SCHUYLKILL RIVER TRAIL:
MONT CLARE-PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA SECTION
-BIKE IT OR HIKE IT-
Letterbox Planted: April 18, 2008
Last Updated: June 27, 2023
Length: Schuylkill River Trail; 75 miles completed
Schuylkill River Trail; Mont Clare to Philadelphia; 30 miles
Manayunk Canal Towpath; 1.7 miles
Difficulty: Schuylkill River Trail; Mont Clare to Philadelphia; Easy. Paved trail with some on-road sections and a stone-dust towpath section.
Manayunk Canal Towpath; Easy. Flat, stone-dust & boardwalk towpath.
To start from the Longford Park parking lot in Phoenixville [Northern End]; From Route 422, take the S Collegeville Rd exit and travel south through Mont Clare. Turn left on Walnut St, just before the bridge over the river. Walnut St turns into Port Providence Rd. Longford Park will be on your right.
To start from the Betzwood parking lot in Norristown [Northern End]; From Valley Forge take Route 422 northbound over the Schuylkill River. Take the S Trooper Rd exit and head left or south. The Betzwood picnic area is on the right next to the river. The first parking lot has a signboard and access to the Schuylkill River Trail. The Valley Forge River Trail is alongside the river. You can also travel over the bridge by bike via a pedestrian corridor from Valley Forge.
To start from the Manayunk Canal in Manayunk [Central Section]; From I-76, take exit 338 to Belmont Ave and travel north over the river into Manayunk. Turn right onto Main St and you'll see parking signs for the bike trail that will take you to lots located next to the Manayunk Canal Towpath. However, we parked off Cresson St which had much more reasonable rates for all day parking. Especially when you don't know how long you'll be gone.
There are currently, as of 2023, about 75 completed miles of the Schuylkill River Trail in sections, including 30-plus miles between Philadelphia & Parker Ford. The trail breaks off in Parker Ford and picks up again in Pottstown where it continues for about 20 miles to Reading. From there, cyclists can follow a 20-mile signed on-road route just shy of Hamburg. In Hamburg, trail users can access a scenic seven-mile stretch to Auburn in Schuylkill County. The plan is for a continuous trail along the entire length of the river, over 100 miles, from the Delaware River to its headwaters in Schuylkill County. For more information visit; SCHUYLKILL RIVER TRAIL .
We biked two separate sections of the trail in the Philadelphia Corridor; the Northern Section from Valley Forge to Mont Clare and the Southern Section from Manayunk Canal to Independence National Historical Park in downtown Philadelphia. The trail is paved, except for the Towpath, which consists of stone-dust and boardwalks. You must travel on-street through the city to reach Independence Park. We biked into Philadelphia along the trail which includes several SEPTA stops and then took the train back to our starting point.
Part of the Schuylkill River Trail is part of the EAST COAST GREENWAY , a planned biking & hiking route stretching 3,000 miles from Maine to Florida. When complete it will traverse 15 states with a mostly off-road path.
Schuylkill River Trail; Northern Section [Mont Clare to Valley Forge]:
Starting from the Betzwood parking lot in Norristown [Northern End]; From the first parking lot, a connector trail leads from the signboard up to the trail.
Right takes you South towards
Heading North (left) along the paved Schuylkill River Trail. Mile Markers along the trail. The trail heads through the woods with fencing on both sides of the trail. Just after you pass “30 miles” painted on the trail, there will be a gap in the fencing on both sides. Turn left down the gravel road and you’ll see the river down below and the River Trail. Follow the gravel road left to a hairpin curve. On the inside of this curve is a knoll with a four-trunked tree. Near the base of this tree is a pile of rocks. Remove only the flat top rock to reveal a smaller rock on top of the Schuylkill River Trail Letterbox. Continuing along the trail, you’ll cross into Phoenixville at 1.4 miles and come alongside Route 422. When you come to an intersection at 2.1 miles, continue straight, as left takes you to Pawlings Road parking lot and the northern end of the River Trail. After crossing over Perkiomen Creek, the trail then takes you down along the base of the bridge to an intersection at 2 ½ miles.
Note; Left is the start of the PERKIOMEN TRAIL as it heads north.
Turn right and travel under the bridge along Perkiomen Creek. Perkiomen Creek then flows into the Schuylkill River. The trail then heads west along the river, traveling underneath a railroad bridge at 3 ¼ miles. The trail travels alongside the river before turning inland bringing you to the Longford Park parking lot at 4.6 miles. Restrooms are located here along with a great signboard that shows the complete, proposed Schuylkill River Trail System. Just past this signboard you’ll come to some remnants of the old SCHUYLKILL CANAL which travels up to Mont Clare. Come to Port Providence Rd at 4.7 miles. This is as far as I traveled. Head north to Mont Clare to check out more of the canal.
