National Recreation Trails Database


Trail Description Continued

The Horse-Shoe Trail is a 141 mile bridle (“Horse”) and hiking (“Shoe”) path connecting Valley Forge National Historical Park and the Schuylkill River Trail with the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. It is designated as a major greenway on the Major Greenways of Pennsylvania map and is a designated section of the proposed Highlands Trail from Connecticut to Maryland. It is also identified as a greenway of statewide significance in Pennsylvania Greenways: An Action Plan for Creating Connections since it makes connections beyond local or regional boundaries, connects major destinations or hubs such as large public natural lands, communities, cultural or historical sites, and provides long-distance recreational opportunities.
It was originally blazed (in yellow) in 1935 and is closely related to the development of the early American iron industry which was prevalent in this part of Pennsylvania during the 18th and 19th centuries. The many furnaces and forges in this area were connected by trails leading to the forests between them that were being used for charcoal, an important ingredient to iron making. Portions of these trails have survived to become today's Horse-Shoe Trail.
The 17.4 mile segment of the trail designated as a National Recreation Trail traverses Warwick County Park, State Game Lands, Crow's Nest Preserve, Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site, and French Creek State Park. It is located within the Hopewell Big Woods, which is part of the Schuylkill Highlands portion of the multi-state Highlands Region.
Warwick County Park, owned and maintained by Chester County, encompasses 535 acres of hardwood forests, meadows, wetlands, and the French Creek, a State designated Exceptional Value stream. The park contains numerous multi-use trails, including the Horse-Shoe Trail, picnic pavilions, play areas, and other active recreation facilities.
The trail is located within two of the three parcels that comprise State Game Lands No. 43, with the Crow's Nest Preserve situated between the two and connected by the Horse-Shoe Trail, which shares the alignment with the Boar's Back Trail owned by Chester County. Crow's Nest Preserve, owned and maintained by the private non-profit Natural Lands Trust, totals 612 acres of woodlands, meadows, and crop fields along French Creek. It is open to the public and is the gateway to the Hopewell Big Woods, a 73,000 acre expense of forest in southeastern Pennsylvania. It contains 7 miles of unpaved trails, part of the Hay Creek/French Creek Forest "Important Bird Area", and numerous historic farmhouse and barn structures.
Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site showcases an early American industrial landscape from natural resource extraction to land conservation. Operated from 1771 to 1883, it and other "iron plantations" laid the foundation for the transformation of the country into an industrial giant. The park's 848 acres and historic structures illustrate the business, technology, and lifestyle of the early iron industry.
The 7,730 acre French Creek State Park is the largest block of contiguous forest between Washington D.C. and New York City. It is an Important Bird Area and Important Mammal Area and also contains the Pine Swamp, a State Park Natural Area. It hosts various recreational activities, including camping, organized group tenting & cabins, picnicking, swimming, boating and fishing at two lakes totally 90 acres, hunting, 35 miles of trails including 8 miles of the Horse-Shoe Trail, mountain biking, horseback riding, disc golf, orienteering, environmental education & interpretation, and winter activities (cross-country skiing, sledding, ice fishing, & ice skating).
The Horse-Shoe Trail Conservancy, a 501(c)(3) private non-profit organization which maintains the trail, is a 100% volunteer organization. It completed a feasibility study for the portion of the trail located in Berks County in 2009 to determine how to relocate the trail from on-road locations to off-road locations and the most feasible method for permanent preservation of the trail. It is continuing to install trail posts and advanced trail crossing warning signs at road crossings along its alignment. Trail maintenance, including drainage improvements and occasional trail re-alignments, are a continuing effort.


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This website provides access to the National Recreation Trail (NRT) database, a collection of information on the various trails which have been designated as NRT's. These trails are located throughout the United States and U.S. territories. The amount of information may vary from trail to trail. If you need more information than is available on this site, please use the contact(s) listed for that trail. (If no contacts, are listed, you may request help from American Trails at

The on-line database has details on the currently designated National Recreation Trails. The NRT Program online is hosted by American Trails: