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Heritage Rail Trail County Park

All About Heritage Rail Trail County Park

Attention Rail Trail users, the adjoining railroad tracks are now active. The Northern Central Railway (previously known as Steam into History) excursion train is using the railroad tracks along the Rail Trail. (From New Freedom to Hanover Junction Train Station). Expect to see a train at any time while enjoying a trip on the trail. Where the trail crosses the railroad tracks, check both directions before proceeding. For those interested in the Northern Central Railway, click here for the train schedule

Heritage Rail Trail County Park extends more than twenty-one miles, winding through scenic areas of southern York County.

The ADA trail is a 10-foot wide, compacted-stone surface designed for hiking, bicycling, running, horseback riding, as well as winter sports such as cross country skiing and snow shoeing.

This linear park connects the historic district of downtown York, Pennsylvania, with Maryland’s Torrey C. Brown Trail (formerly known as the Northern Central Rail Trail). A northern section of the Heritage Rail Trail is now open from John Rudy County Park to N George St. in the City of York. An on-road, signed connection links from N George St. to the Heritage Rail Trail trailhead at W Philadelphia St. Construction is slated for 2021 to complete the construction of this “gap.”

The Heritage Rail Trail is operated and maintained by the York County Department of Parks and Recreation.  It is open year round, 8:00 AM until dusk.

Features of the Trail

Although the grade throughout the trail is reasonably level, New Freedom is the high point of elevation (818 ft), and the low point of elevation is (400 ft) in York City. Facilities along the trail include benches, picnic tables, and restrooms. Communities along the trail offer more extensive services and facilities. Trail and restrooms are ADA accessible.

Other historic features of the trail include Howard Tunnel, four railroad bridges, New Freedom Train Station, and Hanover Junction Train Station. Each is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Hanover Junction Train Station is restored to the 1863 era, while the New Freedom station is restored to its 1940s railroad history. Museums in each station are supported by the Friends of the Heritage Rail Trail Corridor.

Take a look at the Trail’s web page for complete listing.

History of the Rail

The 19th century saw the growth of the Northern Central Railroad, a vital link between Washington, D.C.; Harrisburg, PA; upstate New York; and Lake Ontario. The railway’s passage through York County brought prosperity to the area’s farmers, merchants and manufacturers, and spurred the growth of communities like New Freedom, Glen Rock, Seven Valleys, Hanover Junction, and the aptly-named town of Railroad.

The railroad was also a prime target for the Confederate Army prior to the Battle of Gettysburg. Rebel troops cut telegraph wires and destroyed bridges in their efforts to isolate Washington, D.C. from the rest of the Union. After the destructive Battle, President Lincoln traveled via these rails to Gettysburg, PA, to deliver the Gettysburg Address, stopping at Hanover Junction Train Station.

Who's Using Our Trails?

A study was conducted in 2022 and the results can be viewed by downloading the PDF below!