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20 Trails in Pennsylvania That Will Leave You Breathless

The Happy Traveler embraces adventure, wandering off the beaten path to explore wonderful wilderness, breathtaking beauty and tranquility.
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Water fall at Ricketts Glen State Park
Ricketts Glen State park
Ricketts Glen State Park

With countless trails carving through the mountains and woodlands, hikers can embark on a new journey through a variety of terrains – all while enjoying one-of-a-kind scenic views of the Keystone State. Whether you prefer to hike, bike, bird watch, or sightsee, here are some amazing trails that will leave you breathless.

Hike:

1. Appalachian Trail 

The Appalachian Trail is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world, spanning 2,190 miles from Maine to Georgia. Approximately 229 miles traverse through long, flat and rocky ridges of Pennsylvania. The trails along the southern portion of the state offer some of the easiest walking on the entire Appalachian Trail, while the northern two-thirds include steep descents into rivers and gaps. Hikers can begin and end their trips at hundreds of destinations along the way, including Appalachian Trail communities in Boiling Springs, Duncannon, the Greater Waynesboro Area and the Delaware Water Gap. Another must-see stop on the Pennsylvania stretch of the trail is the Appalachian Trail Museum. Situated in a 200-year-old grist mill at Pine Grove Furnace State Park, the museum in Gardners, Pa., is the only museum in the country dedicated to hiking. The museum also marks the halfway point of the trail and holds a special tradition for “thru-hikers” as they take on the Half Gallon Ice Cream Challenge.

2. Schuylkill River Trail

The Schuylkill River Trail is a multi-use trail in Southeastern Pennsylvania with a projected length of almost 130 miles between Philadelphia and Pottsville. There are currently over 60 miles complete in sections, including a 30-plus mile stretch from Philadelphia to Parkerford. From there, cyclists can follow a 20-mile signed on-road route to Hamburg. In Hamburg, trail users can access a scenic seven-mile stretch to Auburn in Schuylkill County. The trail is a great way to enjoy the outdoors, exercise or commute. 

3.  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. Once a major trail that connected the two largest Native American towns in Pennsylvania, hikers can walk along the trail for views of western Pennsylvania.

4. Lehigh Gorge State Park

Located in a deep gorge near Jim Thorpe, Lehigh Gorge State Park is characterized by lush vegetation, steep rock outcroppings and cascading waterfalls. These waterfalls are the prime attraction of the trail to Glen Onoko Falls, one of the state’s most challenging yet rewarding hikes. While the trail is perfect for advanced hikers, there is an alternate route that is more easily accessible for less experienced visitors. The trail gets its name from the Onoko Falls, a 60-foot waterfall, but there are many other breathtaking falls to experience both before and after them along the trial, including the Hidden Sweet Falls at the top of the loop.

5. Standing Stone Trail

The Standing Stone Trail is a hiking trail stretching 84 miles through Fulton, Huntingdon and Mifflin counties; the trail traverses central Pennsylvania 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.  It was also named the state’s 2016 Trail of the Year. Standing Stone Trail is part of the 1,600-mile Great Eastern Trail, which starts at Flagg Mountain, Ala., and extends to the Finger Lakes Trail in New York. More than 80 percent of the trail traverses state owned forest and Pa. Game Commission game lands. The popular Thousand Steps portion of the trail is located near Mount Union.

Bike:

6. Pine Creek Rail Trail

Take a trip on the Pine Creek Rail Trail – recognized as one of the “10 Best Places to Take a Bike Tour” by USA Today. This historic 62-mile path, once used to transport freight by train from Wellsboro to Williamsport, is also perfect for a relaxing hike. The trail has a small grade, only around 2 percent, and runs mostly uphill. Even equestrians can join the fun with a section of the trail designed specifically for horses.

7. The Allegrippis Trails

Biking at Allegrippis Trails
Allegrippis Trails, AELandes Huntingdon County VB.

