4) Be aware that the Bear Hole Trail is not a rail trail. The trail surfaces vary greatly. But if you're looking for a variety of trail surfaces and some hills and shade, you might enjoy this trail. 3 overlapping segments. Overnight parking for AT hikers is on SR 443 just west of SR 72. 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. On the south end (Lickdale) there is a new parking area and a resurfaced trail. The horse manure is disgusting and you are always having to dodge that. The local folks will know this Trail as Old State Road. Get the map from Swatara State Park and plan several great trips. Youker June 2, 2010. We were so nice to bikers that we got off the trails so that they could have the entire trail. But overall a very pretty wooded ride. So it is always easy to find your way back to the main trail. What I didn't like was that a section of the trail (maybe a mile or so) is on an old, abandoned road. SR 72 (Lickdale) to Anspach Dr. nr. The old state road is badly eroded asphalt with many big pot holes. Tolerable, but spoils the mood. It's very scenic, as part of the trail runs along Swatara Creek. 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. SR 72 (Lickdale) and Anspach Dr. nr. I do not recommend riding the Swatara Rail Trail east past the Swopes Valley Trailhead. Each loop is about 1.5 miles in length, totaling 9.8 miles. Then a couple of miles of unused asphalt highway. Four point four miles from Lickdale, you can turn onto State Park Lane and drive about one mile to a gate that also accesses the Park’s three miles of smooth asphalt road. Make sure you hit this when there is good daylight. Join TrailLink (a non-profit) to view more than 30,000 miles of trail maps and more! Recognized both state and nationally, the Swatara Water Trail is 60 miles in length, created by Swatara Watershed Association in cooperation with PA DCNR, PA Fish & Boat Commission, and the National Park Service with public launches established about every 7 miles. Future plans call for the Lebanon Valley Rail-Trail to meet up with the Swatara Rail-Trail in Lickdale. Here the road joints are pretty bumpy so pay attention. (about 15-20 parking spots), you will have to deal with the thumb sized crushed stone surface over the first 1.5 miles (and then again at the finish, of course). Stickers will tear your arms up and path is very tight but eventually opens up to a beautiful shaded ride back. Swatara Rail Trail is a 5.8 mile moderately trafficked point-to-point trail located near Pine Grove, Pennsylvania that features a waterfall and is good for all skill levels. After a bit you reach a second iron bridge (Waterville) and it is a beautiful tribute to the old iron workers of the area. Here the trail goes through a cut and becomes very muddy and spiced with the occasional fallen tree. I enjoyed my ride but was disappointed with the surface of the trail. You do need to study it carefully. This trail should not allow horse at all. The trail interconnects with old roads without signs and it is very confusing. Day 1
Started off in Lickdale and the trail head sign was blocked by a pick up parked in front of it, so I started down the wrong path, but that was soon corrected. Both trails had continuous small bumps from horses hoofs in the soft fine crushed stone. Four new trailheads, or parking areas, also are planned, affording easy access to the trails and launch areas for canoeing and kayaking. The Swatara Water Trail will require portage around bridge construction. Very q on both routes. So here, I got on the trail. The northern 2 miles of the trail was mostly dirt with lots of pot holes but actually made for kind of a fun ride. Four point seven miles from Lickdale, just before Twin Grove Park, an unmarked dirt road will take you directly to the rail-trail. I didn't ride the whole trail (I skipped the part the runs along the active roadway). A very nice trail to ride. Once we hit the right direction, we encountered very large limestone, with the bikes sliding all over the place. Stay alert - they don't (can't) stop. 443. The trail terminus is marked by a Hampton Inn and a busy highway interchange. By the way you can get a great Swatara State Park map at their web site. A replacement bridge across the creek leads you to Swopes Road. 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. I think they ran short of money because the signs say they are not finished. this trail is passible for most if you take you time. The old route 72 road should be replaced with crushed stone and the last section of the trail looks unmaintained. The parking was easy to find from the online directions (the camp store has great rocking chairs -- in season -- to occupy as you eat some ice cream). Overall the trail is wonderful, with great access, parking lots, and many different trails branching off of it. While this road is open to vehicles, there is little traffic. 