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Tags:
Level: Intermediate
Length: 30 mi (48.3 km)
Surface: Singletrack
Configuration: Loop
Elevation: +1,452/1 ft
Total: 132 riders
 

Mountain Biking Blue Marsh

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#14 of 298 mountain bike trails in Pennsylvania
#944 in the world

This trail circles the entirety of the lake and is approximately 30 miles (not including side trails) in length. The trail is comprised of several different types of track: singletrack, doubletrack, dirt roads, and the occasional section of abandoned blacktop roads.The trail is not very technical, most sections can be ridden by beginner mountain bikers. Miles 18-22 in particular are well suited for novices as it hugs the shoreline which makes it virtually flat. This is not to say the trail is without its challenges. The length alone can be taxing to most cyclists and there are many climbs which are short in duration but steep in slope. Scenically the trail winds along the lake hugging the shore at times and veering into the woodlands at others. The trails also skirts several fields which are farmed during the warm months. The trail is multi-user and is frequented by hikers, birdwatchers and equestrians as well as bicyclists. Please keep your bike under control as there are lots of other users and many blind turns.Be sure to bring enough water, there is only one place to refill and that is inside the visitors center at a water fountain. It takes between 2-5 hours to complete the trail depending on ability and desire.

First added by TrailAPI on May 1, 2013. Last updated Aug 17, 2020. → add an update
Before you go
  • Drinking water: unknown
  • Lift service: unknown
  • Night riding: unknown
  • Pump track: unknown
  • Restrooms: yes
  • Fat bike grooming: unknown
  • E-bikes allowed: yes
  • Fee required: unknown
This trail information is user-generated. Help improve this information by suggesting a correction.
Getting there
Blue Marsh trail circles the lake of the same name in northern Berks county near Reading. Blue Marsh is located north of Reading, the trail is accessible from several trailheads. On the north side PA route 183 passes several trailheads: Penn Bern Rd., Mt. Pleasant, Church Road (this is a popular starting point), and the Sheidy Boat Launch.On the south side the lake is parrallelled by Brownsville Rd. which can be accessed off of Highway 422 by taking the State Hill exit and following State Hill Rd. out to its end and turning left onto Brownsville Rd. Trailheads on this side include: State Hill Boat Launch (FEE for parking), Old Dry Road Farm, Justa Rd., Spring Creek, Lamms Rd., and Peacock Rd.To the east Palisades Drive connects 183 and Brownsville Rd. and gives access to several official trailheads: Dry Brooks Day Use Area where a beach and picnic facilities are located (FEE for parking), Dry Brooks Boat Launch (FEE for parking), Blue Marsh Visitors Center, and Stilling Basin. The Basin is the official start of the trail and the location of the Dam.
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Blue Marsh Trail map

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Fair (on Jul 19, 2021)
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Rider questions

Q: Complete Newbie question: I'm new to bike riding (i know, I must have lived under a rock - I'm a city girl used to public transportation) and want to try something other then the small flat/paved trail in my neighborhood. I look at the map and don't even know where to begin or where the easy trail is. Can someone tell me where to park and what portion of the trail would be good for my first unpaved bike trail? Something that's easy for a beginner, but not strictly a paved road like I've already been on? Thanks!
A: Hey Elli. The best place to start the trail is at the boat landings on the eastern side of the lake. Check it out on google maps, but you can take State Hill Rd to Brownsville Rd and go down the steep road to the landings. If you are a newbie I'd advise riding from the landing NE to the dam and back. That.'' be a little hilly and rutty in areas but its a nice ride. When you get a feel for it go west by the bathroom area and start the trail from there. Its a lot more fun going west but also may take some endurance because you will be going a much longer distance. Its a great ride. 25 years ago I started mountain biking on Blue Marsh and it was a huge inspiration for me. I now work in the bicycle industry and live in Minneapolis. Enjoy and let us know how it goes!!!

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Reviews

  • 25psi   ✓ supporter
    ****

    I rode it for the first time last weekend, beginning at the stilling basin and heading clockwise, for what would be my longest MTB ride to date. I'm over 60 but I've been riding road, tri and MTB for many years and I consider myself a fairly good rider. Much of the long course is very enjoyable with a sense of remoteness and solitude. On my ride, I encountered far more equestrians than mountain bikers, but there was plenty of space for everyone. Previous reviews that I've read said the trails were "moderate", but I have to say, between the steep climbs and the eroded, washed-out downhills, this trail was tough for me. My hard tail Trek 29'er handled the terrain well, but there was no way I was going to attempt many of those climbs, especially the long, winding switchback going up to the old Blue Marsh Ski Area. I had well over a dozen hike-a-bikes, and just over 5 hours of saddle time to complete the loop. As had been previously stated by others, the signage leaves a lot to be desired, as I easily added about 2 miles due to wrong guesses at crossroads. If I can suggest any improvements, it would definitely be better directional signs. The main route wasn't as obvious as one would think it should be with a big lake to your right shoulder! Otherwise, it made for an enjoyable day in the woods.