Schuylkill River Trail; Southern Section [Manayunk to Philadelphia]:
Manayunk Canal Towpath:
The Manayunk Canal is a remaining segment of a canal system that was once over 106 miles long, stretching from the anthracite region of Schuylkill County down the Schuylkill River into Philadelphia. It was one of the first anthracite canals built to bring coal down through this network, and served as a key component of Philadelphia’s Industrial Revolution. The Manayunk Canal was different from most canals of its time because it was comprised of segments of canal, with inlet and outlet locks around difficult sections of the river as well as the slackwater created by numerous dams constructed up and down the river. The first Lock was constructed in East Falls at that neighborhood's waterfall. The last construction was of the Fairmount Dam in 1823, the creation of which caused the slackwater to cover the rocks past East Falls. The Manayunk Canal Section was competed in 1818 and originates at the tip of Venice Island off the Schuylkill River. It then travels south between Venice Island, across the canal and Manayunk. It contains Locks 68-70 as well as ruins of a Sluice House, Lock tenders House and Flat Rock Dam. Just after passing Lock Street it then reenters the river.
Starting from the Northern End of Venice Island; The Schuylkill River Trail comes in from the north before utilizing the stone-dust Manayunk Canal Towpath which starts from Lock 68 & the Sluice House traveling south alongside the canal. You travel underneath Fountain St along a boardwalk at 0.8 miles. Above you is a RR embankment. You travel underneath Leveington St along another boardwalk at 1 mile before another boardwalk takes you underneath the Green Lane Bridge and the stone arched Manayunk Bridge Trail at 1.3 miles. Pass by a pedestrian bridge over the canal to a parking lot before following a boardwalk up to Cotton St. More stone-dust/boardwalk brings you to Lock Street and the end of the trail after 1.7 miles.
Schuylkill River Trail:
Starting from the Southern End of the Manayunk Canal Towpath & Lock Street in Manayunk; After checking out the Manayunk Canal you'll come to Lock Street. Head left up to Main St and turn right for a 1 mile on-road detour. Follow Main St (and the blue & white trail signs) on-road (no shoulder, not recommended for kids on bikes) south. Pass by the trailhead for the Pencoyd Trail on your right at 0.7 miles.
Note; The paved Pencoyd Trail crosses the Pencoyd Bridge, a restored iron truss bridge, across the Schuylkill River to the site of the former Pencoyd Iron Works. The trail continues up the southwest bank of the river, traveling beneath a RR trestle. It currently dead ends at a creek just northwest of the trestle and next to the Schuylkill Expressway. The remnants of an old RR bridge over this creek are visible immediately beyond the western terminus of the trail, indicating that it follows the path of a line that probably once served the now defunct iron works. The Pencoyd Bridge was part of the former Pennsylvania RR industrial spur serving Pencoyd Iron Works and local industries from the Schuylkill Branch RR.
Continuing along Main St the Wissahickon Train Station is up on your left. Main St turns into Ridge Ave. You'll come to a bridge across Wissahickon Creek at 1.1 miles. Across Ridge Ave is the start of the WISSAHICKON TRAIL . Travel across the bridge and turn right at Kelly Drive at 1 mile. Here the paved Schuylkill River Trail travels alongside the road. Pass by the Kelly Drive parking lot at 1.5 miles before coming to Falls Bridge and a Map Board at 1.7 miles.
Note; If you cross Falls Bridge over the river it will bring you to Martin Luther King Jr. Dr and the start of the paved Martin Luther King Jr. Drive Trail in FAIRMONT PARK . This trail Loops back over the river further south and reconnects to the Schuylkill River Trail in Philadelphia. SEE; Martin Luther King Jr. Drive Trail Below.
Continuing south, the Schuylkill River Trail travels between Kelly Dr and alongside the Eastern Side of the Schuylkill River. You quickly travel underneath Route 1 and two RR bridges. Travel underneath the iron laced Strawberry Mansion Bridge before passing by some boat houses and the East Fairmont Park parking lot 1 at 3 miles as you travel through East Fairmont Park. A stone-dust trail follows along your right. Pass by the East Fairmont Park parking lot 2 at 3.6 miles. Travel underneath the Columbia RR Bridge followed by the Amtrak Zoo RR Viaduct, past the Kelly Drive Bouldering Wall (Kelly Drive tunnel) & underneath Girard Bridge to the Fairmont Park parking lot 3 at 4.8 miles. This next section takes you past monuments, fountains and overlooks before passing the Lighthouse at Turtle Rock and the historic buildings along Boathouse Row before you come to Loyd Hall Rec. Center, where you'll find restrooms and refreshments, at 5.5 miles. Here the trail pulls away from Kelly Dr, passing the East Fairmont Park parking lot 4 and coming to the Fountain of the Sea Horses.
