Pennsylvania has some of the richest and deepest ties to American history than any other state in the U.S. With so many local attractions, it can be difficult for visitors and residents alike to decide which ones to visit. Living in York, we have elements of American history surrounding us from every direction. If you're into exploring the outdoors, a fun way to learn about Pennsylvania history is by walking through the various heritage trails in the area. These trails are walking paths and driving routes with markers that highlight elements of a region's local cultural heritage. 

Heritage trails are an amazing way to experience an area's history and traditions firsthand. Our team members here at Your Auto Source have put together a list of the top heritage trails in the York, Pennsylvania, area, so next time you're on the look for a scenic and educational outing, you'll have four great heritage trails to choose from that are guaranteed to be fun for all ages. 

Heritage Rail Trail


Image via Flickr by tjack1995 

The first selection on our list of the top four heritage trails in the York area is the Heritage Rail Trail. As one of the main trails that runs through York, this is a great opportunity to learn all about the region's history, especially its role in the Civil War. The trail follows the path of the former Northern Central Railway, which the Union used to transport supplies to their northern soldiers that were headed down south for combat. The trail itself spans 27.4 miles, starting in the town of New Freedom and finishing right here in York. 

Most of the Heritage Rail Trail has a crushed-stone pathway. This trail attracts horseback riders in the spring and summer and cross-country skiers and snowshoers in the winter. If you start your trek in New Freedom, you can take a ride on a replica 1860s steam locomotive known as the Steam Into History ride. This experience is complete with historical reenactments and musical performances that are sure to be fun for the whole family. You can end your adventure at the John C. Rudy County Park where you have access to amenities, including restrooms, parking, and a dog park. 

Native Lands Heritage Trail

The next spot on our list of the best heritage trails around York is the Native Lands Heritage Trail in Wrightsville, Pennsylvania. This one-mile path is short enough that people of all ages can walk it with minimal physical exertion. It has multiple stops where you can learn about the history and culture of the Susquehanna people who once inhabited the region. Other stops along the trail detail the arrival of European settlers and the subsequent changes to the area's culture and infrastructure. You can also see old settlements and other sites related to the history of the Susquehanna Riverlands. 

The Native Lands Heritage Trail also has the distinction of being part of the Mason-Dixie trail, which follows the Mason-Dixie line that once separated the Union from the Confederacy during the Civil War era. The trail itself is located inside Native Lands County Park, which is over 187-acres of preserved land operated by the York County Parks and Recreation Department. Along the trail and throughout the park are plenty of amenities, including restrooms, picnic tables, and paddle craft access points. The Native Lands County Park is open year round from dawn to dusk, making this an ideal attraction no matter the season. 

MA and PA Heritage Trail

The MA and PA Heritage Trail has the distinction of running through both Maryland and Pennsylvania. This trail follows the path of the former MA and PA Railroad, which connected the cities of Baltimore and York, with smaller towns like Towson and the Long Green Valley along the way. The railroad was a crucial part of residents' livelihoods, as it transported much of their everyday necessities, with milk being one of the most common products. 

The trail has three distinct sections: Bel Air, Edgeley Grove, and Forest Hill, which each have their own attractions that emphasize the history and culture of that specific area. Other features along the trail include an overlook view of the scenic Hartford County Equestrian Center, beautiful countryside views, a dog park, and a pathway to the historic Liriodendron mansion, the summer home of Dr. Howard Kelly who helped found Johns Hopkins Medical College. A new section of the MA and PA trail is coming in spring of 2023, providing even more opportunities to enjoy the history and beauty of the region.

Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail

The final spot on our list is the Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail. This trail consists of over 20 miles of flat surfaces that are perfect for hiking or riding a bike. It starts south of York, near the Baltimore neighborhood of Cockeysville, Maryland, before making its way across the Mason-Dixon Line into New Freedom, Pennsylvania. The trail was once home to the Northern Central Railroad that transported people and cargo between Baltimore and York for 140 years. 

The Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail is a great option if you're already planning to visit the Heritage Rail Trail, as they connect just over the state line. There are plenty of amenities along the way to ensure your excursion is as convenient as possible, including restrooms, water fountains, picnic tables, and benches. Consider exploring the towns just off the trail, where you can find plenty of local restaurants and shops. Keep in mind that this is a very popular trail, so plan ahead to ensure you have enough time for parking before enjoying the serenity of the outdoors. 

And there you have it. These are our picks for the top heritage trails in and around the York, Pennsylvania, area. We hope this list comes in handy the next time you and your loved ones are searching for an active and educational outdoor outing. Did we leave out one of your favorite trails in the region? Have an idea for a future article about fun attractions near York? Contact us today at Your Auto Source and a member of our staff will be more than happy to assist you in any way possible.

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