Thursday, March 22, 2012

Five Great Berks County Walks and Rides this Spring

WalkBikeBerks Board Members share their favorite springtime walks and rides in beautiful Berks County.

1. Thun Trail / Union Township Loop :: Easy :: 2 miles

This loop off of the Birdsboro to Pottstown segment of the Thun Trail circles an old Schuylkill River silt basin. Access is via the trailhead behind Tim's Ugly Mug Bar & Grille on Rte 724. Here you will find restrooms with flush toilets, a large, lighted parking lot, a picnic pavilion, pedestrian bridges over the former Schuylkill canal, and a boat ramp into the Schuylkill River—all handicapped accessible. The trail is wide enough to allow three bicycles to ride side by side and families to walk together.

After finishing the loop, continue south along the Thun Trail toward Douglassville to visit Berks County's first settlement, Morlatton Village. The picturesque historical site features several eighteenth century buildings open during special events.

2. Thun Trail / Reading to Gibraltar :: Easy :: 5.8 miles

This relatively flat segment of the Thun Trail crosses a number of old railroad bridges. There is access to the trail at several points. The Reading Riverfront trailhead has parking along Riverfront Drive, near Reading Area Community College. The trailhead is at the pedestrian bridge. Just south of the city of Reading, the Brentwood Trailhead on Rt. 10, Morgantown Road has parking for almost 30 cars and is a paved segment of the trail.

For a real treat, add a stop in Gibraltar at the 1950s-themed burger and shake shop, Scoupe de Ville. Turn left off the trail onto Rte 724 at the Turkey Hill. Scoupe de Ville is less than a mile from the intersection on your right. This trail does not loop, so you will need to retrace your route back to Reading.

3. Muhlenberg Rail-Trail :: Easy :: 1.75 miles

Bustling on any fair day with a mix of walkers, joggers and bikers, the newly paved community rail-trail in Muhlenberg Township is state-of-the-art. What the trail lacks in dramatic scenery, it makes up for in appetite stimulation. After a vigorous walk or ride, you might wish to reward yourself with some famous Reading Fair mushrooms at Oliver's Place across from the Mount Laurel Road trailhead and parking area. Or you may be enticed by the warm scent of sugar and yeast as you ride behind the Dutch Maid donut bakery on Kutztown Road. Or take the Montrose Avenue ramp and walk or ride a few yards up to Elizabeth Avenue to enjoy a slice of pizza out on the terraza at Carini's restaurant.

To extend your workout beyond the short, level trail, take what WBB board member and Temple resident Emily Weidner calls the Tour d'alleys—a peaceful ride among Temple's network of back alleys. But be cautious if crossing busy Kutztown Road.

4. Oley Valley :: Easy to Moderate :: Variable Distance

Rolling hills, bucolic farmland, and well-maintained roads with low traffic volume make the Oley Valley a premier location for road riding in Berks County. The best way for first-timers to experience the roads may be with a group like the Berks County Bicycle Club. The BCBC regularly hosts rides through the Oley Valley aimed at varying skill and fitness levels. Their "social stay together" rides are especially designed for beginner and slower riders. View their ride schedule on the BCBC website.

5. Mount Penn Trails :: Moderate to Challenging :: Variable Distance

Along the east side of Mount Penn from the Antietam Dam to the firetower lies a network of single-track trails winding through dense forest that is growing in popularity among mountain bike enthusiasts. Starting from the dam parking area, the main trails are not technical, but there is approximately 400-500 feet of elevation gain in the first mile. Although you'll encounter some technical climbs and exhilirating downhills, says one rider, "there's no reason to be intimidated if you're willing to walk a tough spot here and there." Many of the secondary trails are unmarked to promote exploration, but the whole system of trails is well-maintained by local volunteers. We recommend packing your cell phone and, if you have one, a GPS.

Now it's your turn:

Click to tell us where you'll be walking and riding this spring.

We'll share your responses in an upcoming newsletter and here on our blog.


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