2019 Running Travels: All aboard the York County Heritage Rail Trail

Train comes through next to York County Heritage Rail Trail. Smoke is coming out of the top.
A train came through as I ran on the York County Heritage Rail Trail on Oct. 6. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

Around the time I ran the entire Maryland portion of the NCR Trail, I became interested in checking out the connecting Pennsylvania portion of the trail, too: the York County Heritage Rail Trail.

The Pennsylvania portion starts where the NCR Trail/Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail ends, at the Maryland-Pennsylvania state line, and continues to York.

I’d noticed the New Freedom Rail Trail Cafe on a map and thought it sounded like a cool spot. Since there wasn’t really parking around the state line (I got dropped off when I ran the entire trail), I decided I would park near the cafe. I ended up parking on a street, but there were plenty of open parking spots.

I was visiting my family in neighboring Baltimore County, Maryland, the weekend of Oct. 5-6, and I decided to do my last long-long run before the Marine Corps Marathon, a 20-miler, on this trail. I’m glad I did — it was a perfect place to run, and I did enjoy the cafe afterward.

The New Freedom trailhead was at about Mile 1.5 on the trail. I headed north for my run.

I love running on the NCR Trail in Baltimore County, but one thing that was different about this trail was that it went through more towns, which I thought was cool. I also saw some scenic views of farmland on my run.

Farmland shown behind close-up railroad tracks (the railroad tracks are higher up than the view below).
I could see views of farmland from the trail. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

I carried water in my Orange Mud Gear Vest Pro, but around Mile 15, I ran out of water. I stopped at a convenience store in Glen Rock, just a step off the trail, and bought a bottle of water to refill the hydration pack bladder.

And, there was actually a cooler with free water in it at some point on the trail, too. I didn’t get any, but it was a nice gesture.

Railroad tracks next to the York County Heritage Rail Trail, along with trees.
Railroad tracks went alongside the York County Heritage Rail Trail. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

During this run, I needed to do something to break up the 20 miles — more than four hours of running for me — since I was running alone. I ended up walking for a minute at each mile, with the walk breaks getting a little longer toward the end. Having walk breaks gave me something to look forward to. I also listened to a podcast and an audiobook.

The weather was beautiful, and it felt great to finally do a long run that wasn’t hot. There were some rain sprinkles, but it was pleasant out.

I ran 10 miles out and 10 back, and right before I got to my turnaround point, I saw a historical marker for the Birthplace of Commercial Ice Cream Production. I thought this was unique — it definitely wasn’t something I expected to come across! I also came across a painted rock on my run like the rocks from the rock project in Salisbury.

Vanessa gets a selfie next to the marker for the Birthplace of Commercial Ice Cream Production.
What an interesting spot! (Vanessa Junkin photo)

There were also different wire sculptures along the path, which at points was paved but was mostly crushed stone on the part that I traversed.

A train track goes along the trail, and I was surprised the first time I saw a train coming through. Turns out it’s the Steam into History train! I then saw the train again a little later in my run.

Once I finished my 20 miles, I was excited to check out the New Freedom Rail Trail Cafe. There, I had the Hot Chocolate on Crack and the Train Wreck croissant sandwich — yum!

Then, I headed back to my mom and stepdad’s place for more food and enjoyed spending time with my family watching the Ravens game.

The York County Heritage Rail Trail is 21 miles long, and of course, even though I ran 20 miles, I only got to see 10 miles of the trail, since I ran out and back. I definitely hope to explore the parts of the trail I haven’t made it to yet!

Another view of the York County Heritage Rail Trail, with railroad tracks on the right and trees on both sides.
Here’s a view from the York County Heritage Rail Trail. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

I set a goal to travel to at least one new-to-me place for a run each month of 2019. Here are the other places I’ve traveled to for runs this year:

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View inside the New Freedom Rail Trail Cafe, with a "New Freedom" sign prominent and to the left.
Here’s a view from inside the New Freedom Rail Trail Cafe. (Vanessa Junkin photo)