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Hiking

Hiking is the most popular outdoor activity in Pennsylvania, and it’s no wonder with all of the outstanding opportunities, from short loop hikes on state park trails to long, multi-day options on state forest lands, to family-friendly adventures on one of Pennsylvania’s rail-trails.

Explore PA Trails contains information about more than 10,000 miles of trails in Pennsylvania.

Hiking in State Parks

Hiking trails in state parks lead to beautiful vistas and waterfalls, or by wetlands bubbling with life, or through dark, old growth forests, and to uncountable adventures and chances to see wildlife.

Some trails are scenic or leisurely, while others are self-guiding educational, or rigorous exercise.

Hiking in State Forests

State forests offer tremendous opportunities for the hiking enthusiast with a wide range of trails covering all types of terrain at a variety of difficulty levels.

Hiking trails in state forests are divided into four categories:

  • National Scenic
  • State Forest Hiking Trails
  • Local District Trails
  • Interpretive Tails

State Forest Hiking Trails

Pennsylvania’s state forests are premier hiking destinations and offer trails that cover a variety of terrain and all difficulty levels. The following trails are designated as State Forest Hiking Trails:

  • Baker Trail -- Part of this historic trail traverses the beautiful Clear Creek State Forest
  • Black Forest Trail -- This is a true wilderness hike deep within the Tioga and Tiadaghton State Forests
  • Bucktail Path -- Rise to challenge of the Bucktail that lies within the heart of the Elk State Forest
  • Chuck Keiper Trail -- This 53-mile trail covers some breathtaking views in the Sproul State Forest
  • Donut Hole Trail -- This 90-mile trail is sure to challenge even the experienced hiker 
  • Golden Eagle Trail -- This trail provides some stunning views of the Pine Creek valley within the Tiadaghton State Forest
  • John P. Saylor Trail -- This scenic trek covers 18 miles within the Gallitzin State Forest
  • Lost Turkey Trail -- This creatively named trail covers 26 miles, nine of which are in the Gallitzin State Forest
  • Loyalsock Trail -- Walk among some of the most picturesque settings you'll find anywhere on this trail that lies within its namesake, the Loyalsock State Forest
  • Mid State Trail -- This famous trail will take the adventurous spirit through portions of five different state forests 
  • Old Loggers Path -- This premier trail covers 27 miles within the heart of the Loyalsock State Forest
  • Pinchot Trail -- This trail is named after former PA Governor and conservationist Gifford Pinchot and covers 23 miles within the Pinchot State Forest
  • Quehanna Trail -- For a true backcountry wilderness experience it doesn't get much better than this 75-mile trail that will take the adventurous deep within the Moshannon and Elk State Forests
  • Rocky Knob Trail -- This is the perfect shorter hike for someone looking for a taste of what the Michaux State Forest has to offer
  • Susquehannock Trail -- The vast majority of this challenging hiking experience is within the big woods country of the Susquehannock State Forest
  • Thunder Swamp Trail -- Half of this trail that covers a variety of habitats and terrain lies within the Delaware State Forest
  • Tuscarora Trail -- This challenging hike will take you up and over some of the ridges of the Buchanan and Tuscarora State Forests
  • West Rim Trail -- This trail provides some truly breathtaking views of the famed Pennsylvania Grand Canyon within the Tioga State Forest

State Forest Trails Award

For the hiking enthusiast that wants a true challenge, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Bureau of Forestry has teamed up with the Keystone Trails Association in recognizing any hiker who completes the entire 798 miles of the State Forest Hiking Trail system with the coveted State Forest Trails Award. To be recognized submit an application.

Pennsylvania Rail-Trails

Rail Trails are former railway lines that have been converted to paths designed for pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Pennsylvania has close to 100 different rail trails, covering more than 1,000 miles.

Rail-trails are safe, easily accessible and many times very scenic.

ExplorePAtrails contains maps and information about rail trails in Pennsylvania.

Trail Etiquette

Many state park and forest trails are considered “shared-use,” which means that they are open to:

  • Hiking
  • Horseback riding
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Snowmobiling

By following a few simple guidelines for trail etiquette, everyone can enjoy the many trails state forests have to offer.

