you will follow the creek for a while and soon you will come to a part where there is a steep slope in the trial, if you go up the other side you come to a dead end where there use to be a bridge. A replacement bridge across the creek leads you to Swopes Road. I came to Swatara from the west, from Route 81, and easily found the Swatara State Park sign, and assumed I'd easily find the trailhead to the rail trail. It's not good for pulling a trailer that kids sit in, though.Warnings: The trail is located on state game land so it may not be a good place to bike during deer season, Wear long pants and a helmet. The trail in the other direction to Pine Grove Interchange is open but the sign says road closed. We are planning on doing this again, hopefully the Lickdale section will be open. After riding trail A I returned to the rail trail and rode south to the Lickdale trailhead. You can make use of two bridges that connect to the Bear Hole Trail to make a loop ride. The bridge carries the Appalachian Trail across the creek and connects with the Bear Hole Trail that runs 5 miles through the state park on the other side of the creek. Between those points, the Park provides a total of eighteen miles of three distinctly different types of riding surfaces. Cliffs and boulders rise above the trail. There are remains of a Union Canal lock along the Bear Hole trail. They also have cabins and camper sites, but only three tent sites. This section isn’t a rail trail , in our opinion. Please check with the trail owner before you go. ", TrailLink is a free service provided by Rails-to-Trails conservancy, We're a non-profit all about helping you enjoy the outdoors, Lickdale Rd. The section that says no horses is good but the other sections with horses the trail is smooth along the edges as the horses stay in the middle. The park map has it open to biking and horses. I think I saw a hiker, but not real sure... "There have been a few changes since February of 2005 when I last reported on the trail. Hopefully the last bit will receive its final crushed stone topper soon. Hoof marks and horse flops became increasing evident as I went west/north, but IMHO were never more that a minor nuisance. I do not recommend starting there since trail for the first mile is very large gravel, making this a very bumpy ride. Either campground looks like a good place to spend a weekend.From I-81 take exit 100 to 443 west for seven miles. Youker. We entered the Lickdale trail head, and includes a beautiful paved road and creek access. SR 443 and I-81 (Pine Grove), Operating under several subsequent owners, the rail branch closed in segments from 1965 to 1981. Swatara park is building new trails and doing a lot of very nice things but they should address this trail before building anymore. The trail ends at the falls. Facebook Twitter Share. This trail is good for cross-country skiing with adequate snowfall. I wanted to eliminate the 2 miles of loose hard riding. There are several cool bridges and I loved the mix of trail types -- including some abandoned roads. The trail from Lickdale to the Appalacian bridge is quite rough, I don't think it would be much fun on a road bike, but my hybrid goes fine. The other end of the trail, located at the Lickdale Campground by the traffic light in Lickdale (I-81 exit 90) provides challenges as well. There are several trail junctions, including one with the Appalachian Trail, along the way. Here, you’ll pass the 1890 vintage Waterville Bridge, a 221-foot steel bridge that was relocated here after it was retired in the village of Waterville, more than 100 miles from here. From the campground, the entrance to the trail is now marked and the cement plant has been removed. Mountain bike trails, the Appalachian Trail, and Waterville Bridge will remain open, as will sections of the rail trail. It will get better. The trail was a little rough from them but not terrible. As an update to an earlier review, there is a port-a-john available at the Trout Run trail head, which seems to be the most spacious & least used parking area. What I didn't like was that a section of the trail (maybe a mile or so) is on an old, abandoned road. There are a few hills that might challenge someone used to rail trail riding. An 11 mile loop can be completed by using Swatara Rail Trail and Bear Hole Trail and crossing the creek at the Waterville Bridge and the Swopes Valley Road. A lot of trails that branch off the main trail. The 3,520-acre Swatara State Park consists of rolling fields and woodlands situated in the Swatara Valley, between Second and Blue Mountains. It’s the longest ‘new construction’ rail trail bridge I’ve seen. The resurfaced trail ends here and the surface becomes rougher, muddier, and more likely to be used by ATVs. I witnessed a biker almost being kicked by a horse. The swampy sections of the trail have been filled in and the trail has been covered with gravel. No such luck. Here the road joints are pretty bumpy so pay attention. Follow this trail straight. The road runs past the remains of five canal locks and the site of a supporting dam that was destroyed by the Flood of 1862. Old State Road has deteriorated considerably since my last report. My suggestions: bring a light, bug spray and a friend because you will not see a soul....
