River Road | Lower Chanceford Township | York County
OUTSIDE OF LANCASTER COUNTY
The Mason- Dixon Trail is a 193 mile trail that spans across Pennsylvania (twice), Maryland and Delaware. The trail connects to the Appalachian Trial in the west and the Brandywine Trail in the east. Portions of the trail does follow roads but the majority are off road. The trail starts at Whiskey Springs on the Appalachian Trail in Cumberland County and goes east towards the Susquehanna River. It passes through Gifford Pinchot State Park and follows the Susquehanna to Havre de Grace, MD. The trail then crosses the river through Elk Neck State Forest in Delaware and heads north to the White Clay Creek Preserve. It then enters back into PA and ends at the Brandywine trail.
This hike, that is part of a 30 mile section the follows the Susquehanna River in York County, has so much to offer. Lock 12 is a look into the past with several interpretive signs teaching the history of the river. When the water in the river is low many of the rocks are exposed and perfect for exploring. Millcreek falls is a beautiful and tranquil spot that is popular with photographers. Once you get to the top of the ridge (which is great exercise) there are several vistas looking over the river, the Holtwood Dam and an osprey nest in the pylons. And of course all of the nature in between.
Distance: 2.95 miles semi-loop
Time: 1-2 hours
Terrain: dirt | rocks | wooded
Difficulty: medium to medium well
Activities: hiking | trail running | leashed dogs
Trail Blaze: blue
Parking: large parking lot
Restrooms: port-o-potty , but not at main parking lot
When you first enter the Historic Lock 12 Area there is a gravel lot off to the left. You can park here, but there is a larger lot closer to the trail. Just continue into the park.
To pick up the Mason Dixon Trail, follow the paved sidewalk past the swing set, to a wooden bridge crossing the stream. From there you will walk along Lock 12. You will cross another wooden bridge where the trail enters the woods.
This section of the trail is full of rocks and roots, but it is level. There are several side trails that will take you down to the Susquehanna River. When the water level is low it's a lot of fun to go out on the rocks and explore the river. It's like a maze trying to find the best path across the rocks. Be aware that if the siren goes off you should vacate the water immediately There are giant signs all along the trail warning of this.
The trail turns left as you approach a stream. This will take you around another lock and then up onto the road. You will walk down the road and cross the bridge before you cross the street to continue on the trail. There is a small section to pull off and park along this portion if you want to just check out the falls.
The trail then takes you past Mill Creek Falls. This scenic section of the trial is a level easy hike. But if you want a closer look a the falls you will need to go down a very steep hill.
The stream then turns and the trail heads uphill. This is the most difficult portion of the hike. The trail is steep and at time unstable as it switchbacks to the top of the ridge. You then continue to the left on top of the ridge. In the late fall, winter and early spring you get several view of the river and the Holtwood Dam.
The trail then switchbacks down the ridge and you will come to a powerline right of way and pass under a pylon. If you look at the pylon below this one you can see an osprey nest. Don't forget your binoculars!
You will eventually come out at the road. The Mason Dixon Trail continues down the road to the left. Go right past the Holtwood Dam (there is a parking lot and port-a potty at this section) on the road until you reach the section at Millcreek Falls. At this point you can either continue to walk down the road or go back along the trail that you started on.
From Lancaster take PA-272 S through Willow Street
Turn Right onto PA-372 West at the Buck
After crossing the Norman Wood Bridge take the first right into the parking lot.
The road sign says McCall's Ferry Rd. even though it is River Rd. (It does eventually turn into McCall's Ferry Rd)
There is a lot immediately to the left, but continue on for parking closer to trail head.