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. Several years ago, it was repaired and renamed Bear Hole Trail as Swatara State Park was developed. To reach a centrally located parking area in Swatara State Park from I-81, take Exit 100, and head west onto SR 443/Suedberg Road. Still ridable but rough. Definitely worth the ride from the Waterville bridge to the Swopes Valley Trailhead. The three miles of smooth asphalt roads were once portions of the old State Routes 72 and 433 and were incorporated into the Park when they were replaced with new construction not long ago. From a handout prepared by the Swatara Watershed Association. Part of the Memorial Lake State Park Complex, Swatara Creek is a popular destination for canoeing, kayaking, and tubing enthusiasts, especially in the spring. My rating of this trail would be higher if it was not for that first mile! Did a 40+ mile ride there today, mostly on Monroe Valley Road but also did most of the park trails, Trout Run, Bear Hole, etc. Some up hills, and down hills. A few minutes later you on a nice gravel four foot wide trail. Started my trip from the campground north of the park.Can’t wait to do it again. The endpoint is located 0.8 mile farther south along the trail. Again using a stop on my way south from Vermont I finished my scouting of the several trails in undeveloped Swarta State Park. Six loop trails twist through the woods and up-and-down hills. Swatara Rail Trail: Swatara Rail Trail is ten miles in length from Lickdale Interchange (Exit 90) of I-81 to the Pine Grove Interchange (Exit 100) of I-81. Even though you are out in the woods you are blocked in on one side by highway and the other by the water. I had researched the trail, and read the reviews, so I was a little leery about what I would find. Hikers may leave an itinerary with the park for emergencies. I parked in the limited parking area and took off north, under I-81, on the trail. Had trouble finding the parking lot in Lickdale so I drove to Pine Grove and parked at the Swopes Valley Trailhead parking lot. Go 0.2 mile, and look for trailhead parking on the right. Two of its short hills are steep enough to require my granny gear. There is a marshy area near Wagner's pond with a sign stating "wet trail". Swatara Rail Trail starts as crushed stone and grass until it crosses Monroe Valley Road, where it turns to gravel (1-2" size) for about half a mile. My wife and I rode a portion of the trail for the first time this weekend. Future plans call for the, In another 1.2 miles, the trail begins a narrow passage through the water gap through Blue Mountain created by Swatara Creek. State acquisition of lands that were to become Swatara State Park began in 1971 and was completed in 1987. In all fairness to the Park, my ride followed three days of December rain. Problem is we missed were to get back on the trail because the sign is broken off and we continued on the road for almost a mile. Go right on the road about a half mile, and the entrance for the Bear Hole Trail is on your right. We rode to Sand Siding trailhead and back, approximately 10 miles. There are three entrances that will lead you into the less challenging mid section of the Park and its trails. We'll return and ride the loop trails off of the Swatara Trail. You can assume you will float at about 2 to 3 miles per hour with light paddling. What’s missing? The Mountain Biking Trails at Swatara State Park can be reached from the State Park Lane Trailhead. The day was heavily overcast (but, no rain while on the trail) with a temp. 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 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 state acquired the land and built the trail. Understandably they need to exercise too but their hooves wreak havoc on the trail. Since the State Park System is short of money it may be some time before the trail is repaired. The first was 50-100 m. and relatively steep. It took about 3 hours to ride out and back. These trails are no longer offically maintained by SAMBA. 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. Jan. 27, 2012
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 Creek Run (SCR) will take place at the Swatara State Park about 40 minutes north east of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Swatara Falls is a beautiful, rugged place with soaring cliffs and boulders. I have done parts of this great trail several times in the last few years but I wanted to check out all the new construction, mostly of new trail heads and parking lots and the one big bridge. Anyone who refers to this structure as just an "abandoned cabin" truly doesn't get it. A solid bike is needed for this road, but on the other side a hybrid or even a good commuter would work. ", "Of all the trails I have been on this one is ranked highest by my teen. If you want to avoid this section just ride up the macadam road a piece ways there are various points you can jump back onto the trail. Some historical markers for this & other local features would be a nice addition. Instead, go down Swopes Valley Rd. The 'Old State Road' on other side of creek appears closed (at Appalachin Trail) end to end because of damage. 