With endless combinations of routes and more than 30 miles of single track trails, the Allegrippis Trails at Raystown Lake are perfect for outdoor enthusiasts of all hiking levels. Adventure lovers will enjoy a challenging trek with stunning views of Raystown Lake and local wildlife. At nearby Trough Creek State Park, be sure to hike your way 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.

8. 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 stands in place of the 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.

9. Heritage Rail Trail County Park

Family biking on Heritage Rail Trail
Heritage Rail Trail, York.

The 21.5-mile Heritage Rail Trail runs from the City of York to the Maryland border and includes seven railroad structures on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as an operating tourism train along 10-miles of track. This 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.

10. Great Allegheny Passage

Considered to be one of the nation’s most popular rail trails, the Great Allegheny Passage begins in Pittsburgh, Pa., 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 335-mile non-motorized route between Pittsburgh and Washington, DC. – making it the longest unpaved path in the East Coast.

11. Montour Trail

The 63-mile multi-use Montour Trail system occupies the right of way 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 Montour Trail was also recently named Pennsylvania’s 2017 Trail of the Year by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). 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.

12. Jakes Rocks Epic Mountain Bike Trail System

The Trails at Jakes Rocks is a purpose-built system of stack-loop mountain biking trails constructed on the Allegheny National Forest in Warren County, Northwest Pennsylvania. Phase 1 of the project was completed on August 31, 2016 with 10 miles of trail opened to the public. These trails are professionally designed and constructed to provide opportunities for all skill levels, ages and genders to enjoy peaceful, beautiful outdoor recreation and exercise.

Breathtaking Views:

13. Bushkill Falls

Bushkill Waterfalls
Buskhill Waterfalls, Poconomountains.

Bushkill Falls is located in northeastern PA and is among the Keystone State’s most iconic scenic attractions. A series of hiking trails are designed to appeal to various ages and physical conditioning that each provide breathtaking views of eight waterfalls like Bridal Veil Falls, a series of three lovely falls that tumble down the mountainside. The streams feeding the falls are rated “Exceptional Value,” which are among the cleanest and most outstanding waters in all of Pennsylvania.

14. Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail

Enjoy the picturesque Youghiogheny River and the Laurel Mountain during a hike along this 70-mile trail. A stop at Ohiopyle State Park offers breathtaking views and waterfalls to explore. For those looking to trek the whole trail, overnight shelters can be reserved in advance.

15. Allegheny National Forest

Hikers can head to the Allegheny National Forest, the only national forest in Pennsylvania, to enjoy scenic views along more than 200 miles of trails. The North Country National Scenic Trail is the longest trail in the Allegheny National Forest at 96.3 miles long, and is one of three designated National Scenic Trails in Pennsylvania. This trail takes visitors to vistas of the Allegheny Reservoir passing through rock outcroppings, open hardwoods, old growth forests and stands of hemlock.

16. Pine Grove Furnace State Park

Moutain top Pine Grove Furnace State Park
Pine Grove Furnace State Park.

Nestled deep in Michaux State Forest near Chambersburg, Pine Grove Furnace State Park is a 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 that overlooks the entire park and the surrounding valleys.

17. 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 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 roam through the park’s 13,000 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.

18. Quehanna Trail

The Quehanna Trail is a 75-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.  

Bird Watching:

19. Presque Isle State Park

Presque Isle State Park offers 10 miles of hiking trails that will take you through scenic views of Pennsylvania’s only seashore. These sandy trails offers hikers a glimpse at the beautiful coastline of this National Natural Landmark, known as a favorite spot for migrating birds. 

20. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary

Scenic view Hawk Mountain Sanctuary
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.

Famous as the world’s first refuge for birds of prey, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary contains a network of trails designed to allow visitors to witness these incredible birds in their natural environments. Birds can be seen during the spring, summer and autumn months, but August is when the sightings begin to greatly increase. Trails are accessible to hikers of all skill levels, allowing visitors to keep their eyes in the skies as they search for birds. A total of 235 different species of birds have been sighted at the bird-watching mecca, including bald eagles, ospreys, raptors and peregrine falcons.