Heritage Rail Trail County Park In Pennsylvania

Here is everything you need to know about the Heritage Rail Trail County Park:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: Pennsylvania
  • Length: 21.5 miles.
  • Type: Multi-use.
  • Surface: gravel
  • Managed By: York County Department of Parks and Recreation
  • Permit Required?: Yes
  • Website: https://www.harrisburgpa.gov/riverfront-park/

The Heritage Rail Trail County Park, located in York County, Pennsylvania, holds a rich historical significance that dates back to the mid-19th century. Originally known as the Northern Central Railway, this rail line was constructed in 1854 to connect Baltimore, Maryland, with Sunbury, Pennsylvania. The railway played a crucial role in transporting goods, passengers, and troops during the American Civil War.

During the Civil War, the Northern Central Railway became a strategic transportation route for both the Union and Confederate armies. The railway was frequently targeted by Confederate forces, resulting in several skirmishes and battles along its tracks. Notably, the Battle of Hanover took place near the rail line in June 1863, as Confederate troops attempted to disrupt Union supply lines.

In addition to its military significance, the Northern Central Railway also played a vital role in the growth and development of the region. The rail line facilitated the transportation of goods, such as coal, iron, and agricultural products, which were essential to the local economy. It also provided a means for people to travel between rural areas and urban centers, fostering economic and social connections.

Over time, the decline of rail travel led to the abandonment of the Northern Central Railway. However, in the 1990s, efforts were made to convert the rail line into a recreational trail. The Heritage Rail Trail County Park was officially opened in 1999, preserving the historical significance of the railway while providing a scenic and accessible trail for walkers, joggers, and cyclists. Today, visitors can explore the park’s 21-mile trail, passing through picturesque landscapes and historical sites, and gain a deeper appreciation for the region’s rich history.

While On The Trail

Access Points

1. John C. Rudy County Park: This park serves as a major access point to the Heritage Rail Trail County Park. It offers ample parking, restrooms, picnic areas, and a playground.

2. Brillhart Station: Located near the town of Brillhart, this trailhead provides parking and access to the Heritage Rail Trail. It is a popular starting point for hikers and cyclists.

3. New Freedom Station: Situated in the town of New Freedom, this trailhead offers parking, restrooms, and a visitor center. It is a significant access point for the Heritage Rail Trail.

4. Glen Rock Station: Located in the town of Glen Rock, this trailhead provides parking and access to the Heritage Rail Trail. It is a convenient starting point for those exploring the trail.

5. Hanover Junction Station: Situated in the town of Hanover Junction, this trailhead offers parking, restrooms, and a historic train station. It is a popular access point for the Heritage Rail Trail.

6. Seven Valleys Station: Located in the town of Seven Valleys, this trailhead provides parking and access to the Heritage Rail Trail. It is a scenic starting point for hikers and cyclists.

7. York City: The Heritage Rail Trail extends into downtown York City, offering multiple access points throughout the city. These access points provide parking, restrooms, and easy access to various amenities in the city.

8. Colonial Courthouse: Situated near the Colonial Courthouse in York, this trailhead offers parking and access to the Heritage Rail Trail. It is a convenient starting point for those exploring the trail.

9. Rudy Park: Located near John C. Rudy County Park, this trailhead provides parking and access to the Heritage Rail Trail. It is a popular access point for hikers and cyclists.

10. Brillhart Station Road: Situated along Brillhart Station Road, this trailhead offers parking and access to the Heritage Rail Trail. It is a convenient starting point for those exploring the trail in this area.

Transportation Available

1. York County Transportation Authority – Public bus service in York County.
2. Uber – On-demand ridesharing service.
3. Lyft – On-demand ridesharing service.
4. Yellow Cab of York – Taxi service in York County.
5. White Rose Taxi – Taxi service in York County.
6. York Dispatch Transportation – Local transportation service in York County.
7. Freedom Transit – Public bus service in Adams County.
8. Rabbit Transit – Public bus service in York and Adams Counties.
9. Amtrak – National passenger railroad service with a station in York.
10. Greyhound – National bus service with a station in York.


