, but so far life has gotten in the way and we haven't made the ride.
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Old 07-01-08, 09:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Marylandnewbie
We rode the York Heritage/NCRT a couple of years ago. It is a beautifully maintained trail with a smooth gravel surface. At that time it was the cleanest trail I have ever seen. We rode from Maryland up to York. We then stayed overnight at the York Hotel which is just a few blocks from the end of the trail in York. It is not the cheapest place to stay in town, but it actually has a place in the garage to hang your bike and it is locked by a cable controlled by the parking attendant. That part of York has plenty of places to eat and such. I think that a more experienced rider (we had our 9-year-old with us) could ride through town and get to cheaper motels on the outskirts of York. I don't know if there is a whole lot for lodging at the MD end. There weren't even places to eat all that close to the trail.

It is a very nice ride with very minimal grades since it is a rail trail. The grade is a slightly steeper riding from MD into PA. Actually, you may feel the grade more as a down hill when you head into MD. The MD section follows the Little Gunpowder Falls River and is much more wooded and scenic. It is pretty shaded on a hot day. The PA part is more obviously an old railroad and you actually ride through several small towns past the old depots. This part can be hotter with less shade. I would make sure you have water and some snacks along. When we rode we found more facilities (water, bathrooms, food, etc) than some of our online information suggested, but depending upon when you ride you might find some facilities closed. Its a great easy ride I thoroughly recommend.

I have looked at the Lehigh Gorge Trail as another family ride, but so far life has gotten in the way and we haven't made the ride.
Yes, it's a nice trail, but I can't find a place to camp. I don't mind riding off the trail to find a campsite, if there is one.

The Lehigh Gorge does have some campsites at the north end of the trail, but they seem overpriced. 30 dollars a night for a flat piece of ground?!?
 
Old 07-01-08, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by The Historian
1. York Heritage Trail/North Central Rail Trail - 41 miles from York PA to Ashland, MD.
Parking shouldn't be too big a problem at either end just park a away from the trail a bit. There are shopping centers within a mile on the south end and I forget exactly what is close on the north end, but I think parking should be easy in any case.

For camping check out:
https://www.trailsfromrails.com/ncr_trail.htm

Edit:
I forgot to mention that it is a nice ride other than the heavy usage mostly at the southern end. I have done it up and back as a day trip, but don't personally know about camping there.
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Old 07-01-08, 12:28 PM
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The Justus Trail is beautiful. I especially like the Belmar Bridge. Note that you will have to push your bike up a steep incline to connect to the Sandy Creek trail. Might need two trips.

There is a primitive campground on the Justus Trail, but it is only a mile or so south of the trailhead parking in Franklin. Not much use if you are just starting out from Franklin. I don't know where you are supposed to get water unless you want to purify the Allegheny River. There is a refinery upstream, you know.
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Old 07-02-08, 08:52 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1
Parking shouldn't be too big a problem at either end just park a away from the trail a bit. There are shopping centers within a mile on the south end and I forget exactly what is close on the north end, but I think parking should be easy in any case.

For camping check out:
https://www.trailsfromrails.com/ncr_trail.htm

Edit:
I forgot to mention that it is a nice ride other than the heavy usage mostly at the southern end. I have done it up and back as a day trip, but don't personally know about camping there.
Hmm, 82 miles in a day ride? Perhaps a bit much for now. I enjoy seeing things on tour, so while I could ride the 82 miles, I'd have precious little time for sightseeing.
 
Old 07-02-08, 08:53 AM
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Originally Posted by The Historian
Despite my broken rib and busted friendship on my last rail-trail tour, I want to do more touring on trails. I see several trails in PA and MD that would make a good overnight tour, riding to the end and back the next day, but I have a couple of problems. One is parking the car overnight; most trailheads close at dusk, and I need to find somewhere I can safely park overnight. The other is finding somewhere to camp on each trail. Here are the trails in question:

1. York Heritage Trail/North Central Rail Trail - 41 miles from York PA to Ashland, MD.

2. Justus/Allegheny River/Sandy Creek Trails - 43 miles in Northwest PA.

3, Lehigh Gorge Trail - 26 miles north of Allentown, PA.

Anyone have any experience with these trails?
I'd add the Pine Creek Gorge near Wellsboro, but there's camping readily available there.
 
Old 07-02-08, 10:03 AM
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Originally Posted by The Historian
Hmm, 82 miles in a day ride? Perhaps a bit much for now. I enjoy seeing things on tour, so while I could ride the 82 miles, I'd have precious little time for sightseeing.
Nothing wrong with taking some time to see the sights.
BTW: I don't particularly recommend the up and back as a day ride. 82 miles was a bit much given the surface. For a ride that length a smoother surface is more pleasant. The rough surface just gets old if you push the miles too much.
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Old 07-02-08, 10:05 AM
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Originally Posted by The Historian
I'd add the Pine Creek Gorge near Wellsboro, but there's camping readily available there.
I didn't ride there but did backpack the ridge overlooking it and it looked like a great ride.
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Old 07-02-08, 12:08 PM
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It would be great to compile all of the towpath and rail to trail reviews into a sticky.
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Old 07-02-08, 12:24 PM
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I live outside of York and while I have never camped there, there is a campground near the Brillheart Station, which is the last stop on the Heritage Rail Trail before York city itself.

look up the Indian Rock Campgrounds

Brillheart Station is a great place to pick up the trail, too.
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Old 07-02-08, 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Lake_Tom
The Justus Trail is beautiful. I especially like the Belmar Bridge. Note that you will have to push your bike up a steep incline to connect to the Sandy Creek trail. Might need two trips.

There is a primitive campground on the Justus Trail, but it is only a mile or so south of the trailhead parking in Franklin. Not much use if you are just starting out from Franklin. I don't know where you are supposed to get water unless you want to purify the Allegheny River. There is a refinery upstream, you know.
We have a family cottage across the river from the Justus Trail and have ridden on it many times. I will tell you it is one of the most senic rides I have ever been on. The Belmar Trail is even more impressive as you will be in a wooded valley with a winding stream and many bridges and will probably not pass anyone for the 8 mile length. Any camping you do on the trail will be primative but ther are plenty of places where the canoer's camp. Along the route you could stop for water in Franklin which is about 1/4 of the way down the trail if you start in Oil City. You could also start you ride in Emlenton and go North thru Oil City then on to the Oil Creek Trail and camp in the State Park. From Franklin to Emlenton there is no place to stop to buy water and the distance is about 26 to 30 miles. You will also need a light to pass thru the tunnels at Kennerdale and Rockland Station (had to hold up two bikes and my wife while we felt out way thru the first time).

If you are planning to stay in a motel for part of the trip then Foxburg is a great place to stay. The motel is new and right on the Allegheny River. There is a winery across the street and the Foxburg Inn overlooks the river. Foxburg is about 4 miles down river from Emlenton and is easily accessible by bike. You can prpbably find a place to park in the small town of Emlenton on the street. Not much happens there to be worried about you car.
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