I went right to the shut down bridge today and parked there to start my journey. The southern trailhead begins in the vicinity of a commercial campground in Lickdale, where you’ll also find multiple restaurants, hotels, and an RV park. I chose to stay on the path on the way out, and it was a very nice ride. Two of its short hills are steep enough to require my granny gear. I must have smooshed 10 mosquitoes -- while going 12-15 miles per hour! The trail interconnects with old roads without signs and it is very confusing. “Long identified as ‘undeveloped,’ this gem of a state park comprised of woodlands and meadows straddling Swatara Creek is targeted for the type of improvements its visitors have requested,” said DCNR Secretary Richard Allan. The first 2.5 miles of the trail from the beginning of the trail at the Lickdale Campground, by the traffic light in Lickdale (I-81 exit 90), has been somewhat improved. A side trip here crosses the creek and turns left for a mile on the. soon you will come upon I-81, this is where I turned back to go back to my car.Once I passed my car parked near where you cross under I-81 on the trial I crossed over the bridge that whould take you back out on to route 443. but before you hit 443 there is a section of the trial that goes to the left for a few miles. For the first two miles the trail is very rough, then you bike on an abandon road for a ways then jump back on the trail. The surfaces of both of these trails are good, but the horse traffic does leave some roughness (& occasional road apples) that would otherwise not be encountered. Surfaces range from large stones to gravel to hardpacked earth to roadway to grass. The central section is on an abandoned paved road and you can cruise a little faster. Smooth riding - between bumps every hundred feet or so. So out of ten miles only three to five miles are worth biking. Future plans call for the Lebanon Valley Rail-Trail to meet up with the Swatara Rail-Trail in Lickdale. Take a left onto 443 and then you will go past the I-81 exit and follow the above directions.The trail toward Lickdale is a little rough but do able on a comfortable mountain bike. It is a beautiful and quiet ride, although somewhat boring as there are few intersections with civilization, but I hope to ride the entire length someday. Prepare a float plan and always wear your life jacket. The trail scenery and condition changes constantly which makes for an interesting trail. The first was 50-100 m. and relatively steep. So it is always easy to find your way back to the main trail. I rode the Swatara Rail Trail on the afternoon of Sunday, July 23rd. The first mile or so was a paved trail with several branch-offs of different trails (not sure if these were state park trails or what). Swatara is a hidden gem. Work will include installation of 10 miles of crushed stone trails along an existing railway bed and a portion of abandoned Old State Road. It was right by the Swatara State Park DCNR sign. We rode to Sand Siding trailhead and back, approximately 10 miles. Going down the hill a bit, I found some trailhead, I think here you can also get on the AT (Appalachian Trail)! Everyone needs to share the trails. Who knows what you will find next. From the parking lot, turn left to head 5 miles toward the southern trailhead in Lickdale, or turn right to head 5 miles toward the northern trailhead in Pine Grove. Scenery includes the Swatara waterway, some open fields, beautiful foliage and "Old State Road" -- a section of forgotten highway that Mother Nature is doing her best to reclaim. Much of the trail is crushed limestone and asphalt, although segments at either end are dirt and grass and may be more conducive to mountain bikes than road and hybrid bikes. Map of the Union Canal in Swatara State Park (PDF) Interactive GIS Map. Finally, using the state park map, I located a portion of the trail that seemed to run along the road (Route 72 I believe). Become a member and wear your FREE T-Shirt with pride. This would be my favorite place to ride if it weren't for the horses. SO glad the construction is over and we can have full access to the park again. Shortly you come up to a new bridge across the Swatara Creek. Designated launches in the northern and southern ends of the park provide access to the creek for boaters. Harrisburg – A long-awaited construction project that will see trails, parking areas and bridges installed at Swatara State Park in Lebanon and Schuylkill counties is now underway, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources said today. After mile two, however, the riding is fantastic. I think they ran short of money because the signs say they are not finished. and pressed forward. You have to just guess and hope you are going the right direction, this was not a stretch in the official description at all. Four point seven miles from Lickdale, just before Twin Grove Park, an unmarked dirt road will take you directly to the rail-trail. Mostly grass and dirt for a mile or so. The trail has great potential if the horse problem can be mitigated. Some other reviewers