When is the best time for happy travelers to get outdoors and enjoy the beauty of Pennsylvania? It’s a simple answer. With countless trails carving through the mountains and woodlands, every day is a perfect day to spend the day exploring the great outdoors, whether embarking on a new journey through a variety of terrain or a tried and tested trail near home. Whether you prefer to hike, bike, bird watch, or sightsee, here’s a sampling of some amazing trails guaranteed to leave you breathless.
1. Schuylkill River Trail
The multi-use Schuylkill River Trail in southeastern PA will span almost 120 miles between Philadelphia and Frackville when completed. Currently, there are about 75 miles of completed sections, including a 30+ mile stretch from Philadelphia to Parkerford that’s perfect for a day-long hike or to explore over several days. In Hamburg, trail users can access a scenic seven-mile stretch to Auburn in Schuylkill County, while a 4.5-mile on-road section in Birdsboro includes old railroads offering beautiful views of the heritage area. The trail is a great way to enjoy the outdoors!
2. The Great Shamokin Path
Tracing a section of the abandoned Rural Valley Railroad corridor, the Great Shamokin Path parallels the Cowanshannock Creek for 3.5 miles. Escape the heat of a warm summer’s day beneath the trail’s canopy and be on the lookout for a variety of animals, especially when on an early morning hike. Once a major trail that connected the two largest Native American towns in Pennsylvania, hikers can walk along the trail for beautiful views of western Pennsylvania.
3. Standing Stone Trail
The 84-mile scenic Standing Stone Trail, PA’s 2016 Trail of the Year, traverses central PA ridges and valleys from Cowans Gap State Park in the south to Rothrock State Forest’s Detweiler Natural Area and the Mid-State Trail in the north. More than 80 percent of the trail traverses state owned forest and PA Game Commission game lands. Near Mount Union, be sure to climb the popular Thousand Steps portion of the trail (or 1,036 steps to be exact!) that were used by silica quarry workers almost 100 years ago and offer great views of the mountains and surrounding area.
4. Pine Creek Rail Trail
Recognized by USA Today as one of the “10 Best Places to Take a Bike Tour,” the Pine Creek Rail Trail offers outdoor adventurers a spectacular, 62-mile journey through Pine Creek Gorge, better known as the “Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania.” This historic path, once used to transport freight by train from Wellsboro to Williamsport, is also perfect for a relaxing hike with its scenic overlooks. The trail has a small grade, only around two percent, and runs mostly uphill. Even equestrians can join the fun with a section of the trail designed specifically for horses.
5. The Allegrippis Trails
Designed by mountain bikers and built by the International Mountain Bicycling Association, the stacked loops and 36 miles of single track trails that form the Allegrippis Trails at Raystown Lake is a mountain bikers paradise! The almost endless combination of routes range from easy to moderate to most difficult and designed for outdoor enthusiasts of all biking levels. Be sure to take in the stunning views of Raystown Lake and local wildlife along the ride. At nearby Trough Creek State Park, park your bike and pull on some hiking boots to trek to Balanced Rock, a boulder that has hung on the side of a cliff for thousands of years — and Rainbow Falls, a waterfall along the footpath leading to Balanced Rock.
6. D&H Trail At Lehigh Gorge State Park
The varied trail surfaces and beautiful surroundings are what make the unique D&H Rail Trail a treat for any outdoor enthusiast. This 38-mile pathway traces the route of the former, historic Delaware and Hudson railroad, a small but vital rail line during the 1800s. The multi-use trail runs for several miles along the Lackawanna River and alternates between tree-lined sections and open stretches with vestiges of the region’s coal-mining heritage.
7. Heritage Rail Trail County Park
The 21.5-mile Heritage Rail Trail runs from the City of York to the Maryland border and includes the Howard Tunnel, four railroad bridges, New Freedom Train Station, and the Hanover Junction Train Station all listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as an operating tourism train along 10-miles of track. This ADA-accessible rail-to-trail was once a prime target for the Confederate Army prior to the Battle of Gettysburg. Known for its historic roots, the trail offers visitors a unique hiking experience.
