Connecting two major trails is no small feat, and those 4+ miles that just opened on the Chester Valley Trail outside Philadelphia are proof. Start with building a bridge over the Schuylkill Expressway (I-76) and its four lanes plus four slip lanes. And then two more new bridges and upgrades to yet two more. And a path along I-276 separated by a tall sound barrier that works.
You get the idea. It’s a congested area.
Now you can head out from Center City Philadelphia for about 18 miles along the Schuylkill River Trail before peeling off at Norristown to ride another 18+ miles on the Chester Valley Trail to Exton (and hopefully beyond one day). The CVT generally follows what was once the Philadelphia and Reading Co.’s Chester Valley Railroad line, but if it was as easy as taking over the tracks, this trail would already be in Downingtown, the old end of the line.
We started our ride from the Norristown Transit Center (free parking in the parking garage on weekends). Admittedly it’s not the most salubrious place. You quickly cross the Schuylkill River on a sidepath along DeKalb Street/U.S. 202. Next time we may try parking at the back of the parking lot for a bike shop, a brewpub and a beer garden on the Bridgeport side. Ice cream nearby too.
I’d say it took time for many of us to warm up to the Chester Valley Trail. It felt more … utilitarian. No pretty scenery. Lots of road crossings (credit to the drivers: they often stopped before we hit the button to activate the light.) The massive King of Prussia mall is less than a half-mile off the trail. The trail was busy busy busy. Still way way better than being on the road.
One of the great things about a trail, though, is that you can talk to your riding partners. And we did, as we went past businesses, office buildings and even ball fields and cricket pitches. The Wegman’s supermarket in Malvern, where we met up with more friends, is about two-thirds of the way down the Chester Valley Trail and is a popular food stop with cyclists (and for customers arriving by bike). It ended up being our food stop on the way back too.
Maybe just a coincidence, but as the sun came out, we warmed to the trail. I loved how it not only works for recreation but also connects homes to workplaces (Chester County estimates there are 85,000+ jobs and 58,000+ residents in three townships along the trail, and it treats it as a commuter corridor, down to clearing it of snow.).
Toward the western end, you weren’t as aware that the trail is so close to major roads.
And the way back to the start seemed to fly compared to the way out.
The trail is also close to Valley Forge, so there’s plenty of Revolutionary War history to appreciate here. Who knew about the Battle of the Clouds? Oops I was too busy talking to stop and read the historical markers. Next time.
Remember that beer garden in Bridgeport? What a place to end our ride, relaxing, chatting and watching the river flow by.