were sharply critical of the impact of horses. Go 2.3 miles, and look for roadside parking on the left. Since we were just looking for a leisurely, flat trail, we turned around at that point. As such, it has some hills to deal with. Traveling north you come to a short section of new trail that eliminates the need to ride on the highway. Heading north toward Swatara State Park, you’ll pass a small trail parking lot and reach another trailhead on Monroe Valley Road in 0.8 mile. Rode to the Sand Siding trail bridge which crossed back over to Bear Hole trail. After another 2-3 miles, you'll come to what appears to be a little-used road--unmarked and going either right or left. for .5 miles to pick up the northern trail head of the Bear Hole Trail. Once we hit the right direction, we encountered very large limestone, with the bikes sliding all over the place. SR 443 and I-81 (Pine Grove). State acquisition of lands that were to become Swatara State Park began in 1971 and was completed in 1987. It was very dan. I put in a total of 10 miles today all on that dang road, and the reviews are right. This trail should not allow horse at all. We start on the Bear Hole trail and do the hills first, then connect with the Swatara for a beautiful flat ride. At one section the trail is actually an abandoned paved road. At the Waterville Bridge I could see that you would cut over to the old state road, but I had two miles back to lickdale (picture that sign is actually one of the few on the trail.) Rhododendrons grow along the trail. This is a connection to the ‘Bear Hole Trail’ that parallels the rail trail on the other side of creek. Each trail loop is about 1.5 miles in length and twist through the woods and up and down hills. Trout Run Trailhead has a permanent restroom facility. Swatara Falls is a beautiful, rugged place with soaring cliffs and boulders. trails are maintained nicely & well marked. Go 5.1 miles, and turn left at the entrance for Sand Siding Road. The previous review done in May outlines the main new features. My wife and I did spent an afternoon walking with her parents, partly on the Swatara Rail Trail and partly on Bear Hole Trail. Lots of loose gravel. Totaling 3,520 acres, the state park was subject of numerous surveys, environmental assessments, Bureau of State Parks research efforts, and governmental and user-group committee studies. “We know more than 84,000 visitors came last year to float and fish its waters and hike and bike its scenic woodlands.”
The 'Old State Road' on other side of creek appears closed (at Appalachin Trail) end to end because of damage. ", "The trail was nice, flat and easy to ride, not rough at all like the website says. Very scenic. One minute you feel lost in the woods with a river on one side and a cliff on the other; the next minute you are sailing though a field where the trail is only as wide as your tire. Go 0.6 mile, and look for parking straight ahead, where the road intersects with the trail. Just past the KOA Twin Grove Park Campground (located on your right), take the first dirt road on your left for 0.7 of a mile. Here, you’ll pass the 1890 vintage Waterville Bridge, a 221-foot steel bridge that was relocated here after it was retired in the village of Waterville, more than 100 miles from here. Swatara State Park Mountain Bike, Hike, Trail Running trails near Lickdale, Pennsylvania. They've always answered my questions and have been more than helpful. A couple of new bridges to cross the streams. Good views of Swatara Creek but I didn't see many places to stop and go down to the creek. The trail is really, really not marked at all. Trails. Stretching from Georgia to Maine, the Appalachian Trail (AT) traverses two miles of the southern portion of Swatara State Park. Jan. 27, 2012
The Interactive GIS Map uses Geographic Information Systems to create a map that does not need to be downloaded and features driving directions, searchable park amenities, and customizable maps.. The first "planned for mountain bikes" trail system in PA State Parks, Swatara is great ride to introduce someone to the joys of singletrack. On my trip last fall I found the trail difficult to follow due to multiple paved roads and no signs. Help defend and expand trails nationwide. Even with my low pressure 35c tires it was pretty bumpy. Trail surface washed out in places down to soft uncompacted sub-surface. The Swatara Gap to Delaware Water Gap Topographic Map Guide makes a perfect traveling companion when traversing the northeastern Pennsylvania section of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). The Bear Hole Trail is a section of abandoned dirt road that in recent years deteriorated to the point of being impassable. I once was almost run down by a rider who had her horse in full gallop going down the middle of the trail so that she could catch up to her friends ahead. I didn't ride the whole trail (I skipped the part the runs along the active roadway). But mind you, take what you need with you. You can cross at the bridge at the north end at Swopes Valley Rd. 4) Be aware that the Bear Hole Trail is