Ride Amongst Nature: The Columbia Crossing Trailhead and Northwest River Trail


Ride Amongst Nature: The Columbia Crossing Trailhead and Northwest River Trail

No matter the season, I always feel the call to escape from the noise of the city and surround myself with the silent wonders of nature. Lancaster County has many trails and bikeways to offer, but none is so beautiful as the Northwest River Trail. With 14 miles of paths (developed and undeveloped), you can walk, run, or ride across a variety of sites and settings, guided by the historic Pennsylvania Mainline Canal on the Susquehanna River. This trail spans five municipalities and offers travelers the chance to visit many historic river cities and sites.

My partner and I have made many trips to the River Trail each year, packing day bags, plenty of water, and towing our bikes from downtown Lancaster to the Columbia Crossing Trailhead. Immediately upon arriving, you can find many activities to do along the waterfront: from boat docks and kayaking to relaxing with a Coffee and Cream drink in a rocking chair at the Trails Center, there is something for everyone in your party to enjoy at Columbia River Park. If you’re biking enthusiasts like us, you can also find public air pumps and many friendly faces to lend you a hand if you have questions or want recommendations on good sights to see.

Experience local history

One of our more recent trips took us through the Point Rock Tunnel to the Henry Clay Furnace, where we stopped to explore the historic remains. This, among many sites, are great for any local history buffs (be sure to check out the signage posted along the trail), or anyone who finds they need a scenic water break —I won’t lie, we took many of those as we made our way along the trail and wondered at the views around us. 

Take in the sights

For anyone interested in capturing the trail on camera, our favorite places to stop for pictures include Chickies Creek Bridge, Haldeman Mansion, and the Shock’s Mill Railroad Bridge. If you visit the trail in Fall, you can capture the beauty of vivid, changing leaves against the reflection of the Susquehanna River and the grand bridges that stretch across. For those who can make it to the Falmouth area, the Conewago Falls are also a great place to view and snap some photos as you eat a packed lunch!

You can see all the sites that the trail has to offer on this digital map or print your own to take along as you explore.

End with a local meal

Of course, no long bike ride can be complete in our book without a filling dinner. (If you come in the morning, checkout these local places to grab breakfast in Columbia after your sunrise adventure!) Our trail day go-to has always been Rocky’s Barbecue, which is a close walk or drive from the trailhead. We enjoy bringing our takeout to one of Columbia River Park’s many benches so we can watch the river and cool off in the breeze before packing up and heading back to the hustle and bustle of the city.

Enjoy the ride

There is so much to do and explore in Columbia, but the Northwest River Trail remains my favorite spot to visit throughout the year. Whether you like quick rides along the riverside or enjoy taking it slow to take in the sights, this trail has something for everyone to love.

Submitted by Nick / #DiscoverColumbiaStories