The amenities available at the Heritage Rail Trail County Park include:

1. Restrooms: There are restroom facilities available at various locations along the trail for visitors’ convenience.

2. Parking: There are designated parking areas at different access points along the trail, allowing visitors to park their vehicles safely.

3. Camping Sites: The park offers camping sites for those who wish to stay overnight. These sites may have facilities such as fire pits, picnic tables, and access to water.

4. Picnic Areas: There are designated picnic areas along the trail where visitors can enjoy outdoor meals and gatherings. These areas may have picnic tables, grills, and trash receptacles.

5. Trailhead Facilities: At the trailheads, you may find additional amenities such as information kiosks, maps, and benches for resting.

6. Water Stations: There are water stations available at certain points along the trail, allowing visitors to refill their water bottles.

7. Bike Rentals: Some sections of the trail offer bike rental services, allowing visitors to explore the trail on two wheels.

8. Interpretive Signs: Throughout the park, you will find interpretive signs that provide information about the history, nature, and points of interest along the trail.

9. Dog-Friendly Areas: The park may have designated areas where visitors can bring their dogs. However, leash rules and waste disposal regulations must be followed.

10. Accessibility: The park strives to provide accessibility for all visitors, including wheelchair-accessible paths, ramps, and facilities.

Please note that the availability of these amenities may vary depending on the specific section of the trail and the time of year. It is always recommended to check with the park authorities for the most up-to-date information.

Nearby Services

1. Lodging:
– Heritage Hills Golf Resort & Conference Center – A luxurious resort offering comfortable accommodations and scenic views.
– Hampton Inn York – A modern hotel with spacious rooms and complimentary breakfast.
– Comfort Inn & Suites – A budget-friendly hotel with cozy rooms and convenient amenities.

2. Food Services:
– The Left Bank Restaurant & Bar – A popular eatery serving American cuisine with a riverside view.
– The Accomac Inn – A historic restaurant offering fine dining and a charming atmosphere.
– Central Family Restaurant – A family-friendly diner serving classic American comfort food.

3. Emergency Services:
– York Hospital – A full-service hospital providing emergency medical care.
– York Area Regional Police Department – Local law enforcement agency ensuring public safety.
– York County Fire & Rescue – Emergency response team for fire and rescue services in the area.

Heritage Rail Trail County Park Difficulty Notes

The difficulty level of the Heritage Rail Trail County Park can be considered moderate. The trail stretches for approximately 21 miles, offering a mix of flat and gently rolling terrain. While the trail is mostly paved and well-maintained, there are some sections with gravel or crushed stone surfaces that may require a bit more effort to navigate. Additionally, there are a few gradual inclines and descents along the trail, which can provide a moderate challenge for hikers, bikers, and runners. Overall, the Heritage Rail Trail County Park offers a pleasant and enjoyable outdoor experience suitable for individuals of various fitness levels.

Features And Attractions

1. Hanover Junction Station: This historic train station served as a key transportation hub during the Civil War and is now a museum showcasing its rich history.

2. Howard Tunnel: As the oldest continuously operated railroad tunnel in the United States, Howard Tunnel is a remarkable engineering feat. Visitors can walk or bike through the tunnel, experiencing its unique atmosphere.

3. Glen Rock Mill Inn: Located in the charming town of Glen Rock, this historic mill turned inn offers a picturesque view of the Codorus Creek and the surrounding countryside.

4. New Freedom Station: This beautifully restored train station is now a visitor center and museum, providing insights into the area’s railroad heritage.

5. Seven Valleys Station: Another restored train station along the trail, Seven Valleys Station offers a glimpse into the past and provides a scenic spot to rest and enjoy the surroundings.

6. Brillhart Station: This former train station is now a picnic area with a covered pavilion, making it a perfect spot to relax and enjoy a meal amidst the natural beauty of the park.

7. York County Heritage Rail Trail Park: The entire trail itself is a scenic gem, stretching for 21 miles through picturesque landscapes, farmland, and woodlands. It offers numerous opportunities for hiking, biking, and wildlife spotting.