not a rail trail. This trail is amongst forest and a stream, but the nearby interstate highway noise is noticeable. I parked in the limited parking area and took off north, under I-81, on the trail. Even after doing a header over the handle bars while breaking for a rabbit and a bridge that looked out (but was not) the teen still managed to have fun. water trail is ideal for half-day, full-day or multiple-day paddle and float trips down the Swatara Creek. The hills are not long but one exceeds 10% grade. According to reps from PA's DCNR, this trail may eventually connect to the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail, and thus afford riders a trail all the way from Elizabethtown to Pine Grove. There are two campgrounds on this trail: the one in Lickdale where the trail starts (they also rent bikes and kayaks) and KOA Twin Grove Park Campground (see www.twingroveparkcampground.com/index.html) near Pine Grove with 53 flavors of ice cream and a full service restaurant. From the campground, the trail is currently not clearly marked and wanders through the grounds of a cement plant and provides unmarked opportunities to stray off of the trail. At one point the trail switches from the old rail bed to the old paved highway. end the final leg is completely unimproved and for me impassable. A new trail and bridge near Sand Siding Road will connect the former rail bed and roadway. Pennsylvania has more than 12,000 miles of trails most of which remain accessible during this period. 3) Ignore the final 1.8 miles east of Swopes Valley Rd. It received a partial facelift last summer. I biked down stream down the lovely trail mostly single track with a smooth cinder surface and fully shaded. All of the services are at the Lickville end of the trail. In 1862 a flood wiped out the feeder canal, which was never rebuilt. This gravel should be removed and replaced with fine grit. At the roundabout loop near the Lickdale terminus there are many raspberry bushes, good for an afternoon stop in July. My first trail since coming back to PA late this summer. A very nice trail to ride. You can see the trail to one side of this entrance road. One of the reviewers mis-spelled the word trail into trial which is exactly what this trail is, a bad trial with no signs, bad state park map and impossible to find parking and put-in spots. From the bridge, the trail runs another 2 miles through the park and then continues 3 miles through mostly wooded terrain to a truck stop and hotel in Pine Grove. Next the trail transitions to pavement, which essentially compromises the aesthetic of a rail to trail and should be replaced with fine grit. WHOAA!! we have hiked & biked here. Access to the Swatara Creek Water Trail is provided at public and private access points identified on the map. Last time I rode here the trail just ended in the middle of a field. on this section you will pass a junk yard and a wildlife refuge. There is a 1.6-mile stretch of old, no longer maintained paved roadway - bumpy but passable. I will say the first 2 miles is tough riding with loose larger gravel, and it is hard to get any real speed. We have you covered. Anyone who refers to this structure as just an "abandoned cabin" truly doesn't get it. You can take younger kids on this one. Youker. The bridge crosses the Swatara creek to connect Bear Hole and Appalachian trails and also has a parking lot accessed by Old State Road. Horseback Riding: Horseback riding is permitted on Bear Hole Trail and Swatara Rail Trail east of the Sand Siding Trail. Lonely, but nice. Again, very lonely, but a little more lit than the bike path on the other side of the river. News for Immediate Release
If/when the southern and northern/western segments are upgraded to crushed limestone I would rate the trail five stars and happily do it again. It took about 3 hours to ride out and back. But I wouldn't drive out of my way a second time to go there. However, we rode for about two miles of horse divots (it was like riding on railroad tracks) then gave up and turned around. An 8-mile stretch of the Swatara Creek Water Trail winds through the park, and two miles of the Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine, cross its southern sector. The Swatara Gap to Delaware Water Gap Topographic Map Guide makes a perfect traveling companion when traversing the northeastern Pennsylvania section of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). It is a great shaded trail in the heat of summer with several spots to stop and view the stream. This is a beautiful trail with minimal traffic on a warm autumn Sunday. People also hike and walk their dogs here. The trail passes along the edge of the state park with a line of farm communities to the left. Unfortunately the gravel is rather course and in some of the previous mud holes the fill is ballast sized stones. The Bear Hole trail was hilly but had a nice cinder surface over the entire length of the trail. In the reviews of the trail on this web site some people say it is a great trail and others say it is awful. Just something interesting to read...