Trail Safety

  • Plan! Do not overestimate your abilities. If you are a beginner or haven’t been active in a while, don’t take a long, grueling climb to the top of a mountain. You’ll simply sustain injuries. Start short; start level. Stick to a trail that suits your taste and level of fitness. Planning the route for your trip can help prevent you from becoming lost and ensure a grand adventure. Be aware that in some areas, cell phones and GPS units may not work. It’s always a good idea to carry a map of the area and a compass. Being able to read a map and use a compass are good skills to have.
  • Bring a friend. Although hiking can be a valuable solitary escape, many times the enjoyment and safety doubles when you hike with a friend.
  • Check the weather before you go. Don’t go hiking if severe thunderstorms or tornadoes are in the forecast. The National Weather Service provides free weather forecasts. If you happen to get caught by a thunderstorm, seek shelter immediately. If no shelter is available, avoid open areas and head to a small group of trees. Squat down to minimize your height and keep only your feet in contact with the ground.
  • Leave an itinerary behind. List your route and expected time to return. If you are late, people can use your itinerary to find you.
  • Stay on the trail. Wandering off the trail can have serious consequences. You could become injured or lost. Some trails have also been built through very delicate habitats. Wandering off the trail could disturb and destroy parts of the habitat you came to see. Some trails do not originate within state park boundaries. As a result you may occasionally be hiking through some private land.

If You Lose Your Way

If you do lose your way, remember the acronym S.T.O.P.:

  • Stop: When you realize that you’re lost, stop immediately. You should have a whistle handy, and now would be a good time to use it.
  • Think: Try to remain calm so you can think through the steps of the plan your group has in place. What are your options? Think again before you take any action.
  • Observe: Identify what you have with you that could be useful, as well as taking a look around the area. Are you still on the trail? Is it safe to remain where you are?
  • Plan: If you have a plan set in place with your family members, follow through with it if you can. This is also the time when you’ll decide what you will do until you are found.

Remind children that if they are lost, it is best to stay in one place, someone will come looking for them.

What to Wear for Hiking

Dressing appropriately can help protect you from the sun, insects, thorns (briars), and branches.

Hats do more than highlight your favorite sports team. They provide protection from the sun and keep things out of your hair.

Long-sleeved shirts and pants are an easy way to protect your skin against bugs, like mosquitos and ticks, as well as scratches from thorny plants and tree branches.

Proper footwear, like boots and sneakers, give the best footing while hiking. Sandals and flip-flops are not hiking friendly. They do not provide good support and traction on uneven surfaces. They are also open, exposing skin to insect bites and scratches. According to park managers at Ricketts Glen State Park, flip-flops were responsible for many of the carry-out injuries on the park's popular Falls Trail.

You should carry:

  • First aid kit -- a blister can turn a nice hike into a painful trek
  • Bug repellent -- waving your arms like an orchestra conductor makes for a long hike
  • Compass and know how to use it -- GPS units are great, but may not work in remote locations. We recommend that you stay on the trails, but should you get lost, a compass may help you find your way to safety
  • Map of the area -- a map will help you know where you are and where you are going
  • Water -- do not drink from lakes or streams unless you treat or boil the water first
  • Snacks -- just being outdoors uses up lots of energy so bring high energy snacks
  • More snacks -- kids need to refuel more than adults so bring lots of snacks when hiking with little ones
  • Sun block -- sun burn can sneak up on you, even on a cloudy day. Better sunblocked than sun sore
  • Medicine -- bring along any required medications, like an EpiPen or diabetic serum
  • Fire making tools -- in a real survival situation, fire can help keep you warm and alert rescuers to your position.

Kids should carry:

  • Whistle -- to make noise, voices tire quickly but using a whistle is easy and loud
  • Poncho -- can keep you warm and dry which is very important
  • Snacks -- got to keep your energy up while you’re adventuring
  • Water -- don’t drink from lakes or streams
  • Flag -- have something bright with you to help rescuers find you if you get lost