Now that Fall has arrived (today!), it’s officially time to put away the bathing suits and dust off the hiking boots.
Pennsylvania’s 121 state parks include hundreds of miles of hiking trails. Hiking trails in state parks lead to beautiful vistas and waterfalls, by wetlands bubbling with life, through dark, old growth forests, and to uncountable adventures and chances to see wildlife.
Since the pandemic has brought record numbers of visitors to state parks, they can sometimes be crowded. Some tips to try to avoid the crowds on state park trails:
State Park Trail Suggestions from DCNR Bureau of State Parks Director John Hallas
Erie Bluffs State Park
DCNR’s Bureau of State Parks Director John Hallas says what he loves about hiking (trail running) at Erie Bluffs State Park is it provides an exploration of the undeveloped Lake Erie shoreline, scenic views from the top and bottom of the 90-foot bluffs, hiking through a remnant patch of black oak savanna habitat under restoration, and Elk Creek and Duck Run scenic stream corridors with Lake Erie shoreline access.
He says to approach the 5 miles of connecting loop trails that traverse the entire park in a counterclockwise direction.
Park your vehicle at the Elk Creek Access parking area (restroom and small pavilion available) and take the only trail from the northern end of the access up out of the stream corridor to a scenic overlook on top of the bluffs.
Travel southwest on Transition Trail. Continue to Timber Trail to West Overlook Trail down to the bottom of the bluffs (lake front). Cross over Duck Run to Duck Run Trail.
Continue Whitetail Crossing Trail onto Black Oak Savanna Trail. Reconnect to Transition Trail traveling north to the scenic overlook again and descend into the Elk Creek stream corridor back to the parking area.
Tobyhanna State Park, Lakeside Trail
The approximately 5 miles of loop trail circumnavigating the 170-acre Tobyhanna Lake have a hardened based/improved surface, which make it great for hiking, running, and bicycling according to Hallas.
Trail access parking is available in the main day-use area of the park adjacent to picnic groves, pavilions, restrooms, boat launch, and the beach.
He says he loves the easy-to-access loop trail for its abundance of lake views, observation of carnivorous plants in a bog environment because the trail borders the Black Bear and Bender Swamps Natural Area of the park, wildlife viewing opportunities (a healthy black bear population), and the rugged highland environment of the Pocono Plateau exemplified at Tobyhanna State Park.
Parker Dam State Park, Trail of New Giants
Hallas says he enjoys this short hike at Parker Dam State Park because you can see decades of post-tornado forest regeneration in the 250-acre Windstorm Preserve, take in the view of the park and vast unbounded Moshannon State Forest from the spur trail vista, gateway park location to the 50,000-acre Quehanna Wilderness of the Moshannon, and experience the quiet solitude of this forested region of the commonwealth.
The Trail of New Giants is approximately 1.5 miles (loop with Mud Run Road connector) with out and back spurs to scenic vistas.
This is a short but challenging hike that passes through the storm damage caused by one of Pennsylvania’s strongest recorded tornadoes.
Trail access parking is in the main day-use area of the park adjacent to CCC Museum, picnic areas, restrooms, and dam.
Like more recommendations on lesser known trails at Pennsylvania state parks? Look for suggestions on the Pennsylvania State Parks Facebook page.