Meandering some 19 miles through Lebanon County is a premier long-distance trail called the Horse-Shoe Trail (marked with yellow blazes). 140 miles of path that wind through five counties and 27 townships and boroughs. Aptly named the Horse-Shoe Trail, it welcomes both equestrians and hikers. In fact, it’s the longest single equestrian trail in Pennsylvania. The Horse-Shoe Trail crosses paths with the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail at the memorial bench of Eugene D. Heisey (equestrian and long-time Horse-Shoe Trail member) before crossing the Conewago creek in State Game Land 145. The Horse-Shoe Trail exists largely through the generosity of landowners who have allowed the trail route to cross their property.
The trail guidebook provides information on accommodations, campgrounds, stores, parks, and intermediate road access points (https://cart.hstrail.org/).
History of the Horse-Shoe Trail
The Horse-Shoe Trail is a 140 mile multi-use trail that originates at Valley Forge National Park, outside of Philadelphia, and runs westward to the Appalachian Trail on top of Stony Mountain, about 12 miles north of Hershey. The western end of the trail is accessible from PA 325 via 3.3 miles of the Appalachian Trail. The Horse-Shoe trail through the Piedmont and Great Valley Region of southeastern Pennsylvania was constructed for hikers and horseback riders.
The Horse-Shoe Trail connects French Creek State Park, Warwick Park, Middle Creek Wildlife Propagation Area, Cornwall Iron Furnace, Camp Rocky Creek, Governor Dick Park, Penn Laurel Girl Scout Camp, Camp Mack Boy Scout area, and Milton Hershey School.
Henry Woolman was the founder of the Horse-Shoe Trail Club (now Conservancy) and its president from its founding in 1935 until his death in 1951. Woolman, an enthusiastic horseman, had ridden the Smokey Mountain section of the Appalachian Trail and concluded that the mountainous section of southeastern Pennsylvania was equally scenic, and should have its own trail. His proposal was to establish a trail connecting Philadelphia with the Appalachian Trail at Manada Gap. The incorporating group was made up of citizens of the five counties through which the Trail now runs. Notable among them was Charles Hazlehurst, who was the seventh man to walk the entire Appalachian Trail. He and Henry Woolman, representing hikers and horsemen respectively, devised the hyphenated name of the organization, “Horse-Shoe,” to express both interests, and the logo, a horseshoe with a moccasin across. To accommodate travelers, Henry Woolman was also instrumental in establishing youth hostels along the Trail (an early adopter of trail hostels to rest during their travels on-trail).
The history of the Trail is closely related to the development of the iron industry in this part of Pennsylvania during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The many furnaces and forges were connected by trails leading through the charcoal forests between them. Portions of these trails have survived to become today’s Horse-Shoe Trail.