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. Here, through Swopes Valley, it is relatively narrow, swift and shallow at places, so it is best suited for kayaks. Our wrists were so sore. Just watch where you're riding, and share the trails! This Trail is open to vehicles the 2nd Friday and Saturday of each month. The input shaped the park’s future and best utilizes its recreational potential. It’s only about 100 yards so it shouldn’t discourage riders. I was looking for a bit longer ride so next time I'll take a few of the many side trails for another adventure. After about five miles my wife was waiting in the parking lot at State Park Lane where there is a gate. It will get better. I took the trail till I hit the concrete plant that I first discovered when I tried to catch the trail at the KOA in Lickdale. Swatara is a hidden gem. Map Search • Browse Routes ... Swatara Rail Trail. You could even use inline skates there if you wished to deal with the moderate hills. 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. If the State Park mowers have a down day it would be nice to see then on the Swatara Trail. They would not say a word to us and rode by as fast as they could. From the campground, the entrance to the trail is now marked and the cement plant has been removed. I ended up losing the trail and got to the end in Lickdale via local roads. The reason for the difference is that people who do not read all the reviews and do not check the state park web site don't know where to go. You do not have to get on this road to ride this trail, actually I only did it for this review and to explore. Last year's construction vastly improved this trail and adds the option of a 10 mile loop using the Bear Hole trail across the creek as a return route. Become a member and wear your FREE T-Shirt with pride. Locals use both trails for a 20 mile round trip. (This would also make for a good alternative starting point if the parking lot at the southern trail head is full.) There are not any signs and you have to have done your homework. Trail Mileages’ • Isle to McGrath, 11.5 miles • Lawler to McGregor, 8.1 miles Yesterday there was ponding water on this section as deep as 3 or 4 inches and we didn’t even bother to ride the last 2 miles of the trail; this area requires improvements as well. This trail is just a half hour drive from my house, so I ride it once in a while to take a break from road riding. Rode to the Sand Siding trail bridge which crossed back over to Bear Hole trail. Mile markers or a map with trail distances would be helpful to riders. The State plans to turn it into a non-motorized trail. http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/ucmprd1/groups/public/documents/news/DCNR_009829.pdf
Overall, the ride was nice, not really a typical rail trail, but you have to remember, this trail is relatively new, and still a work in progress. We loved our day on the SRT and will be returning with friends soon. Overall, this is an enjoyable trail, well shaded most of the way, with views of Swatara Creek from the rail trail. SR 443 and I-81 (Pine Grove). As stated in other reviews, the 2 miles at each end of the trail are not quite as improved as the middle portion of the trail. We could have used 3 different tires on this trip. It was right by the Swatara State Park DCNR sign. In reading some earlier reviews of this trail I almost didn't go, but after riding the length and back I'm very glad I took a chance. Operating under several subsequent owners, the rail branch closed in segments from 1965 to 1981. This would be my favorite place to ride if it weren't for the horses. Old State Road has deteriorated considerably since my last report. I wanted to make it to the Fossil pit but I was out of time, that pit is about 6 miles from the first bridge where I parked. From the southern main trailhead parking lot going north, the trail is a fine grit surface, but then becomes a coarse gravel surface for two or so miles that is unpleasant to ride on. Take Route 72 to Monroe Valley Road, then take first right down a long entrance driveway. The first "planned for mountain bikes" trail system in PA State Parks, Swatara is great ride to introduce someone to the joys of singletrack. ... At over 8 miles, Swatara State Park's mountain bike trails are a system of 6 looped trails that twist through the woods and hills and are generally considered a good place for introductory skills. 