The Chester Valley Trail Extension is officially open for business. Though skies were gray and threatening, the rain held off, allowing local dignitaries to officially open the newest Philly-area trail. This paved path connects the Chester Valley and Schuylkill River Trails, providing a continuous hiking and biking route from Chester County to the Philadelphia Art Museum.
Connecting Trails, and Counties
The Philadelphia area is home to hundreds of miles of trails, but few are connected. Now two of the area’s most popular trails have been linked, providing greater opportunity for residents who want an alternative way to get around or simply easier access to more places to explore. Most of the almost 15-mile Chester Valley Trail is located in Chester County; just over a mile is in Montgomery County. Portions of the trail have historical relevance: it runs parallel to some paths taken by General George Washington in September of 1777.
The Schuylkill River Trail had the honor in 2015 of being named the Best Urban Trail by USA Today. More than 75 miles long, this National Recreation Trail will eventually (when all portions are connected) include more than 120 miles of trail. Following the path of the Schuylkill River from its origin in Schuylkill County, the complete trail will pass through Berks, Chester, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties. (Today, more than 25 miles of continuous trail runs through Montgomery County, from Mont Clare to Fort Mifflin in Philadelphia.)
For the most part, these trails are considered “rail trails,” former railroad beds (in this case, the former Pennsylvania Railroad) converted to paved or crushed stone multi-use paths; (though some trail sections follows city streets). They pass through numerous townships and boroughs, offering numerous places to rest, eat and explore. The joining of these trails further expands the Circuit Trails network, which boasts hundreds of miles of interconnected multi-use trails in the Philadelphia area alone.
While multi-use paths are designed for almost anyone to use, they are especially popular with bicyclists. The new Chester Valley Trail Extension will make it even easier for commuters to bike from their homes (or convenient parking lots such as the park and ride in King of Prussia) or even to shop. For those using the trails for exercise (either on foot or wheels), it’s good to know that the extension also provides a built in way to work off calories while traveling to or from one of the many great restaurants in towns along the trail.
Making Outdoor Recreation More Accessible
The Chester Valley Trail Extension not only connects two very popular trails in two separate counties, but perhaps more importantly, it also opens up outdoor recreation to a largely under-served population: those living in urban areas. The benefits of outdoor recreation are well known – exercising in the outdoors and spending time in green spaces have proven benefits to both physical and mental health. This new connection to the city of Norristown will provide more people with access to outdoor opportunities.
For those who were wondering, Montgomery County Commissioner Chair Ken Lawrence confirmed that the new 3.8-mile trail will be part of the upcoming Montco Trail Challenge. If you haven’t participated before, the challenge is a great way to explore new trails while enjoying fresh air and the wonderful sights and sounds of nature. We’ll be out on the trails again this year and will share here and on our Instagram page (@getoutsidephilly) when more information on how to sign up is available.
Other upcoming area trail news includes plans from Montgomery County to renovate the Norristown Freight Station into a new Trail Junction Center, and the addition of another connecting trail, this time to Valley Forge National Historic Park!