8. Great Allegheny Passage
Considered to be one of the nation’s most popular rail trails, the Great Allegheny Passage begins in Pittsburgh, and crosses the border into Maryland, eventually ending in the nation’s capital. Complete from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, MD, the 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage® connects with the 184.5-mile C&O Canal Towpath to create a 333-mile non-motorized route between Pittsburgh and Washington, DC. — making it the longest unpaved bike path in the East Coast.
9. Montour Trail
The 63-mile multi-use Montour Trail system follows the route of the former Montour Railroad and Peters Creek Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad between Coraopolis and Clairton in suburban Pittsburgh, making it one of the nation’s longest non-motorized suburban rail-trails. The trail connects with Pittsburgh International Airport, the Panhandle Trail, and the Great Allegheny Passage that stretches over 330 miles from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.
10. Jakes Rocks Epic Mountain Bike Trail System
The Trails at Jakes Rocks is a system of stack-loop mountain biking trails constructed on the Allegheny National Forest. These professionally designed and constructed trails provide opportunities for all skill levels and ages winding through natural boulders and scenic forested landscapes and offering peaceful, beautiful outdoor recreation and exercise.
11. Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail
Enjoy the picturesque Youghiogheny River and Laurel Mountain during a hike along the 70-mile Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. The trail offers both challenging sections for seasoned backpackers with several steep, rugged areas, as well as reasonably easy, level sections for the casual. A must-stop regardless of hiking prowess is Ohiopyle State Park with its breathtaking views and waterfalls to explore.
12. Allegheny National Forest
The Allegheny National Forest, PA’s only designated national forest, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year! The forest is an outdoor enthusiast’s wonderland with hiking and mountain biking trails, scenic views, and all sorts of terrain to explore along its more than 200 miles of trails. At 96.3 miles, the North Country National Scenic Trail is the longest trail in the forest and is one of three designated National Scenic Trails in PA. This trail takes visitors to vistas of the Allegheny Reservoir passing through rock outcroppings, open hardwoods, old growth forests, and stands of hemlock.
13. Pine Grove Furnace State Park
Nestled deep in Michaux State Forest near Chambersburg, Pine Grove Furnace State Park is the perfect spot for an outdoor adventure! Featuring four miles of looping trails, scenic overlooks, and Laurel and Fuller lakes, the park’s wooded, mountainous atmosphere attracts hikers of all skill levels. The Pole Steeple Trail, the most famous in the park, is a steep, 75 mile trail that ends at the Pole Steeple Overlook, a quartzite outcropping overlooking the entire park and the surrounding valleys.
14. Ricketts Glen State Park
A National Natural Landmark, Ricketts Glen State Park is best characterized by the Falls Trail System, a difficult, 7.2 mile trail that provides views of 22 gorgeous, named waterfalls. Ranging from 11 feet to the towering 94-foot Ganoga Falls, the waterfalls are each unique and provide tranquil resting stops along the rocky trail. Other trails traverse the park’s 13,193 acres, including the short Beach Trail that runs by the park’s swimming area and the Grand View Trial, which leads to the highest point on Red Rock Mountain. Each of the 26 miles of trails offers something different and are well worth the challenge.
15. Quehanna Trail
The Quehanna Trail is a 72.6-mile loop hiking trail in the Moshannon and Elk State Forests. The Trail passes through some of the most wild and beautiful country Pennsylvania has to offer. The main orange blazed trail begins on the western end at Parker Dam State Park. From Parker Dam the trail goes east into the Quehanna Wild Area toward Karthaus and Piper, then north toward Sinnemahoning and finally west through the Marion Brooks Natural Area back to Parker Dam.
16. Presque Isle State Park
Presque Isle State Park offers 11 miles of hiking trails that will take you through scenic views of Pennsylvania’s only seashore. These sandy trails offer hikers a glimpse at the beautiful coastline of this National Natural Landmark, known as a favorite spot for migrating birds.
To discover more hiking experiences in PA, check out the visitPA website. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay up-to-date on even more great ideas and places to visit around our state. Don’t forget to sign up for our monthly Happy Thoughts e-newsletter so you never miss an update.