Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Warwick County Park

I've probably hiked more often in Chester County's Warwick County Park than anywhere else. Its close to me and has several different trails, so I can always find something to hold my interest. Rather than post accounts of individual hikes, in this post I'll describe the park and the trails I normally use.

Warwick runs east to west alongside PA State Route 23, and is about ten miles west of Phoenixville. There are four main trailheads I've used in the park. Going east to west, the first is on Coventryville Road. Turn left and park. The trail leads you to a marker at the location of Coventry Forge, one of the two iron forges in the park. There are no surviving furnace stacks, only the markers. The trail continues as a walk through a meadow. The trail is mown from the field. Total distance is probably a little over a mile.

Traveling to the next intersection, we reach my favorite trailhead, Mount Pleasant Road. Again turn left at the intersection and park at the trailhead on the right. From the trailhead take the path to the right. You are on the right of way of the old Sowbelly Railroad, a short lived short line that ran from Kimberton to St. Peters. The trail is wide, reasonably smooth, but not flat. It dips and rises through woods along French Creek, and then crosses into a meadow. Along the way it passes the ruins of an old railroad building.

On the other side of the meadow, you reenter woods. At first the trees are pine, but once through the stand you are back among hardwoods. The trail loops to a bench and an overlook of French Creek. The overlook is overgrown in the warm months, but when the leaves are gone you can see the 'developed' side of the park across the creek. If you don't mind getting wet you can hike down and ford the creek at the small falls. If not, turn around for a nearly three mile hike.

The next trailhead is a pull off on Route 23, about a mile from Mount Pleasant Road. Traffic is usually light enough on the highway that getting back on 23 isn't difficult, so I sometimes stop here. The trail goes down the hill in a lane of trees to intersect with the trail I've described above from the Mount Pleasant Trailhead. Turn left to enter the meadow and go to Mount Pleasant; turn right to enter the pine stand and the overlook to French Creek.

The final place I start hikes from is the main parking area. Turn onto Park Road and follow it to the park entrance. This is the 'developed' area I've mentioned, with a large paved parking area, a visitor's center, restrooms, picnic tables, and an ADA accessible fishing pier on French Creek. Hikes range in length from the half mile Meadow Trail, which loops around a meadow and leads to a bench facing the overlook on French Creek, to trails of a couple of miles running through the woods. Many of these trails intersect, so you can come up with your own routes and mileages. One of my favorites is the Iron Heritage Trail, which is a one mile trip past interpretive markers discussing the history of Warwick Furnace, the other iron forge in the park. I'm also fond of strolling along French Creek, although sometimes those trails can be swampy.

In addition to the trails I've described, the Horseshoe Trail snakes through the park. The Horseshoe Trail is a hiking path running from the top of Mount Misery in Valley Forge to Hersey. Its yellow blazed and passes to the south of French Creek. You can also access it from the Coventryville Road and Mount Pleasant Road trailheads; in each case walk on the road and its on the other side of the bridge.

A high spot of the park, literally, is the "bridge to nowhere." The park saved an old footbridge in Phoenixville and reused it as an overlook in the park. As the forest spreads it will eventually be surrounded, but for now it gives a fantastic view of the park. Whenever I visit this side of Warwick I like to climb up the hill simply so I can drink in  the view. It reminds me of why I love being outside, and love being active. The world is a beautiful place, and Warwick is a beautiful part of it.


A Taste For The Woods: 2013-11-10

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A Taste For The Woods