Created from the former Cornwall-Lebanon Railroad built by iron ore magnate Robert H. Coleman in the 1880’s, the Lebanon Valley Rail-Trail follows a route rich with social and economic history. In days gone by, special passenger trains carried visitors to the popular summer resort community of Mt. Gretna. At the turn-of-the-century the railroad provided transport to the Pennsylvania National Guard training encampment near Mt. Gretna. Eventually, passenger service ceased, and the line was acquired by the Pennsylvania Railroad. Freight service continued until Hurricane Agnes washed out sections of the track in 1972. In December 1999, LVRT acquired the corridor to develop a multiple use trail.
The Lebanon Valley Rail-Trail passes through the heart of “Pennsylvania Dutch Country”. Proceeding north from the Colebrook trailhead, trail users will follow a gentle upgrade through the pristine woodlands of the adjacent state gamelands (as always, visitors should stay on the trail and be aware of hunting seasons). South of Colebrook the scenery transitions into wide open space with extraordinary views across fields and farms.
The community of Mt. Gretna, Pa. with its Victorian style cottages and summer playhouse lies just a short distance from the trail near milepost six. Just east of Mt. Gretna is the Governor Dick Recreation Area where hiking trails lead to an 80-foot observation tower with views of the surrounding countryside. Another nearby attraction is the Cornwall Furnace National Historic Site, a revolutionary war era iron foundry.
The most unique aspect of the Lebanon Valley Rail-Trail is that all fundraising, construction management, trail maintenance and public relations is performed by an extremely dedicated core group of volunteers. Lebanon Valley Rails-to-Trail, Inc. is the non-profit organization formed in 1996 to spearhead this rail-trail’s development and management. Operating in a county without a public parks and recreation department, LVRT filled the void with volunteer effort and “sweat equity”. Local legislators were so impressed by the public support and the success of a private fundraising campaign which raised over $300,000 dollars for the first phase of the trail, that they responded by providing state grants to extend and complete development of subsequent sections.
The first five miles of the LVRT between Colebrook and State Route 72 were completed in the Fall of 2000. In 2002, two more sections were developed using TEA-21 transportation funds. In 2004, work was completed on the “missing link” between Route 72 and Cornwall including the rehabilitation of a historic 130-foot iron truss bridge. Today, the LVRT is continuous for 12.5 miles from the Lebanon/Lancaster County line to Whitman Road in Cornwall. At the southern end, the trail connects with the Conewago Recreation Trail which continues another five miles into Lancaster County.
• Surface is crushed stone w/ parallel equestrian path.
• Parking Areas are located at Cornwall (Route 419), Colebrook (Route 117) and Lawn (Lawn Road)
Gretna Spur Trail
Construction began in April 2006 on a connector spur trail between the LVRT and the community of Mt. Gretna. Following the path of the Mt. Gretna Narrow Gauge Railroad, this spur passes directly behind the original Mt. Gretna Park grounds. Several remnants of this by-gone era are still visible in this area including a fountain and foundation for the original Mt. Gretna station.
The new spur trail will provide a means of safe access to Mt. Gretna
points-of-interest for trail users.
Trail Construction Update
Extension to City of Lebanon Planned for
Acquisition and construction of a 2.5 mile extension to the LVRT. Beginning at the northern terminus of the existing rail-trail near Zinns Mill Road, the trail would continue north into the City of Lebanon, passing within close proximity to the Lebanon Expo Center at Evergreen Road, South Hills Park in South Lebanon Township, as well as both Lebanon High School and Cedar Crest High School.
The former Cornwall Industrial Track was recently acquired from the RJ Corman Railroad Co. This line was used by Conrail to service the former Alcoa plant in South Lebanon.
Trail improvements will consist of a 10-foot wide bituminous paved surface suitable for all non-motorized recreational uses. A parallel equestrian path would also be cleared within the acquired corridor. The project will include installation of a new above-grade bicycle/pedestrian bridge across Wilhelm Ave in South Lebanon Township.
Construction of this extension is estimated to cost approximately $575,000. Trail construction funding has been identified by the Lebanon County MPO within the current round of transportation enhancements eligible for Federal Highway Administration funding.
Lebanon Valley Rails-to-Trails, Inc. is financially responsible for all pre-construction activities including the property survey and all costs associated with engineering and design to meet Federal standards. This cost will likely exceed $100,000. If you would like to help ensure this extension becomes a reality, see the Adopt-A-Foot section of this website to find out how to contribute.