The Union Canal Towpath Trail in Berks County, Pennsylvania is a popular hiking and biking spot for locals and visitors to this gorgeous area. The trail is managed by the Army Corp of Engineers and takes explorers across areas of farmland that surround the local Blue Marsh Lake. In fact, the Union Canal Trail connects to the Blue Marsh Lake trail system.
History abounds in this centuries-old area. The trail runs through part of the original Union Canal, which was 79.5 miles of a canal system running from the Schuylkill River in Reading to the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg. The system was designed in the early 1800s and completed in 1827. Since the channel was so narrow, it was not very popular with the boatsmen it was intended for. Instead, it became used more for scenery than for its original purpose of transportation, even though it cost over six million dollars (a huge expense, but even greater at that time) to complete.
Now, you and Fido can hike the entire trail in one day and explore the architecture of the historic stone buildings that are now used as businesses. The trail is comprised of an easily navigatable crushed stone surface (elevation gain not listed) and is 12 feet wide, so even if you pass the multiple bicyclists that use the trail daily, you and Fido still have plenty of room to roam. However, the trail does narrow at the entrance of the Stilling Basin.
Although the trail is a point-to-point, you and Fido can hit multiple out-and-back destinations along the way, starting at Stonecliffe Action Park on Columbia Street and heading to Berks Leisure Area, Gring's Mill, Red Bridge/Heritage Center, Paper Mill, and Reber's Bridge and turning around at any point there.
If you are interested, an interpretive walking tour brochure is available at the beginning of the trail on Court Street, and QR codes are posted along the way for your convenience.
There is no specific parking for the trail, but you can park at the eastern end at Stonecliffe Action Park along Columbia Street and at the Berks Heritage Center on Tulpehocken Road. For access to a concession stand on the weekend and entrance to the middle of the trail, you can park at Gring's Mill off Red Bridge Road, or on Rebers Bridge Road and Palisades Road. This trail is closed on holidays.