Note; To your right is the Fairmont Water Works Trail & Boardwalk.
Travel right around the fountain and bear right. To your left are all the statues leading up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and on your right is the Fairmont Weir & Dam. Pass by the North Cliffside Path on your left at 5.7 miles.
Note; This path leads up to the north side of the PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART that overlooks the river.
Travel underneath the Spring Garden Bridge and Martin Luther King Drive Bridge before coming to the Schuylkill Banks Pergola on your left after 5.9 miles.
Note; If you head left past the Schuylkill Banks Pergola it will bring you to Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. A double cross-walk brings you to a trail. Head right underneath the Spring Garden Street Bridge and continue straight. This brings you to the south side of the PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART and the famous stairs on your left. On your right are 3 large fountains. This trail circles the museum and will bring you back to the north side of the museum and the Fountain of the Sea Horses.
Continuing straight alongside the river you'll pass by Paine's Skate Park before coming alongside some active RR tracks before traveling underneath I-676. After traveling underneath a RR bridge you'll travel under the JFK Blvd Bridge & Market Street Bridge at 6.6 miles. here the trail opens up and becomes more park like. Travel underneath the Chestnut & Walnut Street Bridges before the trail splits at 7 miles.
Note; Left takes you up a ramp over the RR tracks to Schuylkill River Park. Here you'll find sports fields & courts, a community garden and 2 Dog Parks.
Heading right. I haven't checked out this new section. The 2000 foot long concrete Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk juts out into the river continuing the trail south. Pass by a spur trail on your left.
Note; This spur trail will take you up to the South Street Bridge. Here a BIKE LANE will take you across the river to the University of Pennsylvania.
The trail continues south traveling underneath the South Street Bridge back to the greenway. Pass by a river overlook before coming to the end of the trail at 7.6 miles.
Note; We decided to bike through the city to Independence National Historical Park. Head back to the Chestnut Street Bridge where a pedestrian walkway takes you up to Chestnut St. Here a BIKE LANE takes you east through the city to S 22nd St where the BIKE LANE turns left. Follow to Market St and turn right on-road (only 2 blocks) before you pick up a BIKE LANE. Follow to N 15th St and cross the street to check out City Hall at 1 mile. A wide plaza travels completely around City Hall. Head left around City Hall to Filbert St on your left. This one-way street is less congested as it travels east, bringing you through the Reading Terminal Market and bringing you to N 7th St. Head left on-road for 1 block and turn right along a double wide sidewalk (Arch St one-way). This brings you to N 6th St after 2.2 miles. The NATIONAL CONSTITUTION CENTER is to your left. The US Mint is straight ahead. The Independence Visitor Center is on your right. Brick lined paths take you past the Visitor Center, Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, behind which is Independence Square, which is adjacent to Washington Square. SEE; INDEPENDENCE NHP .
Martin Luther King Jr. Drive Trail:
The Martin Luther King Jr. Drive Trail travels South alongside the Western Side of the Schuylkill River, parallel to the road. Numerous informative signboards along the route. From April-October, Saturday & Sundays, 6am-5pm they close down Martin Luther King Drive to vehicle traffic. All along your right is Fairmont Park. You quickly travel underneath Route 1 and a RR bridge. Pass by some restrooms before coming to the Martin Luther King Jr. Drive parking lot 1 at 0.8 miles. Travel underneath the iron laced Strawberry Mansion Bridge before passing by Martin Luther King Jr. Drive parking lot 2 at 1.5 miles. Pass by the Martin Luther King Jr. Drive parking lot 3 before traveling underneath the Columbia RR Bridge at 2 miles, past which spot the beautiful brick 1866-1900 Belmont Pumping Station. At 2.9 miles you pass by a tunnel for Sweet Briar Rd.
Note; Follow this Sweet Briar Rd and the blue "Zoo" signs to reach the PHILADELPHIA ZOO .
You then travel past some docks & boating centers as the trail comes alongside I-76 and travels underneath the Amtrak Zoo RR Viaduct & Girard Bridge. This section is squeezed next to the road and highway. Pass by the Fairmont Fish Ladder & Dam at 3.8 miles. Great views of the downtown skyline & Philadelphia Museum of Art. You now cross over the Martin Luther King Drive Bridge (narrow sidewalk) back to the Eastern Side of the Schuylkill River. Come to a cross-light and cross over to the Schuylkill Banks Pergola. An INDEGO BIKE SHARE STATION is also located here. Behind the Pergola you'll rejoin the Schuylkill River Trail after 4.3 miles. See Above.
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LETTERBOX LAST VERIFIED ON
OCTOBER 23, 2017
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