Last Updated:      April 16, 2008

Length:                Capitol Area Greenbelt; 20 mile loop

Difficulty:            South & East sections. Easy. Mostly paved pathways.

                              North & West sections. Moderate. More hilly, with some on-road sections. Not recommended for kids on bikes.                             


The Greenbelt has several parking spots at trail heads. There is a trail head at the Visiting Nurse Association of Central PA at 3315 Derry St in Harrisburg. There are also several spaces near the Five Senses Garden on Route 441 behind the Harrisburg East Mall. On Cameron St, there is a parking area across the street from Quigley's Hotel and Restaurant at 1517 S. Cameron St. In Penbrook, there are a couple of spaces at the end of the Paxtang Parkway, at the intersections of Market St, 25th St and Union Deposit Rd.

To start from the Five Senses Garden parking lot; From I-83 southbound take exit 45 to Paxton St. Head east on Paxton St past the Harrisburg Mall. Turn left on Mall Rd and then right onto Harrisburg St (Route 441). The parking lot is on your left, just after you cross over the trail.

To start from the Phoenix Park parking lot; From I-83 take exit 43 to Paxton St. Cross Paxton to 2nd St (one-way) and turn left down Washington St, then left onto Front St. Follow Front St along the river to the Park.

The Capitol Area Greenbelt is actually a linear park connecting and passing through Riverfront Park, Cameron Parkway, Paxtang Park, Paxtang Parkway, Reservoir Park, the grounds of the State Hospital, Harrisburg Area Community College, and Wildwood Lake. From this trail you can easily access major attractions in Harrisburg such as City Island, the State Capitol, the State Museum of PA, the Civil War Museum, the Whitaker Science Center and much more. The trail varies from on-road to stone-dust to paved and from flat easy riding to hills and valleys. The easiest section travels from the Five Senses Garden (where I began my trip) to all along the riverfront. I didn't bike the northern section, so I 'm not familiar with its trail conditions. For more information visit; CAPITOL AREA GREENBELT .

Starting from the Five Senses Garden parking lot;

Note; If you cross over Route 422 you will come to the Five Senses Garden.

However, I headed west past the gate and the signboard along an old paved road. The trail is marked by triangle shaped signs to help you navigate some of the on-road sections.  There are occasional mile markers along the trail, the 0 mile originating from the Derry Street parking lot. The trail follows Spring Creek through a wooded valley. After 0.6 miles you’ll pass the Martin Luther King Memorial and after traveling under a bridge you’ll come to another parking lot. Use Caution crossing over S Cameron St at 1.6 miles, where the trail turns to stone-dust. This could be part of the old trolley line or rail line, as there are still some tracks as you cross over a driveway and head back into the woods along the creek. You cross over an old trestle bridge at 2.1 miles and then pass below a railroad bridge. This brings you to another signboard, which also contains some interesting historical facts about the area. At 2 ½ miles the trail crosses over an active rail line via a bridge and you come to an intersection.

Note; Right is a short cut to the Phoenix Park parking lot.

Head left down along the tracks where the trail loops around an old concrete structure and brings you alongside the Susquehanna River. A bench overlooks the river as the trail heads upstream towards Harrisburg. The trail utilizes some sections of old road as you pass by a telescope overlooking the river next to some benches. You then come to the Phoenix Park parking lot at about 3 miles.

Note; Right loops you back to the bridge over the railroad tracks.

Continue straight through the lot and you’ll pick up the stone-dust trail along the river. They named it “Ollie’s Way” and there are many flowering trees planted here. When you reach South Bridge (I-83) at 3 ½ miles there is a parking area under the bridge.

Note; A paved trail heads down along the waters edge, paralleling the river, but the pavement is in very bad shape.

Instead, you should be able to reach the upper paved trail that follows along Front St, by traveling through the parking lot. I realized this too late and took the lower trail. The upper trail gives you great views of the river as well as views of all the historic buildings along Front St. There are many interpretive signs located along the trail as well. Two railroad bridges cross the river, followed by the Market Street Bridge and then at 4 ¼ miles, the Walnut Street Bridge.

Note; Built in 1890, the Walnut Street Bridge is now a pedestrian bridge over to City Island Park . I would suggest a detour over this bridge to check out the island. Lots to do.

Continuing along the trail, you’ll come to State St at 5 miles and a large promenade overlooking the river.

Note; Another detour worth taking is to head up State St along its wide, brick lined boulevard to check out the State Capitol. You’ll also pass by the green domed Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and many old historic buildings. It’s only 0.3 miles to the Capitol. Other areas of interest close by are the STATE MUSEUM OF PA and the WHITAKER SCIENCE CENTER .

Continuing along the trail, you’ll pass by the Peace Garden and Holocaust Monument and eventually come to Maclay St at 5 ¾ miles. The lower trail ends here, across from the Governors Mansion.

Note; The trail continues along the river and then over to Wildwood Lake where it loops back, passing through Harrisburg Community College and the Harrisburg State Hospital grounds.

We decided to shorten the trip and take a 1 mile on-road detour up Maclay St (partly uphill). Note; This detour not recommended for kids on bikes because of the many on-road sections and hills. After crossing over the tracks you’ll come to N Cameron St. Turn left in front of the State Farm Show Arena and you’ll come to a pedestrian tunnel that will take you safely underneath N Cameron St. This brings you onto the grounds of the Harrisburg State Hospital. A paved trail heads right through the grounds and takes you alongside a small creek. At 7 ½ miles you come to an intersection.

Note; Left is a spur trail up to Veterans Park.

Turn right and head up the hill alongside Pine Drive. A short on-road section along Stanley Drive brings you back to the paved trail as it takes you up to East Harrisburg Cemetery. Turn right in the cemetery and follow the road out to Edgemont Rd, where you head right at 8 ½ miles. Cross over Herr St and travel on-road along N Parkway Drive up to State St. A cross-light will take you over State St and into Reservoir Park. Head left uphill on Camp Curtin Drive, passing by the amphitheater and up the road to the NATIONAL CIVIL WAR MUSEUM . Continue past the "Do Not Enter" sign (one-way road) and you'll come to a Y in the road. Turn left and pass through the orange gate. This will bring you to Parkway Blvd. Travel downhill along Parkway Blvd until you come to a stop sign. Use Caution crossing over 25th St and Market St where you’ll spot another orange gate. The paved trail picks back up here at 9 ¾ miles and takes you down Cameron Parkway, which is not open to traffic. This is a peaceful section that follows a small brook through Penbrook Park. You come to the Derry Street parking lot at 11.2 miles. A signboard is located here, as well a mile post 0 .Continue out to Derry St and turn left to find a crosswalk over this busy street. Continue left until you come to S. Paxtang Ave. Turn right and travel under the railroad tracks where you’ll pick up a stone-dust/boardwalk trail that brings you under I-83 and up to the Rutherford Farm Spring House. Follow the driveway out to Parkview Lane and turn right. Go on-road until you come to Paxton St. Use the cross-light to reach the paved trail on the other side of Paxton St. This will take you down to the Five Senses Garden and then across Route 422 and back to the parking lot at 12 ¼ miles.