One of these days, maybe, Shippensburg, Pa., will be linked to Carlisle in western Cumberland Valley, Pa., with a 22-mile long cycling trail. But don’t hold your breath. The resistance of two property owners pose a hurdle for an extension of the Cumberland Valley Rail Trail to connect the two cities, said Jim Hoefler, of the Cumberland Valley Rail-Trail Council (CVRTC). It's now 13 miles long and almost all flat.
The CVRTC owns and maintains the trail aided by various government agencies, private entities and volunteers. Then-owner Conrail had donated the land to build the $5 million project, and today consists of a gravel and an asphalt surface with a short stretch of concrete.
From Newville — a quaint, unpretentious town dating from 1790 — the trail has been expanded by two miles east and ends abruptly at a grassy field. An impressive steel bridge spans Big Spring Road to avoid a highway crossing.
I planned to ride from Newville to Shippensburg and return, but there are many ways to slice and dice the adventure. There are trailheads at Newville, Oakville and Shippensburg, but cyclists can enter the trail at other entry points. At the Oakville Road intersection, there are picnic tables and directions to restrooms at the township park, which is open during daylight.
Due to my GPS’s weird reading, I ended up a few miles outside of Newville to start the ride. Focused on my smartphone’s GPS, I passed right by the trail’s entrance at Cott and Crause roads, but a Mennonite woman answered a knock on her farmhouse door nearby, and she directed me to the trailhead nearby. There I could choose to ride the five-plus miles to Newville, or almost six miles in the other direction to Shippensburg’s township park. I opted for Newville.
For the best access to the trail from Newville, go to McFarland Street and Bridge Road.There is off-street parking, picnic tables and rest rooms in an oddly designed building and a rack with trail maps. Traillink.com provided the same access information, as I learned later.
The ride alternated between shaded and open areas, but lacked the Western Maryland Rail Trail’s scenic views. Corn and soybean fields and an occasional home bordered the trail, but not much else. Wildlife? A gray tabby cat was sunning itself on the trail, but quickly scampered into the woods.
Along the trail, once the route of the Cumberland Valley Railroad, signs explain the area’s history. For example, the line gave some Civil War draftees free trips to their first duty station. Among the historical topics: farmland preservation, Cumberland Valley Agriculture, the dairy industry, enlisted soldiers and the Civil War draft, and the Cloverdale Spring Company that bottled spring water and soft drinks, which is now a PepsiCo distributor. And those amusing signs: Running Pump Road, Mud Level Road and Fish Hatchery Road.