Crow’s Nest: Another kind of trail

March 28, 2022

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager.

A long straight path through the woods (Horse-Shoe Trail at Crow's Nest)

Photo: Daniel Barringer

If you’re looking for a different kind of experience at Crow’s Nest, let me suggest a stroll on the Horse-Shoe Trail. It passes through the preserve for about 3/4 mile, much of which is located on this straight and level former railroad bed. We don’t have a parking lot or kiosk at this location but you can reach it by parking carefully beside Trythall Road where the Horse-Shoe Trail crosses it.

To the east the trail takes you to St. Peter’s Village; to the West it passes through a deeply wooded section of Crow’s Nest before meandering on through State Game Lands #43. The section of railroad bed near Trythall Road is a little easier to walk on than the Creek Trail (a little muddy in the spring) or our Deep Woods Trail (rocky in this season and every other). The railroad bed was built using coal slag and is mostly smoother, wider, and better graded than our more natural trails. The further in you go the rougher it gets, but if a short hike that gets you into the woods in a short time is what you’re looking for, then this trail is ideal.

The Horse-Shoe Trail is a 140-mile long hiking and equestrian trail that starts in Valley Forge National Historical Park and ends at the Appalachian Trail. It passes through Chester, Berks, Lancaster, Lebanon, and Dauphin Counties. The Horse-Shoe Trail is marked with yellow paint blazes. We are pleased to protect and manage a small piece of this corridor.

The rest of our trails don’t (yet) connect to the Horse-Shoe Trail but it’s an easy connection to make along Northside Road if you make it through the Game Lands that far. You probably want to avoid trying to make a circuit back to the car by walking on Trythall Road as it carries more automobile traffic than the back roads, and there’s no shoulder and limited line of sight there. Most people who go hiking along the rail bed make it an out-and-back trip. Since the trail is so straight visibility is pretty far for a wooded section—you can see figures at a great distance, long before they resolve into fellow hikers.

Spring highlights along this trail include Wood Frogs calling and some of the early spring ephemeral wildflowers that grace our woods. If you continue on the trail after it leaves the former rail bed you will soon come to a crossing of Mine Run that requires a bit of rock hopping. The geology of these woods includes Diabase boulders over which Mine Run burbles. We hope you enjoy the solitude of these woods and the relative ease of getting there!