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National Scenic Trails in Pennsylvania

National Scenic Trails are designated by Congress as protected trails of particular natural beauty and are managed by the National Park Service.

Pennsylvania features portions of three National Scenic Trails that travel through state forests and state parks, and continue to the surrounding states.

The National Scenic Trail system provides many options for the experienced hiker. You can choose to take a:

  • Long trip
  • Short hike
  • Backpacking adventure through several states

These national treasures cover some of the most spectacular scenery that the commonwealth has to offer.

Appalachian Trail

 

Skill level: Easy to Strenuous

Pennsylvania Length: Approx. 230 miles in PA

Trail Guides and Maps: Can be obtained through Keystone Trails Association or from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Easily one of the most famous trails ever established, the Appalachian Trail covers 230 miles in Pennsylvania.

From the south, the Appalachian Trail enters Pennsylvania near Pen Mar in Franklin County, proceeds generally northward for about 85 miles, crosses the Susquehanna River north of Harrisburg, then heads east toward New Jersey, leaving Pennsylvania near Delaware Water Gap.

The trail is marked with white blazes.

Portions of the trail can be found in:

  • Caledonia State Park -- The state park permits overnight parking with the proper registration. The closest camping on the trail is about 2.5 miles north and 2.5 miles south of the park.
  • Joseph E. Ibberson Conservation Area -- Just over half of a mile of this famed trail traverses the conservation area.
  • Michaux State Forest -- Several locations on the Michaux State Forest provide access for hikers to the 37 miles of the Appalachian Trail located in the state forest.
  • Pine Grove Furnace State Park -- The state park marks the halfway point along the Appalachian Trail. Obeying tradition, hikers eat a half-gallon of ice cream here. Although no camping on the trail is permitted within the park boundaries, there is a youth hostel located on the trail in the park for public use. The Appalachian Trail Museum is near the trail. Pine Grove Furnace does allow overnight parking with proper registration.
  • Weiser State Forest -- Approximately 114 miles pass through the Weiser Forest District, four miles of which are located on state forest land.
  • Swatara State Park -- The state park sits between two overnight shelters, about a day’s walk apart. There are parking areas at Swatara, but as in most places, parking is at your own risk.

North Country Trail

 

Skill level: Easy to Strenuous

Pennsylvania Length: 180 total miles

Trail Guides and Maps: Can be obtained through the North Country Trail Association

The North Country National Scenic Trail is a premier footpath that one day will stretch more than 4,000 miles to link communities and wilderness areas across seven northern states. Already, more than 1,600 miles have been completed. Pennsylvania plays host to 180 miles of the trail.

Once the hiker crosses into Pennsylvania, there are still 104 miles of the first largely completed segment ahead. The initial 95 miles of the North Country Trail (NTC) meanders through the rolling hills and stream valleys of the Allegheny National Forest. Marked with white paint blazes and routed wooden signs, this northwestern Pennsylvania trail is one of the more established along the route of the NCT.

Snuggled in rugged plateau country, the forest's rolling, sometimes steep topography, cut deeply by hundreds of miles of creeks and streams, boasts elevations ranging from 1,000 to 2,300 feet. The NCT passes through:

  • Unique old growth forests
  • 4,080-acre Tionesta Natural and Scenic Area
  • 120-acre Heart's Content Scenic Area, boasting 300-year-old white pine
  • Historic sites that tell the story of how America was settled and grew as a nation

Portions of the trail can be found in:

  • Cook Forest State Park -- allows overnight parking with the proper registration -- the Clarion River runs through the park
  • Jennings Environmental Education Center -- passes through Jennings and utilizes a number of its woodland trails, including Glacier Ridge, Ridge, and Black Cherry
  • Chapman State Park -- connects to the North Country Trail by a seven-mile trail through state game lands -- overnight parking is permitted with the proper registration
  • Moraine State Park -- does not have parking available, but there are cabins, a large lake for fishing and group camping areas.
  • McConnells Mill State Park -- has rest rooms and water provided for public use along the trail near the grist mill -- this section of trail also runs through Slippery Rock Gorge and over a covered bridge
  • Clear Creek State Forest -- a section of the North Country Trail runs through the Maple Creek tract in Forest County

Potomac Heritage Trail

 

Skill Level: Easy to strenuous

Pennsylvania Length: 70 total miles

Trail Guides and Maps: Can be obtained through Keystone Trails Association

The Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail is a segment of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail. An enterprise of many partners, the evolving trail network celebrates the heritage of the Potomac and upper Ohio river basins and offers opportunities for hiking, bicycling, boating, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing.

There are eight overnight areas, each which contains five shelters, tent pads, two comfort stations and a source of water. These overnight area are not located directly on the trail, but are set back off the trail to retain a wilderness atmosphere. Each shelter is large enough to accommodate six people. The overnight areas are situated eight to ten miles apart on the trail. Call 724-455-3744 prior to your trip, for reservations, which are required. A fee is required for reservations.

The Laurel Highlands trail is blazed every 100 feet with 2"x 5" yellow paint blazes. Large wood signs mark access points. There are mileage monuments on the trail every mile.

National Park Service Passport Stamps for the trail are available at the Laurel Hill State Park office and at the visitor center in Ohiopyle.

Portions of the trail can be found in:

  • Point State Park -- the Great Allegheny Passage is a part of the trail running between Point State Park and Point Lookout in Maryland. Point State Park is the terminus for the Great Allegheny Passage. The Fort Pitt Museum at Point State Park is an official National Park Service Passport stamp location for the trail.
  • Laurel Ridge State Park -- has a series of shelter areas and drinking water
  • Ohiopyle State Park -- has one shelter area
  • Forbes State Forest -- twelve miles of the trail lie within Forbes State Forest