Along the 21 miles of the Heritage Rail Trail, lie small communities ready to greet you.

Whether a tasty snack, a unique lunch spot, or a refreshing libation is calling your name, a few moments exploring one of the seven York County Trail Towns, is time well spent. Following the tracks of the Northern Central Railway, experience the history of the railways, while enjoying modern and trendy accommodations along the way. Enjoy the serene majesty of the mighty Susquehanna or the beating heart of Downtown York.

From artistic and edgy beauty in Glen Rock, to the bustling businesses of New Freedom, Seven Valleys, and Hanover, to the history of Railroad and Wrightsville, and a variety of cultural adventures in York City, we welcome trail users to stop and visit.
Each community welcomes long-distance bikers, families, casual walkers, and runners, and many are even pet friendly!

What Is a Trail Town?

Trail Towns are communities adjacent to public trails that choose to embrace the trail as an opportunity for economic growth and improved quality of life.  Trail Towns programs use an integrated and asset-based, economic development approach that considers each town’s existing resources, it’s character and local businesses to develop a memorable and inviting trail experience for users including residents and out of town visitors alike.

York County Economic Alliance launched the “Trail Towns Program”, to leverage the York Heritage Rail Trail as a platform and driver for economic development in towns located along or near the popular multi-use trail. Partnering with the York County Department of Parks, the York County Rail Trail Authority, Explore York, and our municipal partners, the Trail Towns Program is a collaborative process with outreach to local governments, residents and business owners in order for each town to reach its potential as a vibrant hub for trail users. 

Stay Connected

York County Trail Towns
York County Trail Towns3 days ago

In this webinar we'll hear from businesses who collaborate with others to benefit each other and the community. Panelists include Kate Harmon of Working Class, Jen Heasley of Sweet Mama's Mambo Sauce, Melissa Rosario McGarry of Cornerstone Barbershop, and Jess Weikert...

York County Trail Towns
York County Trail Towns4 days ago

We need your help! Please submit your suggestions of who to feature through this form by August 29:
To view the 2021 Changemaker edition:

York County Trail Towns
York County Trail Towns2 weeks ago

Unique to Downtown York’s business community is the collaborative spirit among small business owners. Whether working together to bring a special event to Downtown York, cross promoting each other’s events or specials, or providing advice and best practices, Downtown York businesses understand that a rising...

York County Trail Towns
York County Trail Towns3 weeks ago

Come join us on August 13 in one of our newest Trail Towns, Hanover Borough! Partners and vendors will table and provide information on what it means to get outdoors in the Hanover area.

Learn about the outdoor recreational opportunities and...

York County Trail Towns
York County Trail Towns3 weeks ago

If you’re visiting the York State Fair this week, be sure to stop by the model train area. You just may see a replica of Northern Central Railway’s (formerly Steam into History) iconic storefront and station, a familiar site to trail visitors in the York...

York County Trail Towns
York County Trail Towns1 month ago

DON'T MISS OUT ON THIS- Join VIRTUALLY on July 20, 2022 from 8:30-9:30am for Downtown York, PA's BLOOM Business Series webinar, “From Pains to Gains”. You'll hear from local small business owners who have expanded their offerings, and the opportunities and challenges that led to...

Want To Learn More?

Contact our team to learn more and get involved. 

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Education Benefits

Trails of all kinds offer layers of benefits, an often overlooked one is the opportunity to educate its users. Providing signage, programs or events that present information about natural resources, the history of the area, or cultural resources along the trail or a specific site enriches the personal experience and can encourage further exploration or increase awareness and stewardship.

Social Capital Benefits

Expanding on the theme of the community identity and civic pride is social capital. Social capital is the effective functioning of social groups in a place through interpersonal relationships, a shared sense of identity, and a shared understanding that leads to a positive product, benefits, or outcome. It is similar to financial capital but within a group of people or community – it’s personal. Trails function to bring people together through shared experience and therefore generate and enhance an area’s social capital. Having adequate social capital can be very beneficial when a community is met with a challenge requiring collaboration, cooperation, or common action among residents.

Rail trails have been called the 21st century’s “town square”, representing meeting places to socialize, exchange ideas, and get to know their neighbors. In this way, trails can capitalize on the social capital that they create and enhance community communications and interactions.

Heritage Preservation/Community Identity

Rail trails also represent an opportunity to celebrate the heritage and history of towns located on the trail. The preservation and restoration of historic buildings and other man-made structures (like rail tunnels,
bridges, etc.) can enhance a community’s identity, highlight historical figures and events and generally boost civic pride. A popular rail-trail can encourage the rehabilitation and reuse of historic buildings; these types of activities are catalysts for future community preservation projects of other buildings.

Reuse and rehabilitation of historic resources enable those assets to continue to contribute to their community and will offer succeeding generations the opportunity to appreciate the history of places that the rail trail passes through.

Conservation & Environmental Benefits

Rail trails are linear greenspaces with all the expected and traditional conservation benefits of open space. They help preserve important natural landscapes, provide needed links to create wildlife corridors between fragmented habitats, and offer important opportunities for protecting plant and animal species. Rail trails that lie along watercourses (like the HRTCP) are also assets in the preservation and protection of wetlands and the improvement of water quality. When used as transportation alternatives to the auto, as noted above, trails can also help with improved air quality. In addition, they can allow humans to experience nature with minimal environmental impact.

Providing opportunities for people to experience and interact with nature fosters appreciation for natural resources and increase the likelihood of those people supporting efforts to preserve and sustain those resources. This support can then be leveraged for environmental stewardship activities.

Transportation Benefits

A rail-trail, with its easy-to-cycle grades and off-road character, is an excellent transportation option with several transportation-specific benefits. As a transportation corridor, the trail provides accessible and safe routes for people to use for work trips or errands, trips to community facilities like local parks or the library, to go to school (primary, secondary and post-secondary), for some shopping trips, or for visiting friends.

Trails are community connectors, within communities and between communities. Rail trails, due to historic alignments that typically went through the middle of towns, offer easy mobility into town centers. This facilitates the exploration of nearby towns without the use of cars.

Health & Wellness Benefits

Pennsylvania has the 24th highest adult obesity rate in the nation and the 14th highest obesity rate for youth ages 10 to 17 a clear indication that Pennsylvanians (and Americans in general) don’t engage in physical activity as much as we should. In fact, only 50% of adults in the United States meet the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommended guidelines for physical activity: 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week, or its equivalent.

By contrast, physical activity, such as walking, running or cycling on a trail, can prevent the development of chronic disease or the progression of existing health conditions.

Along with reducing the risk of disease, physical activity has also been shown to improve individuals’ sleep, functioning and overall wellness. A single instance of physical activity can decrease blood pressure and anxiety symptoms while improving sleep, insulin sensitivity and cognition throughout the day the activity is performed.

Rail trails are non-discriminatory towards people, they benefit people of all ages, abilities, gender, ethnicity or race and are free! They are particularly suitable for families to exercise together, being accessible and safe for children. As attractive places to walk and bike, they are desirable to use and studies find people are more likely to exercise on a scenic trail giving them the added benefit of being in touch with nature. Trails provide a cost-effective way to exercise and provide a place for people to see others doing physical activities – a visible social support, which researchers have found to be an effective tool to encourage participation in physical activity.

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