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  • Marcosfrias
    ****

    Nice place went west in the trail to many hills goin east no so much hill

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  • cruz1n
    ***

    Not as good as it used to be... I would like to give an honest review for those of you who are contemplating riding this trail. I used to ride the main loop about 15 years ago to add cardio work into my cycling routine. It was fast flowing and hard packed single track which was a beautiful experience for that type of ride. It was my go to ride for fast paced cardio with flow. Just rode it last night into the dark and erosion has taken its toll on the once great trail. At some points, the trail is heavily grown in on the sides, and you have nothing but a 6 inch deep rut to ride in so it wasn't much fun anymore. At one point, I was up to my elbows in weeds and could hardly even see the rut I was riding in. Add to that, all the missed turns due to the poor marking at 3 and 4 way intersections on back side of the lake and I was traveling through farm fields looking for the next trail marker to no avail. Turn around and try another road. This added about 5 extra miles to my ride which ended up being almost 4 hours (I used to be able to run this loop in under 3 hours easily.) Though not technical, this is no beginners trail. I say that because a beginner is unlikely to ride up a couple of the steep hills which are loose and rutted and walking is inevitable in at least 3 or 4 places that I could remember. I could be completely wrong, but it seems to me that this trail is not getting nearly as much bike traffic as it used to (decline in interest, or maybe the trail isn't as much fun as it used to be.) I doubt I'll ride this loop anymore.

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  • Steve Heintzelman
    ****

    First time there and had a good time despite taking a gravel bike with less than ideal tire choice. Still got around the entire 25 mile lakeshore loop without much issue. A couple hike-a-bikes due to some trees down and a couple of the climbs were just too much for mostly slick tires and higher than 1:1 low gear, but if 98% of the loop was rideable on a gravel bike, it would be a real blast on a proper mountain bike. A little overgrown at some spots, but understandable as 25-30 miles of trail is a lot to maintain in summer. I think I'll love returning in the fall with a more appropriate set of tires (my gravel bike can fit 2.25"), when most of the foliage and weeds and briars are down and not crowding the trails... not to mention when its not 92F like it was today.

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  • MarkEaston
    ****

    Did this a couple years ago and didn't love it. Gave it another go today and huge difference. Going counter clockwise made for a much nicer ride. Trails are in much better shape and we'll marked. Thanks local riders! Still a killer workout and we only did the southern loop. But it was also in the low 90's with lots of exposure. Can't wait to ride this in the fall and tie in the northern loop. Not the most flowy or technical, but this is a 25 mile endurance ride. Also, parking lot at Old Chuch Rd had by far the nicest, cleanest port-a-potties I've ever seen.

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  • mhowey
    ***

    Quite a mix here. Not purpose-built for mountain bikes so a lot of the ascents are on the steep side. Singletrack and doubletrack

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  • jje949
    *****

    Did the whole loop this morning ( counterclockwise) starting at state hill boat ramp. The trails were perfect today . Just finished up a night ride ( which this place is perfect for ) once again started at state hill boat ramp rode to and around beach and back to boat ramps. Totally fun & enjoyable. LOVE THESE TRAILS !!!!!!

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  • jje949
    *****

    This is a awesome all round place to ride with many loops and various ways to get around other than on trail map . Map is spot on with mile markers every mile . Two major loops on map 26 mile loop ( which was the original loop ) the they added the top loop to make it 32 miles . Place has a lot of traditional XC trails single & double track farm trails / short steep climbs and long grinders . This is my home trail . When I want a good XC ride with good cardio this is the place to go ...... ENJOY

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  • Nick Hepler
    ***

    As this long distance trail wraps around the lake, it offers some great views of the water and the surrounding land. While this is not my style of riding, I had fun experiencing this long distance style ride. A good mix of single track with field crossings, gravel double track, and fire roads. There isn't a whole lot in the way of technical features and the trail is definitely better suited to hiking with some significant and almost impassible climbs and drops. The mile markers were helpful, however the trail could have been marked better at some places. If you're an endurance/long distance die hard, this trail is for you. If not you might want to try somewhere else better suited to more technical single track oriented riding.

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  • djf500
    ****

    Epic in length! 30 miles if you do the whole thing (which you don't need to do). Takes me just over 3 hours but plan for longer if you're new to the park since there could be some backtracking. It's marked but still confusing in certain spots. Some of the climbs are incredibly steep and long. Need some more switchbacks but it wasn't designed for mtb's! One section was apparently an old ski slope... so you'll ride up that. Makes for good descents too. Sections of flow are also mixed in with beautiful vistas of the lake. It's a really fun ride. Bring extra water as there's no place to refill your bottles. I start at the Stilling Basin & ride CW but there's lots of parking lots & options for smaller loops or out & backs.

