Biking is a fun — and healthy — way to see PA.
by Beth Kaszuba
Bicycling is a great workout — adaptable to all fitness levels, good for the muscles and cardiovascular system and safe for the joints in motion. Biking also lets you explore a variety of terrains and sights, from picturesque woodlands to city streets. Last but not least, you can ride as a family, a group or solo and still have fun.
Here are a few local routes that range from short to long, easy to challenging and rural to urban.
Capital Area Greenbelt
If you’re looking for a relatively flat trail with lots of variety, check out this 20-mile loop through and around Harrisburg. The Greenbelt will take you along the Susquehanna River and through wooded areas, urban office parks, residential neighborhoods and scenic parks, including Reservoir Park and Wildwood Park. Parts of the trail share the road, but most of the loop is on dedicated paths. You’ll also encounter gravel in a few spots. Parking is available all along the route, but the best spot to drop your car is probably the spacious lot on the Harrisburg Area Community College campus along Industrial Road. Plan your route using maps available at caga.org/the-trail.
Rail trails are suitable for cyclists of all levels. They’re usually relatively flat, because they trace historic railroad and sometimes canal routes. But what they lack in hills, they often make up for in potential length, depending on how far you want to pedal.
For example, if you’re ambitious, you could follow the scenic, gravel D&L Rail Trail for more than 140 miles through eastern Pennsylvania. If that’s too far for your taste, explore the local NEPA sections, which run through Lehigh, Carbon and Luzerne counties. One of the most scenic sections heads straight through the Lehigh Valley Gorge, where you’ll see waterfalls and spot some wildlife, if you’re lucky. The northern trailhead is located in Mountain Top. Learn more about trail access and parking at DelawareAndLehigh.org.
For a guaranteed flat, fast and short ride, try the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail, which connects Lewisburg and Mifflinburg — just under 20 miles roundtrip, without a single significant hill. You can also stop for ice cream, or a cold beer, at several locations along the route and at the trailheads. Easily accessible parking areas are available in both towns. Learn more at www.visitcentralpa.org/things-to-do/outdoor-recreation/buffalo-valley-rail-trail.
Mountain Biking in Geisinger’s Stewardship Forest
Ready for an adventure, right in our backyard? Tune up your mountain bike and explore 300 acres nestled behind Geisinger Medical Center in Danville. With trail names like Life Flight, Amnesia and Concussion, you know you’re in for a (potentially) wild ride — or hike, because the hilly, wooded trails are multi-use. Start at the information kiosk, where you can pick up a color-coded map compiled by Geisinger’s Sports Medicine Department to make sure you’re armed with important information like distances and elevations for each of the routes. Parking is available in the Geisinger lot off Powder Mill Road. Learn more at geisinger.org/sites/stewardship-forest.