Pennsylvania is a state in the Mid-Atlantic with spectacular landscapes, from the shores of Lake Erie to the rugged Appalachians and extensive forests.
For outdoor nuts and hikers of all skill sets, the Keystone State offers many opportunities to experience unique trails.
It’s safe to say that PA’s diverse landscape offers hiking prospects you will struggle to find elsewhere. With 120-plus state parks, a national park, and state forests, PA positions itself as a hiker’s paradise.
In this guide, we delve into some of Pennsylvania’s best hiking destinations.
1. Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail is easily the best hiking trail in Pennsylvania and the 13 other states it goes through. It’s a famous trail, wild and exceedingly scenic, stretching about 230 miles from East to Southern Pennsylvania.
The Appalachian Path, likewise called the A.T., is a climbing trail in the Eastern US, broadening nearly 2,200 miles (3,540 km) between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine, and going through 14 states. The Appalachian Path Conservancy guarantees the Appalachian Path to be the longest climbing path in the world. Multiple million individuals climb portions of the path each year.
The path was first proposed in 1921 and finished in 1937. Since then, improvements and modifications have continued. It turned into the Appalachian Public Grand Path under the Public Paths Framework Demonstration of 1968.
Much of the trail north of the Susquehanna River is rugged, with the southern section offering a gentler terrain.
2. The Great Shamokin Path
The Incomparable Shamokin Way (otherwise called the “Shamokin Way”) was a significant Local American path in the U.S. Province of Pennsylvania that ran from the local town of Shamokin (current Sunbury) along the left bank of the West Branch Susquehanna Waterway north and afterward west to the Incomparable Island (close to advanced Lock Safe house). It then left the river at Chinklacamoose, which is now the borough of Clearfield, and eventually reached Kittanning on the Allegheny River. From there, it continued further west.
The historical Indian path is now a 3.5-mile rail trail stretching through a portion of the Rural Valley Railroad and the Cowanshannock Creek Valley. It’s a relatively easy multi-use trail popular with hikers and bikers and features stunning views of Pennsylvania’s backcountry. The tail’s highlight is the scenic Cowanshannock Creek running parallel to it.
3. Conewago Recreation Trail
This five-mile rail trail runs from Elizabethtown to Lebanon County, connecting to the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail. It is mainly crushed stone, winding through woods, farms, and sprawling fields.
The recreational stretch is suitable for hikers and bikers of varying skill sets. While short, it offers spectacular views of tree canopies, open country, and the serene waters of Conewago Creek.
4. Schuylkill River Trail
One of Pennsylvania’s most popular trails is the Schuylkill River Trail, spanning about 75 miles. For avid hikers, the 35-mile stretch from Parkerford to Philadelphia offers an enriching long hike experience.
The trail features multiple paved, graveled, and footpath sections with breathtaking views of pristine woods, quaint towns, old railroads, and the Schuylkill River.
5. Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail
A popular and heavily trafficked trail, the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail stretches 70 miles through Laurel Ridge State Park, along Laurel Mountain, and the banks of Youghiogheny River.
The trail is one of the most beautiful in PA, featuring moderate and challenging sections with rugged and level terrain. It goes through state parks and state forests, providing hikers with opportunities to observe wildlife.
6. Canyon Vista Trail
Canyon Vista is considered a small and easy trail spanning about four miles. However, this scenic trail remains popular with hikers for its spectacular natural views. It follows a loop within the World’s End State Park, offering exceptional outlooks, particularly the Canyon Vista Outlook, known for its dramatic views.
7. Perkiomen Trail
Perkiomen Trail is a multi-use scenic trail stretching 20 miles from Oaks to Green Lane. It wanders alongside the Perkiomen Creek, going through many public attractions like the Lower Perkiomen Valley Park, Green Lane Park, and Mill Grove.
The trail is popular with hikers who appreciate the blend of nature and the picturesque villages along the way.
Tips for Hiking in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has some of the wildest places you’ll visit, remote wilderness areas that demand safety practices and preparedness. Here are some tips for hiking in PA to ensure you stay safe and have a wonderful time.
- Look up the terrain ─ It may be more exciting not knowing what to expect, but it’s not safe to be unaware of the terrain. Knowing the hike’s difficulty, the weather, and the wildlife is crucial.
- Purify your water ─ You don’t gamble with clean water when hiking. On short hikes, carry water from home. If it’s an extended hike, bring a water filter and some chlorine tablets to purify the water you find on the hike.
- Pack light ─ Hikers must gear up adequately for the terrain, the duration of the hike, and the weather. Still, you want to pack light to avoid burdening yourself. Bring necessities like a compass, a map, a flashlight, and a medkit. If you’re on prescription meds, including medical marijuana, bring them. It’d help to learn more about medical weed in PA.
Considering the great diversity in the landscape, Pennsylvania offers varied outdoor experiences. For hikers, the natural beauty witnessed on the trails is a glimpse into the state’s unique topography. From serene rivers to breathtaking vistas, PA has something for everyone.