Pennsylvania’s 120 parks make this the third largest state park system in the U.S. More than half the land is state forest, which means you’re never more than 25 miles from one of thousands of trails, each offering something different. Views, terrain, wildlife and degree of difficulty vary from region to region, park to park and trail to trail. Some are scenic and leisurely, while others are self-guiding and educational and still others offer the challenge of a rigorous and vigorous climb. There is literally something for everyone, from bird watchers to backpackers, rookie to rock climber.
Over the river and through the woods
The world-famous Appalachian Trail runs through the eastern part of the state and the beautiful Cumberland Valley, where 13 miles of the trail is a “thru-hiker’s dream” with its easy, flat surfaces and easily accessible parking and trailheads. While in the area, visit the only museum dedicated to hiking — the Appalachian Trail Museum — located in a 200-year-old gristmill.
The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania (Yes, you read that correctly. Pennsylvania has a grand canyon, too.) is located in Pine Creek Gorge and offers breathtaking views and invigorating hiking trails. The West Rim Trail, which runs 30 miles along the western rim of the canyon, is 2,000 feet across at its widest point and 800 feet tall at its highest.
A trek around the 1.7-mile nature trail on Shikellamy Overlook in Shikellamy State Park winds through different stages of forest growth, from scrub forest to mature hardwood forest, and offers not only the opportunity to see a variety of wildlife and wildflowers, but unique geologic formations as well.
Rock outcroppings, waterfalls and thick vegetation make the deep, steep-walled gorge at Lehigh Gorge State Park an impressive place to explore. Discover the area through 26 miles of easy trails that amble along the Lehigh River.
If beaches are more your scene, check out Presque Isle State Park where sandy trails along the water abound. Presque Isle is French for "almost an island," and when you visit it, you’ll see why. The peninsula juts out into Lake Erie and has 11 miles of trails that meander through everything from wooded swamps to oak-maple forests to lagoons. Keep an eye out for an old World War II firing range used for training on the North Pier Trail.