Strap on your hiking boots, grab some trail mix and a water bottle, then recharge your soul and spirit with the breathtaking splendor of Pennsylvania’s natural wonders. Our dazzling waterfalls, towering trees, and picturesque viewpoints from majestic peaks have inspired generations of people of all ages and ability levels to get trekking. From state parks to boulder fields, we’ve identified our favorite trails where Happy Travelers can explore a few of Pennsylvania’s natural wonders.
Must-see natural wonder: One (or all) of the eight waterfalls
Bushkill Falls must be on every outdoor lover’s bucket list of scenic wonders. Nestled deep in the Pocono Mountains, it sits on 300 acres featuring eight cascading waterfalls and more than two miles of trails, bridges, and walkways. Geared to hikers of all levels, it is also a favorite for birdwatchers hoping to spy owls and hawks.
Bushkill Falls offers four color-coded trail routes. The Green Trail provides a view of the Main Falls and takes about 15 minutes to walk. If you’re ready to up your game, take the Yellow Trail, which is slightly harder and longer. The trail leads to views of the Main Falls, Lower Gorge Falls, Laurel Glen, and Upper Canyon; and takes about 45 minutes to walk. Capture some memorable moments trekking along the Blue Trail, a bit more challenging than the Yellow Trail. Bring your camera to snag “Kodak moments” of Pennell Falls’ beautiful angles. This route is moderately difficult and takes a little over an hour to complete. Advanced hikers opt for the Red Trail with its views of all eight waterfalls. About two miles long, it takes a little over two hours to hike.
Delaware Water Gap
Must-see natural wonder: Raymondskill Falls
The Delaware Water Gap in the Pocono Mountains, once touted as the world’s eighth scenic wonder, is formed by the distinct notch which cuts into low-forested mountains and the rocky Kittatinny Ridge by way of the Delaware River.
Check out the Raymondskill Creek Trail, a moderately easy hike that leads to the raging waters of three cascading waterfalls. After trekking through the steep and rocky terrain, celebrate your shared accomplishment with a photo-worthy moment of Raymondskill Falls, the state’s highest waterfall.
Fun fact: this three-tiered beauty tumbles 150 feet, which is just slightly less than Niagara Falls.
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary
Must-see natural wonder: Boulder fields formed during the last Ice Age
Be sure to pack the binoculars to spot bird wildlife as you hike your way through Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. This 2,600-acre raptor conservation center provides trails and overlooks, allowing nature enthusiasts to spy kestrels and migrating hawks, eagles, and falcons passing through during the late summer and fall.
Watch your step when you descend the aptly named River of Rocks Trail, a 4-mile loop trail that consists of rocky terrain, steep stone, but also some beautiful wildflowers. Stay on track with the blazes until you reach the naturally occurring Ice-Age boulder fields. As you walk, see if you can hear water flowing beneath you and the rocks.
Pine Creek Gorge
Must-see natural wonder: Hidden waterfalls along the Pine Creek Rail Trail
If you’re looking for impressive, sweeping views and tumbling waterfalls, a visit to Pine Creek Gorge in the PA Wilds is a must. Much of the land surrounding the gorge is public, with Leonard Harrison State Park on the eastern rim and Tioga State Forest and Colton Point State Park on the western rim.
Find your way to the Pine Creek Rail Trail, one of the state’s most scenic treasures and voted by USA Today as one of the “10 great places to take a bike tour.” Featuring 62 miles of crushed stone, the multi-use trail is ideal for hiking, bicycling, and horseback riding. With endless opportunities for sightseeing, visitors can expect to see dramatic rock outcrops, wildlife, and crystalline waterfalls. But here’s the catch, some of those waterfalls may be hidden!
Extend your nature trip with a leisurely hike along the eastern rim through the 0.6-mile Overlook Trail loop to Otter View for a magnificent view of the canyon. While the steep climb down provides a challenging hike, this trail is safe for kids to enjoy.
Ohiopyle State Park
Must-see natural wonder: 14-mile gorge
The ever-scenic, rushing waters of the Youghiogheny River pass through the heart of Ohiopyle State Park encompassing 20,500 acres of rugged natural beauty. The park features a 14-mile gorge, 80 miles of trails, four natural waterfalls, and serves as the gateway to the Laurel Highlands. The best viewing spot of the Youghiogheny River Gorge is the Baughman Rock Overlook. Situated just outside of Ohiopyle on Sugarloaf Road, this scenic overlook provides a stunning view of the valley below – especially in the fall season. Be sure to stop in at the state-of-the-art Ohiopyle State Park Office – Laurel Highlands Falls Area Visitor Center for engaging exhibits and current info on conditions.
Ringing Rocks Park
Upper Black Eddy
Must-see natural wonder: Musical rocks that ring when struck
Embark on a trekking adventure through Ringing Rocks Park, nestled in the wooded hills of historic Bucks County. If you’re in a mood to solve a geological mystery, then this destination is certainly for you. On this trip, you’ll want to swap that magnifying glass for a hammer to strike the rocks in the park’s boulder field.
Follow the single, flat Ringing Rocks Ramble Trail for just under a mile and you’ll end up at Bridgeton Boulder Field, a seven-acre field that is home to 10-foot high rock piles that fill the air with ringing tones. No one knows why the rocks make such an interesting metallic sound when hit, but what we do know is this playful adventure is a bucket-list must for “rock music” lovers!
Erie Bluffs State Park
Must-see natural wonder: 90-foot, undisturbed bluffs
Discover Pennsylvania’s largest remaining, unspoiled lakefront with a hike through Erie Bluffs State Park. Ten trails weave through the park offering a total of 5.16 miles of hiking bliss. Most of the trails are easy to hike, giving visitors a chance to explore the park’s secluded forests wetlands, driftwood, and 90-foot high bluffs overlooking Lake Erie.
Looping around the eastern portion of the park, the 1.1-mile Transition Trail passes by several different ecosystems offering prime wildlife viewing, while the almost 1-mile Timber Trail takes you through the heart of Erie Bluffs and some of the oldest trees in the region. You can still see some very large stumps left from the area’s logging past with part of the trail joining the old logging road.
Must-see natural wonder: Ancient sandstone formations
Witness a geological phenomenon of massive sandstone formations secretly burrowed in the mountains of central Pennsylvania at Bilger’s Rocks. The stunning rock carvings date as far back as the Paleo-Indian period and were used as a shelter from nature’s fury. As you walk through, check out the towering boulders and outcroppings and keep your eyes open for the zigzag roots that grow between the crevices.
Along with its amazing rock formations, Bilger's Rocks is known for its abundant wildflowers and is a designated Wild Plant Sanctuary by Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation of Natural Resources. The surrounding forest features showy wildflowers and lacy ferns for you to enjoy, but please don’t pick as many are threatened species!
Hickory Run State Park
Must-see natural wonder: Boulder-covered field formed during the last Ice Age
Out in the western foothills of the Pocono Mountains lies the 15,990-acre Hickory Run State Park. Surrounded by greenery and more than 40 miles of hiking trails lies Boulder Field, a striking boulder-strewn area and designated National Natural Landmark formed during the last Ice Age.
Perfect for hikers of all skill levels, the 6.2-mile Boulder Field Trail features a jumbled assortment of loosely packed boulders, ranging in size from several inches to 25 feet in length. Make a game out of your adventure by examining the different textures of rocks or searching for creatures and plants that find a way to live in this barren area.
To learn about additional hiking trails in Pennsylvania, check out the visitPA website. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more PA inspiration. Don’t forget to sign up for our monthly Happy Thoughts e-newsletter so you never miss an update.