8. Codorus State Park: Located near the trail, Codorus State Park offers stunning views of Lake Marburg, hiking trails, picnic areas, and opportunities for boating and fishing.

9. Nixon County Park: This park features beautiful natural landscapes, including meadows, woodlands, and wetlands. It also offers educational programs, nature trails, and a nature center.

10. Rocky Ridge County Park: With its rolling hills, scenic overlooks, and well-maintained trails, Rocky Ridge County Park provides breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.

11. Hanover Trolley Trail: This trail, adjacent to the Heritage Rail Trail, follows the path of the former Hanover Trolley Line. It offers a unique perspective on the area’s transportation history and provides a peaceful and scenic route for walking or biking.

12. Steam Into History: While not directly on the Heritage Rail Trail, Steam Into History offers a historic steam train ride from New Freedom to Glen Rock, providing a nostalgic experience and scenic views along the way.

Usage Guidelines

1. Pets must be kept on a leash at all times.
2. Pet owners are responsible for cleaning up after their pets.
3. Bicycles are allowed on the trail, but riders must yield to pedestrians.
4. Motorized vehicles, including ATVs and motorcycles, are not permitted on the trail.
5. Camping or overnight stays are not allowed on the trail.
6. Fires and open flames are prohibited.
7. Littering is strictly prohibited. Please dispose of trash in designated bins.
8. Hunting or trapping is not allowed within the park.
9. Fishing is permitted in designated areas only, following state fishing regulations.
10. Swimming or wading in the creek or any other bodies of water along the trail is not allowed.
11. Alcohol consumption is prohibited, except in designated areas or during special events with proper permits.
12. The use of fireworks or explosives is strictly prohibited.
13. Motorized or remote-controlled model aircraft or drones are not allowed without prior permission.
14. Respect and protect the natural environment, plants, and wildlife along the trail.
15. Observe and follow any seasonal restrictions or closures for maintenance or safety reasons.
16. Use designated parking areas and do not block access roads or emergency routes.
17. Follow all posted signs and instructions from park staff.
18. Use the trail at your own risk. The park is not responsible for any accidents, injuries, or lost/stolen items.
19. Report any suspicious or illegal activities to park authorities.
20. Violation of any park rules may result in fines or expulsion from the park.

Seasonal Information

The Heritage Rail Trail County Park is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs alike. Located in York County, Pennsylvania, this 21-mile trail follows the path of the former Northern Central Railway, offering stunning views of the countryside and a glimpse into the region’s rich railroad heritage. When planning a visit to the Heritage Rail Trail, it’s important to consider the best times of the year to fully enjoy the experience.

One of the best times to visit the Heritage Rail Trail County Park is during the spring and fall seasons. In spring, the trail comes alive with vibrant wildflowers and blossoming trees, creating a picturesque backdrop for hikers, bikers, and joggers. The mild temperatures and comfortable weather make it an ideal time to explore the trail at a leisurely pace. Similarly, the fall season offers breathtaking foliage as the leaves change color, providing a scenic and tranquil atmosphere for visitors. The cooler temperatures make it pleasant for outdoor activities, and the park is less crowded compared to the summer months.

It’s important to note that the Heritage Rail Trail County Park has seasonal closures and restrictions. During the winter months, sections of the trail may be closed due to inclement weather and hazardous conditions. Snow and ice can make the trail slippery and unsafe for visitors. It’s advisable to check the park’s website or contact the park office for updates on closures and trail conditions before planning a visit during the winter season. Additionally, some amenities along the trail, such as restrooms and water fountains, may be closed or limited during the off-peak seasons, so it’s recommended to come prepared with water and other essentials.

Overall, the best times to visit the Heritage Rail Trail County Park are during the spring and fall seasons when the weather is pleasant, and the scenery is at its most beautiful. However, the park offers recreational opportunities year-round, so visitors can still enjoy the trail during other seasons, keeping in mind any closures or restrictions that may be in place. Whether you’re a nature lover, history enthusiast, or simply looking for a peaceful outdoor experience, the Heritage Rail Trail County Park is a must-visit destination in York County.


