Public Lands Ride: Big Woods Trail

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PEC’s Public Lands Ride is about celebrating the Pennsylvania outdoors on two wheels. For those who can’t make it to the September 30th group ride at beautiful Black Moshannon State Park – or who just want to get in some more miles closer to home – PEC has created a series of GPS-guided routes you can ride any time. The newest virtual ride, “The Philly Classic,” explores the Philadelphia area along city streets, backroads, and parts of the Circuit Trails network including the Schuylkill River Trail and the Wissahickon Bike Trail. Learn more about the Public Lands Ride and check out other virtual routes here

Route Overview

Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPA) may not be on your top destination for rugged trails, but this ride through parts of Hopewell Big Woods – SEPA’s largest remaining tract of contiguous forest – may just make you reconsider. Beyond the 3,000+ feet of elevation gain in just under 30 miles, chunky sections of singletrack, and gorgeous views of French Creek State Park, this route also gives riders a sense of the industrial history of eastern Pennsylvania as it takes you through the small town of Birdsboro and the nearby Birdsboro Preserve. For history buffs, the Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site is just off-route and well worth a visit.

*A word of warning: this ride is best done on a mountain bike. It is possible to do it on a gravel bike with thick tires, but you will likely end up walking several stretches.*

 Route Description

The ride begins and ends at the French Creek State Park Office off Park Road, so feel free to park there for the day while you explore the Big Woods. The first two miles are nice and easy, taking you uphill along paved Park Road. Be careful merging onto Chestnut Road (PA Route 345), continuing straight for about two tenths of a mile before turning right onto Shed Road.

Enjoy the shade and scenery along the Lenape Trail.

Immediately after turning onto Shed Road, take another quick right onto the Lenape Trail, your first unpaved riding of the day. The Lenape Trail continues to rise gradually. In about half a mile continue left onto the Mill Creek Trail. From here you can either continue onto the Racoon Trail, which spits you out at Hopewell Road, or do a couple more loops on the trails east of Shed Road. Either way, you’ll want to eventually end up back at the intersection of Chestnut Road and Shed Road to continue your ride on the Lenape Trail west of Chestnut Road.

This stretch of the Lenape Trail takes you downhill toward Scotts Run Lake, skirting the French Creek State Park campground as you go. Once you pass the campground, it’s about a mile to Scotts Run Lake, which is a great place to take a breather and enjoy the scenery. There are picnic tables and benches near the shore in case you brought snacks. Again, here you can either follow the route by taking the Horseshoe Trail from where it splits with the Lenape Trail at the parking lot or explore more of the interior of the park by taking the Horseshoe Trail to the Boone Trail south of the lake. The Horseshoe Trail is a 140-mile hiking, biking, and pedestrian trail that connects Valley Forge National Historic Park to the Appalachian Trail in Dauphin County.

Stop for a breather at Scotts Run Lake.

Either way, link back up with the Horseshoe Trail near Fire Tower Road and continue for about a quarter of a mile before taking a right onto the Sixpenny Trail. The next two miles are beautiful, taking you uphill and then down through deep, dense second growth forest.

You’re now about halfway through your ride and back on pavement as you fly downhill toward Birdsboro. As soon as you pass the Firehouse, take a right onto Crusher Road and then a quick left onto the Hopewell Big Woods Trail, which is part of the 850+ mile Circuit Trails network. This paved trail continues the descent toward the Schuylkill River for just under two miles and puts you directly onto the Schuylkill River Trail (SRT), which spans 120 miles (75 miles complete) from Frackville in Schuylkill County all the way to Philadelphia. Take a left on the SRT, breaking off for a loop along the gravel trail around Union Meadows if you choose, before merging onto Armorcast Road in about three miles.

The next two miles take you through Birdsboro. If you’re hungry, stop for a bite and a beer at Italian Delite just off Furnace Street. Take in the current and former industrial sites and infrastructure typical of this part of Pennsylvania. At Rustic Park, you have the option of either turning left up Hopewell Street or exploring the Birdsboro Preserve. There is a lot of great mountain biking on the Cocalico / Jelly Time / Ridge Runner trail system, and the Birdsboro Quarry offers some particularly spectacular views. Just be warned that these jaunts are off-route and may require steep sections or fording Hay Creek with your bike.

Make a quick detour to explore Birdsboro Preserve.

Once you’re on Hopewell Road, be prepared for your steepest and longest climb of the day. The next three miles take you steadily uphill, averaging between 5-7% grade. Just south of Davidheiser Road, take a right onto an unmarked trail into Birdsboro Preserve for some more off-road single and double track.

Keep your eyes peeled for the Horseshoe Trail to take you back to French Creek State Park.

There are a lot of trails traversing this part of the preserve, so keep your head on a swivel and your eyes peeled for the yellow blazes of the Horseshoe Trail. In about a mile, turn left onto the Horseshoe Trail, which takes you downhill onto Geigertown Road. Be aware that the final descent onto Geigertown Road is steep.

Now you’re on the home stretch! Continue up Geigertown Road for about a mile before turning right onto Chestnut Road then veering left onto Park Road to take you back to the French Creek State Park Office.

It’s worth noting that if you veer off-course onto Shed Road instead of back onto Park Road, in about a mile you’ll end up at the Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. Hopewell Furnace, designated a National Historic Site by the National Parks Service, showcases the industrial operations of one of the “iron plantations” that laid the foundation for the transformation of the United States into an industrial giant in the roughly hundred years leading up to and following the Revolutionary War. If the weather’s nice (between Memorial Day and Labor Day), take a dip to cool off at the French Creek State Park public swimming pool before heading home.


The Pennsylvania Environmental Council Public Lands Ride is a mixed surface, non-competitive cycling event that seeks to showcase Pennsylvania’s public lands. There are two different ways to participate — register for the in-person group ride at Black Moshannon State Park on September 30, 2023, or explore featured routes on your own, whenever you want. Follow @PublicLandsRide on Instagram to stay up to date.

No matter how you participate, don’t forget to tag us @pecpubliclandsride with your photos!


PEC is providing this information to help encourage people to experience the recreational opportunities Pennsylvania’s public lands have to offer, but please remember that outdoor activities – including bicycling on or off road – require serious safety and compliance considerations.

The routes identified in the information and maps provided are meant as informal suggestions only and do not designate any official bikeway. Nor do we guarantee the accessibility, condition, or fitness of these routes at any time, which can be impacted by use, weather, debris, traffic, or other factors beyond our control. It is the responsibility of the rider to remain alert to conditions and safety considerations, and to be aware of and comply with all safety and usage requirements of the PA Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, PA Game Commission, or other public and private landowners.