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  • Wiggles
    *****

    I have only ran this area 3 times and each time have gotten a different experience from where I departed to the trails. Another Great thing about this trail system is that it is documented very well on google maps.
    The first time out has to be my favorite thus far, loving ascends and descends as a rider. This area of the trail is great single trial through the woods and fields. We ran it out and back for a 10-13mi ride. There are a few area's where you will stop and admire the lake (pic with bike in gallery). The gradual ascends will give way to quick downs w/ rocks and roots to challenge you. Although some are a bit rough to tackle for the whole way up, and you may dismount to hike the rest. Through the fields it is normally flatter trail with small gradual up and downs.
    We started in the day area Pavilion B? Parking on the left before you get to the beach. We picked up the lake boarder trail and took it west at the "Nature lookout" (back up the road and on the left a circle area of asphalt, on the right when coming down the hill in your car. Map link below excluding road.)
    https://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=Unknown road&daddr=40.4003618,-76.0566171 to:Lake Border Trail&hl=en&ll=40.393365,-76.057749&spn=0.029743,0.038581&sll=40.391404,-76.046591&sspn=0.029744,0.038581&geocode=FRRNaAIdYrJ3-w;Fel1aAId13d3-ykz3L3FG3XGiTGdPcpPPrkk2Q;FcZiaAIdV0F3-w&t=h&dirflg=b&mra=dpe&mrsp=1&sz=15&via=1&z=15&lci=bike

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  • Volkan Yavuz
    *****

    Very nice trail, we did the full loop. Mapmyride said 33 miles, completed in 6 hours. It was lot of fun. Great view, it gets challenging every now and then.Considering it's only 2:30 hours away from NYC. Great spot to bike at

    And it's true around miles 15-17 miles it gets steep and I had to walk a bit. Other than that it's great very well marked.

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  • micro20
    *****

    I've been riding blue marsh for a lot of years! I love riding there it's challenging and fun! Can't beat the views also. And the passing riders are very kind and always ask if u need help or just say hi in passing!

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  • jfigel76
    *****

    Should be an epic. About 30+ miles all the way around. Wide variety of terrain and great views. Took me over 3+ hours to compete. Not too technical, and I don't remember many dabs or dismounts.

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  • mtmiller302
    *****

    Loops can be done from about 10-30 miles. Average of one good climb every mile, average climb is 140 feet. Biggest hills are between miles 15.5 and 17. Most popluar loop avoids this area and results in about 22-23 miles of cross-country bliss which the average rider can do in 3-5 hours.

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  • doctor
    ****

    not much technical riding but some of the climbs can be a bear..especially when im used to riding in south jersey. lots of fun and fast when it isnt wet.

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  • Devilbane
    ****

    Blue Marsh is sweet, alot of technical on the boat launch side of the trail, nasty roots and some challenging climbs. going past the visitor's center there are a few good climbs but all in all a pretty tame ride...be sure to find the shale hill on that side...pretty tricky downhill and be sure to not end up in the lake on that hill lol...

    There is also reeber's bridge trail located just down the road from the stillway and visitor's center...very tame trail nice for beginners or just a leisure ride.

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  • nikvdw
    ****

    I decided to try my cyclocross bike here. We started about mile ten and went clockwise, including going thru the insane uphill and the flat revert back to the north side church road. Needless to say we had our hands full, especially on the cross bike, lots of dismounts and rocky jarring skidding cross ballet, roots, turtles, deer, frogs, water views, corn cliffs, switchbacks. We carried 4L of water thinking we would make it to the boat ramp. We got to church road after our 12 mile 2 hour trek thru the old ski area and ditched it and road the 5 miles back to the car dehydrated and defeated. I would definetly do the whole loop with twice the water and food. i think the 22 mile loop crossing the Church road bridge would be a perfect 2-3 hour ride. Lots of horse riders and manure on the trails by the ski area west of church road bridge. Bring bathing suit, water, food, tube, tools and have fun, this place is awesome and long, a great slightly technical calorie burner!! It took us 3.5 hours with a sto for lunch. it would take us 4-5 to do the whole loop with stops.......Anyonw who does it in under 3 hours would need a an ambulance, or didnt bother to stop and enjoy the water or all the places to stop and relax......* Review edited 9/25/2007* Review edited 9/25/2007

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  • tgcarch
    *****

    This is a great trail. I am fortunate enough to live about 10 miles from this trail. I am new to MTN biking, but I really am enjoying riding at Blue Marsh. There are esentially 2 major loops at BM, divided by Church Rd.; an 8 mi loop and a 22 mi loop. The 8 mile loop is actually called "Roadkill Hill" and is a huge, killer uphill, ("walk") followed by a break burning sweet downhill. It actually goes up the back of an old ski slope, to give you an idea of how steep and long of a climb and descent it is. The 22 mi loop is full of short to medium climbs, partially wooded, partially open meadows, some technical sections, and stream crossings, one of which is 3' deep, good luck with that one! I will post a pic of my attempt soon.

    Lots of parking lots and entry/exit points along the trail allow you to customize your ride to your time constraints, as a beginner I dont think it is possible to complete the 30 miles in 2-4hrs without needing a difibulator, and CPR, but I will keep trying.

    The main trail also has lots of smaller side loops along its length, which can make for a much longer ride than the 30 miles.

    Watch for hunters, joggers, and walkers.

    See you on the trail, sweet singletrack.

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