Swatara Rail-Trail
April 8, 2016
Switchback Railroad Trail
April 12, 2016

Stony Valley Railroad Grade

This is a 21.5-mile (35km) railroad grade that forms part of the list of the oldest rail-trails in the state of Pennsylvania. It came into being after The Pennsylvania Game Commission acquired the portion of land where Stony Valley Railroad Grade rests in 1945 and this is what led to the conversion of Susquehanna and Schuylkill Railroad corridor to a rail trail.

Since then, the trail has not experienced any major evolution apart from clearing of blockage and upkeep of washouts. Formerly known as St. Anthony’s Wilderness, Stony Creek Valley was once a beehive of activities after coal deposits were discovered in the area. This led to the establishment of five towns in this area.

In the 1850s the Schuylkill & Susquehanna Railroad was built to aid in transportation of coal to the canals. The presence of the healing mineral waters of Cold Springs was the other attraction in this area and tourists would throng this place to have a taste of these clear waters. The means of transport for these tourists was the same railroad that served the mines.

As Cold Spring waters became famous, a grand resort with 200 rooms was set up targeting rich tourists from Philadelphia. These activities made the valley alive for a long period of time and this was until 1944 when the mines were finally depleted and the railroad ceased its operations. The once famous resort also burned down marking the end of major activities that led to the birth of cities around here.

Stone Valley Railroad Grade passes through 44,342 acres of open land that is rich in wildlife. Therefore, accessing the trail will not only be filled with the usual activities you expect to take part in when using similar trails elsewhere but will be coupled with much more. As your eyes feast on the wildlife available here, you will also be able to see remains of the foundation of the grand resort.

Most of the other establishments within the valley have disappeared with time hence, there is little evidence you can gather about their existence when using the trail. Some of the activities you can take part in include fishing, horseback riding, hiking, hunting and biking. In winter, you can go snowmobiling or cross country skiing.

Provision has been made for a hunting season at the valley and during this time, bicycle and horseback riding is not allowed on the trail. One also needs to produce relevant documents, if they want to go hunting. The trail is also open to motor vehicles once a year which is the unique thing about this trail compared to others. You will hardly find this offer elsewhere.

Picnic areas, bathrooms and benches are not available along this trail due to the fact that it is underdeveloped. Hence, you will mainly be treated to a nature walk when you visit the place, which is good enough for dog walking also. It will also be important to check with the commission before visiting whether you can engage in certain activities at a specific season, since it might be that time of the year when restrictions have been imposed on some of them.

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