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. I then drove down to the State Park Lane trail head and biked down past the two bridges and to the new Lickdale Trail head. At one section the trail is actually an abandoned paved road. Follow this trail straight. This gravel should be removed and replaced with fine grit. I LOVED the trails at Swatara! The trail never seems to make up its mind what it wants to be.The trail is not really upkept so you must constantly keep your eyes on the trail for rocks, branches, holes, sections of drain pipe that gave out, glass and mud pits. That will take another two years. Cliffs and boulders rise above the trail. Made a pit stop at the memorial marker about a mile from the trail head (picture). To reach the southern trailhead in Lickdale from I-81, take Exit 90 toward SR 72 N/Fisher Ave., and turn left onto Fisher Ave. Continue onto Lickdale Road, crossing over SR 72, and then turn left into the parking lot by the camping sign. We can back vis the Bear Hole Trail. There are few people on this trail. You will be going up and down hills on this road, unlike the path on the other side which is smooth and flat almost the whole way. At this point I turned back for my car to go home.I was able to cover 11 miles of the trial 22 round trip. The Sand Siding Trailhead, a little further North on the trail, has a nice parking lot. Stretching from Georgia to Maine, the Appalachian Trail (AT) traverses two miles of the southern portion of Swatara State Park. 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. Sept 19th, 2011. Road bikes will have a tough go of it -- as will stollers or those not sure on their feet. Rhododendrons grow along the trail. Pennsylvania State Parks are the best! Mountain bike trails, the Appalachian Trail, and Waterville Bridge will remain open, as will sections of the rail trail. I drove around for almost an hour looking for it! The last mile of the trail in this direction is mowed grass, almost like passing through someone's back yard. Finally, using the state park map, I located a portion of the trail that seemed to run along the road (Route 72 I believe). 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. A trip north on I-81 gave me another chance to explore the Swatara Rail Trail. I went about a half a mile to the Waterville bridge and then over to the Old State Road. you will have to get on the road for about 300 feet and then make the first right, which will take you by a delapidated building where you will turn left to continue on the trail. While my Bultaco Alpina from thirty years ago would have handled the mud and fallen trees, I have yet to learn how to make my bicycle do it gracefully. We entered the Lickdale trail head, and includes a beautiful paved road and creek access. It's a rehabbed crushed gravel surface of an old state route. The campground is very nice, and the store has a nice deck to eat out on and the food is good. I only went half way on the trail, because of light issues I was worried about it getting dark on the way back, or darker I should say. If you like mountain biking this is the place you have to go. There is not enough room for horses and bike. Along with numerous ATV/ORV on the trail. 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. At this point I was going to suggest that the Pennsylvania State Park System get out of the trail building business. Between those points, the Park provides a total of eighteen miles of three distinctly different types of riding surfaces. I only encountered five vehicles as they slowly picked their way through the suspension abusing potholes on a pleasant December Sunday afternoon in 2004. Start/Finish will be at the Swopes Valley Trailhead on the east side of the park. Then at the halfway point the trail allows horses. I have put pictures of it up there. Great tandem ride from Lickdale to Pine Grove and back. We saw a lot of kayakers on the Swattie on Memorial Day. The north spur is mostly grass and dirt and I can see how it could become muddy if it had rained. But I wouldn't drive out of my way a second time to go there. Rideable but rough. Still numerous sections of partial wash-out on other parts of trail. Park visitors are advised construction work may affect access to certain areas. for .5 miles to pick up the northern trail head of the Bear Hole Trail. Found the trail to be paved where it followed the Old State road then crushed stone the rest of the way to Swopes Valley Road. Facebook Twitter Share. There are several trail junctions, including one with the Appalachian Trail, along the way. Get directions, maps, and traffic for Swatara, PA. It is a great shaded trail in the heat of summer with several spots to stop and view the stream. Dogs are also able to use this trail … Did the whole 10 miles... great ride!! Historic Data: Water Quality Sampling Results by SWA at WQN211–Middletown PA, near the mouth of the Swatara Creek–where the Swatara empties into the Susquehanna River.. Water Quality: Over the years, due to its size, the Swatara Creek was impacted by a number of consumer and residential activities that contributed to an overall decline in water quality. Parallel to the ‘ Bear Hole and Appalachian trails and explore the Swatara for few... 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