1. Wheelchair Accessible Parking: Designated parking spaces close to the trail entrance for easy access.
2. Paved Pathways: Smooth and level paved surfaces throughout the trail for wheelchair users.
3. Accessible Restrooms: Restroom facilities equipped with accessible features such as grab bars and wider doorways.
4. Wheelchair Accessible Picnic Areas: Picnic areas with accessible tables and seating options.
5. Accessible Trailhead: An accessible entrance to the trail with ramps or level pathways.
6. Accessible Trail Maps: Trail maps available in accessible formats, such as large print or braille.
7. Wheelchair Accessible Viewing Areas: Designated areas along the trail with accessible viewpoints for scenic views.
8. Accessible Water Fountains: Water fountains at regular intervals with accessible heights and features.
9. Accessible Trail Signage: Clear and visible signage with accessible features, including large fonts and contrasting colors.
10. Assistance Animals: The park allows service animals to accompany individuals with disabilities on the trail.

Safety Information

1. Stay on designated trails: Stick to the marked paths to avoid getting lost or wandering into unsafe areas.
2. Be aware of your surroundings: Stay alert and watch out for other trail users, wildlife, and potential hazards.
3. Respect trail etiquette: Yield to faster users, keep pets on a leash, and be courteous to others enjoying the trail.
4. Carry water and snacks: Stay hydrated and energized during your visit by bringing enough supplies.
5. Dress appropriately: Wear comfortable clothing and sturdy footwear suitable for walking or biking on the trail.
6. Use sunscreen and insect repellent: Protect yourself from sunburn and bug bites while spending time outdoors.
7. Stay on the right side of the trail: Keep to the right to allow others to pass safely, similar to road rules.
8. Be cautious at road crossings: Look both ways and follow traffic signals when crossing roads along the trail.
9. Avoid disturbing wildlife: Observe animals from a distance and refrain from feeding or approaching them.
10. Carry a cell phone: Have a means of communication in case of emergencies or if you need assistance.
11. Report any suspicious activity: Notify park authorities if you witness any unusual or potentially dangerous behavior.
12. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration, especially during hot weather.
13. Be prepared for weather changes: Bring appropriate gear for rain, wind, or sudden temperature drops.
14. Stay on marked paths during hunting seasons: Be aware of hunting seasons and follow any additional safety guidelines provided.
15. Travel in groups: Consider hiking or biking with others for added safety and enjoyment.
16. Follow park rules and regulations: Respect any posted signs or guidelines to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
17. Carry a first aid kit: Be prepared for minor injuries or accidents by having basic medical supplies on hand.
18. Stay on the trail during construction or maintenance: Observe any temporary closures or detours for your safety.
19. Use caution on bridges and elevated sections: Pay attention to your footing and be mindful of any height or stability concerns.
20. Plan your visit: Familiarize yourself with the trail map, hours of operation, and any specific rules or recommendations provided by the park.

Conservation Notes

The Heritage Rail Trail County Park, located in York County, Pennsylvania, is considered to be in good conservation status. The park is managed by the York County Department of Parks and Recreation, which has implemented various measures to ensure the preservation and protection of its natural resources. These efforts have contributed to maintaining the park’s ecological integrity and enhancing its biodiversity.

One of the key conservation initiatives in the Heritage Rail Trail County Park is the preservation of its native plant species. The park’s management actively works to control the spread of invasive plant species, which can outcompete and displace native plants. By doing so, they help to maintain the park’s natural vegetation communities and support the habitats of various wildlife species.

Additionally, the park’s management has implemented measures to protect the water quality of the streams and wetlands within the park. They have established buffer zones along water bodies, which help to filter pollutants and prevent erosion. These buffer zones also provide important habitat for aquatic species and contribute to the overall health of the park’s ecosystems.

Overall, the conservation status of the Heritage Rail Trail County Park is commendable. The park’s management has taken proactive steps to preserve its natural resources, including the protection of native plant species and the maintenance of water quality. These efforts ensure that the park remains a valuable ecological asset and a haven for wildlife.

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