Our 13-mile route was mostly on trail, giving the six of us a chance to chat rather than keep a mindful eye on motorists and making sure we didn’t miss a turn. Even better, we got to explore a section of the D&L Heritage Trail that is now fully open to Bristol, unlike our (still-fun) experience last year that involved following some dirt trails to get around blockages. Plus this will soon officially become part of the East Coast Greenway. What an improvement on the Trenton-to-Philadelphia route we rode a few years ago!
Here’s how we did it:
We met just south of the Calhoun Street Bridge in Morrisville, PA. The D&L trailhead (with nice bathrooms!) is between the bridge and a blue water tower, but you’ll find much more parking on the other side of the water tower, all on Delmor Avenue. If you’re taking the train, get off in Trenton, bike through downtown and walk your bike across the Calhoun Street Bridge.
You can pick up the trail by the bathrooms, but we just biked past the side of one house on Maple Avenue and turned left onto the canal towpath. We’re talking maybe 10 seconds, so don’t go charging up!
It’s an unpaved old canal towpath with reddish finely crushed stone along much of it. I was the odd one out with a road bike and 28mm tires, which was fine. Everyone else was on a version of a hybrid.
It’s not far until the trail ends in the back of some business — go through the parking lot and cross the road (Pennsylvania Avenue) and take the steps back down to the canal. That sounds like a pain, but there’s a spot along the steps for your bike wheels. I bet there’s a road detour, but why bother? Equally, don’t expect signage directing you across the midblock road crossing.
We soon found the first of the improvements — this tunnel under railroad tracks. Awesome! (OK, I admit we didn’t walk our bikes. There also was no one else there.)
The second improvement is less obvious because it looks like the trail. Hint: it’s the loop that takes you down toward the railroad tracks (with a barrier by the tracks) to get under Tyburn Road.
While it’s generally lovely riding along the old Delaware Canal, often in the shade, away from the craziness and noise of U.S. 13 a block away, spotting a blue heron finding a new place to rest plus turtles sunning themselves on a log, and with road crossings that are easy to navigate, it does get a little tricky at times.
The first is by the big box stores opposite the Levittown train station (that’s Septa, for those not familiar with Philadelphia-area transit). Levittown, by the way, is one of the first planned communities, built in the 1950s.
Coming from Morrisville, the trail seems to end at the road along the shopping center (Levittown Parkway). Go left to the traffic light by the train station (away from the side entrance to the shopping center), cross and go right, back along the shopping center property for a handful of yards until you see that familiar reddish stone dust and perhaps notice a round red and white D&L sign — pretty much opposite where you’d popped out of the trail. Sorry, no signage walking you through all of this — can that please change?
The second tricky spot is when you’re almost in Bristol. This also desperately needs signage. The trail dumps you out on a sidewalk along U.S. 13. (Warning when going north — it’s a narrow opening and easy to miss.) Take it a few hundred yards to the traffic lights. This is where there’s a turnoff for I-95 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike. There’s an Amish market on your far left. Hit the pedestrian button and patiently wait until you can cross U.S. 13. Go a few yards further on the sidepath until you come to the button for the flashing pedestrian lights that let you cross and return to the trail by the Amish market.
Once you get to Bristol, it’s much easier. You can always get on quiet residential roads if the path seems unclear. No matter what, it will end as you get to the top end of downtown. You will want to be on Pond Street or Old U.S. 13. We took Old U.S. 13, though I guess you could take Otter. They will meet shortly before a difficult-looking intersection. We opted to hit the pedestrian button and go left across railroad tracks and through the Altuglas or Dow Chemical parking lot (shhh!) instead Otter and left on 413 for a few yards. It just felt much safer.
Either way, there is a traffic light at the intersection with State Road. We took State and then turned left onto River Road in perhaps a minute. Almost no traffic! We continued until Cedar; go right for a couple of blocks and the brewery is there on your right. Another place with bad signage — you’d miss the brewery if you didn’t know it was there.
River Road was so pleasant that we didn’t bother exploring State Road (or residential roads plus State Road) as an alternative on the way back. And anyway, River Road is the East Coast Greenway route.
(The East Coast Greenway route passes the brewery and continues south on State Road for about another 6 miles into Philadelphia and the next turn.)
Now for the beer
So what did we find once we got to Neshaminy Creek?
Yes, there is a milkshake latte beer, called Hazy Coffee Jawn Latte. A friend who teases the Brit about his weird beers (which are really just normal craft IPAs) surprised me by ordering that one. She says she loves lattes, so OK. And the smell of coffee was unmistakable. (As a non-coffee drinker, I passed on tasting it.)
By the way, Jawn (or J.A.W.N) makes a few appearances in the beer selection; it stands for Juicy Ale With Nugget (a type of hops).
No one ordered the CBD Kombucha. I guess my choice was the next oddest: the cherry Berliner Weisse, a German-style wheat ale with tart cherries that tasted to me more like cherry juice than beer. I can handle a 4-ounce draft for $2.50!
There’s actually an incredibly wide assortment of beers here, including lagers, ales and great IPAs. Truly something for everyone, no matter how adventurous you want to be.
One thing you may not find is food. A food truck comes on Saturdays and Sundays, but not at the noon opening, which is when we arrived. We packed snacks, but next time I would think about stopping in Bristol first, whether to sit, picnic or bring to the brewery (it’s maybe 3 miles from downtown) or perhaps heading to State Road for this apparently delicious hole-in-the-wall called Old Croyon Cafe. (Bristol’s downtown is cute and definitely worth a ride, even if you don’t want food. Plus it leads you to the Delaware River.)
And when you tire of whatever is on TV at Neshaminy Creek, there’s this. Because, you know, hipsters.
The ride’s not long enough? When we got back to Morrisville, we decided to bike a few miles further north, to Yardley. The trail seems unusually wide at this point; hope I succeeded in dodging the frog (toad?) I spotted at the last second who was in the middle of the trail, immobile.
We ended up at Cramer’s Bakery, an 70ish-year-old business a block from the trail. Ganache brownie — yum!