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Old 06-23-2018, 08:22 PM
184 posts, read 386,814 times
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How rough is the Enola Low Grade Trail?
I see it is crushed stone and some of the photos I find online appear to packed but its hard to tell.

We would like to bike near the river from Turkey Hill Overlook to Safe Harbor Power Overlook.
Also, we would like to try out the trail anywhere further east.

My wife and I have adult mountain bikes.
Our children are 8 & 10 yo and have smooth but wide tire wheels similar to this photo.

They have cycled on well hard packed dirt & stone before.

Is the ELG Trail loose annoying stone or well packed? (3/4" to dust Bluestone Crusher Run?)

Are some sections of the trail more suitable then others?

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Old 06-25-2018, 01:53 PM
Location: Philadelphia
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I can’t believe I never heard of this trail before! So even though I don’t have personal experience with the Enola Low Grade Trail, thanks for asking about it and bringing it to my attention. I’ll definitely add it to my list of trails to ride in the near future.

From a quick search, I turned up a little bit of information that might be useful to you. In terms of surface conditions, it appears that the smoothest section would be the roughly eight miles running through Providence Township and Quarryville Borough which was resurfaced in 2014. This article describes this segment of the trail as having a “compacted hard surface”. It looks almost like asphalt pavement in photos but is apparently something less than that.

According to the article linked above, the railroad grade was originally lined with large stone ballast when it was turned over to the local municipalities—and was basically unusable for bikes. The first resurfacing came in 2011 when Amtrak (which, I assume, previously owned the railroad grade) laid down finer crushed stone along the trail. The article described that crushed stone as being passable for “...those with mountain bikes, but not touring bikes or baby carriages”. If the remainder of the trail outside of the Providence/Quarryville section hasn’t been resurfaced since 2011, then it might be on the rough side for your children’s bikes—just depends on their tolerance level, I’d imagine.

If you’re unaware, you can get some information on bicycle facilities from Google Maps. Just bring up a map of an area, then from the menu, select Bicycling. Google color codes bicycle paths dark green if they’re hard surfaced or brown if they’re “dirt/unpaved”. I notice that the northern half of the Turkey Hill-to-Safe Harbor section is color coded brown; the southern half is color coded green. So perhaps a portion of that section was resurfaced. (Then again, Google might just be wrong.)

The disconnected section from Safe Harbor to Martic Forge is also color-coded green, by the way.

Also noteworthy if you weren’t aware: There had been a bridge near Martic Forge, but arsonists set fire to it only a couple of months ago. So the path currently dead-ends at Martic Forge, and you’d need to detour on local roads to continue onward from there.

(The bridge at Safe Harbor isn’t open either, by the way.)

I hope this information is of some help to you, and if I manage to get there soon, I’ll post an update. If you make the trip yourself and have any new information to share, please do!
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Old 06-26-2018, 10:18 AM
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The Manor Township portion (closest to Turkey Hill, the hill not the convenience store ) is as smooth stone as the well known Pine Creek Trail in Lycoming/Tioga counties, and wider. http://manortownship.net/parks/ That end should be good for the kids.

Apparently there was a court case years ago that devolved the ELG route from the county to the various townships. I know when I was last at Shenk's Ferry the part of the ELG trail behind it didn't look like fun riding.

Perhaps the ELG will grow together with other paths into a long ride similar to https://gaptrail.org/ which was once disconnected micro kingdoms until the light turned on and a sexy name was found.

Nearby, the Northwest Lancaster County River Trail (also needing a new name) is a nice route for the kids between Bainbridge and Marietta. Northwest Lancaster County River Trail The "White Cliffs of Conoy" is an attractive kid destination (they are piles of mine spoil, that goes to show you how the right name adds to the attractiveness of recreational venues). The Columbia Borough visitor center seems basically a pork barrel operation, and some traffic dodging is needed from that end so not quite as kid friendly. The tourist trap Turkey Hill ice cream visitor center is several blocks across town so not really a trail destination either.

Possibly the best ride in the area for kids in high summer, is the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail Lebanon Valley Rails to Trails starting from Colebrook and heading east then down a spur trail to Mount Gretna, across one busy road is ****** Shop (wow, how does the name of a classic century-old ice cream stand count as a bad word for this site???) and a nearby less-sanitized-than-normal town playground, watch yourself re-crossing the one busy road and the brief uphill back to the main trail, then it's all downhill back to Colebrook.
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Old 06-30-2018, 07:22 AM
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The Turkey Hill to Safe Harbor section is in excellent shape. The surface is about as good as it gets for a gravel trail, with hard packed, fine gravel on top. The ride is really scenic, but be aware that the whole route is an elevated ledge, blasted into a rock cliff on the east bank of the river. This makes for great views, but it also means that there is ZERO shade to be had. On hot summer days, it can be brutal.

The Northwest Trail is a lot shadier, and real kid friendly for the most part. The poster above is correct, the visitors center, and beginning of the trail in Columbia, is not a great place for biking with little kids. The trail winds through an industrial area, with two crossings of a major road, and a nasty set of RR tracks. A better option is to head north on rt 441, toward Marietta. Head over the mountain, just north of Columbia. As you descend the north side, you will see Chickies Rock park. Once the road levels out, look for Furnace street on the left. Turn left and take this low quality, narrow road past a few industrial building on the left, and you will find a very big gravel trail parking lot with porta-potties. This section can involve riding mostly quiet streets in Marietta, as you head north. If that isn't your idea of fun, you can find two parking areas north of town, with the second being a big park on the river.

We live pretty close to the Quarryville section of the low grade, and honestly, it is so undesirable, that we just hit it to get some exercise. The trail surface is in fair shape, and could use some care. It's compacted fine gravel with some ruts, and muddy areas. Unfortunately, there are local idiots who ignore signs and ride horses on the trail. If they ride while the trail is wet and soft, it really makes a mess of things, and make the surface miserable to ride on, once the hoof damaged surface dries up. This section is the 180* opposite of the turkey hill section, as it is largely in a deep rock cut, with very few views. The weeds are totally out of control on the sides, and there are miles of standing water, in drainage ditches, on the sides of the trail. It's sad to see that this potentially great trail is far from the asset it could be to the county, and all the local communities.
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