All in all I will say that this was a great trail to ride once you get past the first 2 miles. The scenery will bring us back but the state of PA should/must do better to make this trail safer and to facilitate maximum enjoyment and not just survival. Locals use both trails for a 20 mile round trip. Tolerable, but spoils the mood. The Swatara Water Trail will require portage around bridge construction. At Swopes Valley Road, DON'T keep going straight (there IS a trail there). The part we did do was fairly pleasant; but since we thought we were getting a typical flat, crushed stone rail trail, we were pretty disappointed that we only got a 10-mile ride fitting that description. A word of caution,however: the Bear Hole trail is NOT a rail trail, rather a converted dirt road that has been surfaced with crushed stone. Along the way there are several other paved trails for cycling and you may choose to meander at will. We were glad to get back to the trailhead after just 8 miles and rest our weary bodies. These single track natural surface trails are a maximum 24 inches wide with log obstacles and stream crossings. The entrance for this was a little tricky. Make sure you hit this when there is good daylight. 14 trails with 18 photos The five miles of the potholed, one lane asphalt, and sometimes dirt Old State Road rises and falls with the hillside terrain as it follows Swatara Creek through the forest. By using Sand Siding Trail and crossing the Swatara Creek at the Sand Siding Bridge, the loop can be divided into two smaller loops. Part of the Memorial Lake State Park Complex, Swatara Creek is a popular destination for canoeing, kayaking, and tubing enthusiasts, especially in the spring. The park is totally undeveloped as is the trail. The Bear Hole trail which is built on top of the old state road had small washouts in many places. It goes for miles, and is oh so easy to ride, being aging asphalt. Definitely worth the ride from the Waterville bridge to the Swopes Valley Trailhead. Youker June 2, 2010. Here, through Swopes Valley, it is relatively narrow, swift and shallow at places, so it is best suited for kayaks. My glow-in-the-dark Irish skin was attracting bugs like crazy. Map Search • Browse Routes ... Swatara Rail Trail. With a few changes to the trail and the repair of Old State Road, Swatara Park will have an outstanding array of bike trails. I never get tired of looking at the "Swatty" --Swatara creek for non- locals--. Completed 13 or so mile loop including the bear hole trail. The horse riders were very nice--slowing their horses to let us pass. It is more a logging trail quality than a road now, it has pavement, but an equal amount of gravel, and then those large stones mentioned below. One of the only ways to tell where you are is by the bridges that cross the stream. ", "Better Than Its Reputation: Swatara Park’s trails range in character from as smooth as you will find anywhere to virtually impassable. Trailhead was different than my 2016 edition guidebook. Bear Hole Trail was formerly known as Old State Road, but, despite what Apple Maps might say, the road has been closed for over 20 years. In another 1.2 miles, the trail begins a narrow passage through the water gap through Blue Mountain created by Swatara Creek. There are several options within Swatara State Park for mountain bikers, I prefer the four established trails which can be accessed from the rail trail at Green Point Station. But by this time you will have seen route 443 that runs parallel to the trial. Ok Let me say I took two days to hit this trail one day just exploring and then another day on the Old State Road. Start/Finish will be returning with friends soon considerably since my last report horse problem can be by. 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