A day hike through Pennsylvania’s picturesque terrains is time well spent. We’ve identified trails that Happy Travelers can get there and back again before the sun goes down. Avid hikers of all experience levels will appreciate these quicker treks amongst the Keystone State’s natural wonders with friends, family, or even their pets.
Presque Isle State Park
Length: 11 miles
Presque Isle State Park has 11 miles of trails ranging less than a quarter mile up to 13.5 miles and, allow visitors to explore the beauty of the surrounding landscape. If you’re looking for a quick jaunt, the A-Trail is your best bet. The shortest trail on the circuit, this path connects the Pine Tree Picnic Area to the Dead Pond Trail and passes through a vernal pond. The trail becomes wet and slightly slippery when the pond fills with water in the spring, so watch your step!
The Karl Boyes Multipurpose National Recreation Trail is the longest at 13.5 miles. It is also ADA accessible, popular with bicyclists, inline skaters, and joggers.
Golden Eagle Trail
Length: 10.6 Miles
The Golden Eagle Trail can make for an arduous yet rewarding day hike. Coming in at just over 10 miles, the hike begins with a slow ascent along Bonnell Run. Along the well-marked trail, hikers will find many sources of water from both Wolf and Bonnell Run. Dogs are able to use this trail but must be kept on a leash.
A day hike through this terrain will have any experienced hiker enamored by the stream crossings and stunning vistas along the route.
Length: 2 miles
Nestled deep in the wooded Pocono Mountains, Bushkill Falls sits on 300 acres with a unique series of eight cascading waterfalls and more than two miles of trails, bridges, and walkways. The area appeals to hikers of all levels and is ideal for those who appreciate beautiful scenery during their hike. In addition to hiking, the attraction is also a favorite for birdwatching, with owls and hawks calling it home. There are four color-coded trail routes (Green Trail, Yellow Trail, Blue Trail, and Red Trail) within Bushkill Falls that all vary in experience level. Starting from the easiest hiking trail (Green) to the more advanced (Red), day hikers will find that there is a stop along each way to admire the beauty of the waterfalls.
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary
Berks and Schuylkill counties
Length: 9.1 miles
The Pinnacle across from Hawk Mountain Bird Sanctuary is a very long and fast downhill trek. Hikers will find various ecosystems along the way — plus, the Pinnacle also rests on a bird migration route. This is the ideal trail to take during the day to view vistas of the Lehigh Valley and the Appalachian Trail.
Because the trail is so close to larger cities like Philadelphia and Reading, the Pinnacle is a popular destination for day hikers and large school groups during June and July. Prepare to see some wildlife as well: it’s not uncommon for travelers to encounter turkey vultures and rat snakes lounging throughout the crags of the mountainsides.
Experienced hikers tend to opt for the Skyline Trail (2.5 miles) — a rugged, ridgetop path that includes four-point rock scrambling. The River of Rocks Trail consists of rocky terrain and steep stones. When hiking on this trail, listen closely and you might hear water flowing beneath you
Ricketts Glen State Park
Luzerne, Sullivan, and Columbia counties
Length: 26 miles
One of Pennsylvania’s most scenic areas, Ricketts Glen State Park comprises 26 miles of hiking trails spanning various difficulties — each less than 10 miles long. On the one-mile Little Cherry Run Trail, hikers can travel along a small picturesque stream, making a great loop for day hiking.
For a waterfall excursion along the route, the Falls Trail has a 3.2-mile loop that follows along the Highland Trail and the Glen Leigh and Ganoga Glen sides of the trail. These trails follow 21 beautiful waterfalls ranging in height from 11-94 feet. The scenery is well worth the effort; however, stay alert because the terrain is rocky, can be slippery, and descends steeply on both the Ganoga and Glen Leigh sides.
Minister Creek Trail
Length: 6.6 miles
Featuring diverse vegetation, wildlife viewing opportunities, and beautiful streams, the Minister Creek Trail is a 6.6-mile, moderately-trafficked loop trail located near Sheffield. The trail also joins the North Country National Scenic Trail (marked with blue diamonds) along the most northerly segment. Cast your line and catch that trophy brook trout or bring along your four-legged friend (on a leash) for some company.
Though some areas of the trail are inaccessible, travelers do have the option to camp overnight or make a leisurely day trip through the Minister Creek Undeveloped Area.
Fred Woods Trail
Length: 4.9 miles
In Elk State Forest, you'll see splendid views from a couple of breathtaking vistas and travel through unique rock formations on the Rock Loop. Lace up your shoes extra tight and be ready for some tight spaces, because portions of the trail are narrow and rocky. The Fred Woods Trail is a 4.9-mile, moderately light trafficked loop trail primarily used for hiking and trail running best used from March until November.
Great news: your dog can come along too!
Mount Davis Highpoint Trail
Length: 5.4 miles
Hello up there! Mount Davis — located in Forbes State Forest — is the highest point in Pennsylvania with an elevation of 3,213 feet. The Mount Davis Highpoint Trail is a 5.4-mile lightly trafficked loop trail located in Forbes State Forest that features a river and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is accessible year-round. Dogs also are able to use this trail but must be kept on a leash.
Pine Grove Furnace State Park
Length: 4 miles
Hiking at the 696-acre Pine Grove Furnace State Park gives you eight different trails to choose from — Brickyard Trail, Buck Ridge Trail, Creek Trail, Mountain Creek, Koppenhaver Trail, Pole Steeple Trail, Swamp Trail, and the Appalachian Trail. Because it is a popular national scenic trail, short-term backpackers and day hikers often try to hike the Appalachian Trail. In fact, about two to three million people walk a portion of the Appalachian Trail each year.
Throughout the trail, hikers are encouraged to observe the splendor of surrounding wildlife from a distance. With the different trails at Pine Grove Furnace State Park, hikers will come across forests, wetlands, and vernal ponds home to distinctive plants and animals.
The Great Shamokin Path
Length: 3.5 miles
The Great Shamokin Path is connected the two largest Native American towns in Pennsylvania: Shamokin and Kittanning. According to historians, it’s considered the earliest path used by the Native Americans in their journeys from the Susquehanna to the Ohio. The trails along this path include hiking, mountain biking, and even an equestrian trail. Saddle up!
Meadow Run Trail
Length: 2.9 miles
Meadow Run Trail is nearly three-mile, lightly trafficked loop trail located near Ohiopyle, that features a waterfall and is good for all skill levels, best used from July until September. The trail begins where Cucumber Run meets the Youghiogheny River and travels east along the river's banks and cliff sides closer to Cucumber Gorge. Breathe in that fresh air and enjoy some iconic Pennsylvania flora along the trail, including eastern hemlock (our official state tree!), rhododendron, and mountain laurel (our official state flower!).
Canyon Vista Trail
Length: 3.9 miles
Looking for a view you won’t forget? Marked as an easy-to-moderate trail, the Canyon Vista Trail is part of the World’s End State Park and offers outstanding views of the nearby Loyalhanna Creek. For particularly memorable sights, visit in June when the mountain laurel is blooming or leaf peep in October when the fiery colors of autumn blanket the canyon.
Day hikers can experience a cool breeze during their breaks near the large rock gardens in this vista. The large lime, composite, and sandstone boulders are a result of millions of years of natural erosion; have fun exploring the small caves among the rocks, climbing up the sides, and walking through the crevasses.
To learn about more hiking trail adventures, 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 never miss an update and sign up for our monthly Happy Thoughts e-newsletter.