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Fall is for Hiking

September 29, 2020 12:00 AM

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There are those who will argue that there is no better time of year than Fall to go hiking. Here are some reasons:

  • Cooler temperatures and crisp air
  • Fall foliage draws your eyes up
  • Better chance to see wildlife in active prep for the winter
  • Fewer bugs!

To avoid crowds and social distance, you also may find the trails less crowded now that kids are again hitting the books.

As we come to the close of our Trails Month celebration in September, here are some final recommendations from DCNR staff for new trails to try.

Black Forest North Loop Trail, Tiadaghton Sate Forest

DCNR Policy Director Nicole Faraguna recommends the Black Forest North Loop Trail in Tiadaghton State Forest in the Pennsylvania Wilds.

The 24.9-mile loop includes various levels of difficulty. You can choose to hike portions of the trail, which is what she typically does since she has two small dogs.

Hikers will experience amazing vistas and waterfalls along with some pretty cool rock features on this trail. She says loop on at either Slate Run (right behind the Manor Restaurant) or take Francis Road to one of the access points.

Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art, Millersburg

Nicole says the Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art encompasses more than 500-acres of forest and meadow that stretch from the scenic Wiconisco Creek to the top of Berry’s Mountain and offers a vast network of trails for hiking and biking.

The center was founded in 1993 to celebrate the life and works of its namesake, the nationally recognized wildlife artist, naturalist and writer Ned Smith.

Hamersley Wild Area, Susquehannock State Forest

Finally, the Hammersley Wild Area (PDF) is the place to go if you don’t want to see or hear civilization according to Nicole. The Hammersley Wild Area, a sprawling 30,253-acre wild area tucked in Susquehannock State Forest, is the most remote place in Pennsylvania.

The wild area offers a multitude of trail options with varied levels of difficulty.

You can expect several creek crossings (depending on the time of year), good birding opportunities, and a variety of forestry habitats.

Conewago Recreation Trail, Lancaster County

Deputy Director of Legislative Affairs Nate Lotze recommends giving the Conewago Recreation Trail in Lancaster County a try.

Farms and pastures surround the Conewago Recreation Trail, which rolls northeast from the outskirts of Elizabethtown for about 5 miles to a seamless connection at the Lancaster-Lebanon County line with the Lebanon Valley Rail-Trail.

Both trails occupy the former railbed of the Cornwall & Lebanon Railroad.

Cove Mountain Preserve, Marysville

Another suggestion from Nate is the family-friendly trails at Cove Mountain Preserve near Marysville, Perry County, along the Susquehanna River.

Old Loggers Path, Loyalsock State Forest

Deputy Secretary for Parks and Forestry John Norbeck would like to highlight the Old Loggers Path, which is a 27-mile trail located near Ralston that follows former railroad grades, logging roads, bark trails, and other remnants of old industrial transportation, hence the name.

The trail is a circuit through remote areas in northeastern Lycoming County in the Pennsylvania Wilds.
John says you can take day hikes or a multi-day trip on the path, which features fantastic vistas and water features, and is moderate to hard.

Forest Cathedral Trail, Cook Forest State Park

For a spiritual walk through and old growth forests, John says try the Forest Cathedral Trail at Cook Forest State Park.

The trail is a 2.5-mile loop. It can sometimes be crowded, so best to go at less busy times of the day or week or have another option in mind if it’s crowded.

Barbour Rock Trail System, Tioga State Forest


John also recommends Barbour Rock Trail System (PDF) in the Tioga State Forest. He says it’s an ADA-accessible trail which traverses lush forest with a great vista of the Pine Creek Gorge.

The 1.2-mile trail is good for all skill levels, and bird watching! 

Presque Isle State Park Trails, Erie


Director of Applied Climate Science Greg Czarnecki, who hails from the Erie area, has trail recommendations on Presque Isle State Park.

Dead Pond Trail

The 3-mile Dead Pond Trail takes you through the entire range of ecological succession from sand dune to climax oak forest in a hike that takes less than an hour. It’s one of the few places in the world where you can do that.

Sidewalk Trail

The 2.4-mile Sidewalk Trail takes you from Presque Isle Bay to the lighthouse. It was built in the late 1800s for the lighthouse keeper and his family, who would sail across the bay to the city to get supplies and attend school.

This trail can be marshy so plan ahead.

Explore Pennsylvania Trails

Pennsylvania has more than 12,000 miles of trails for exploring, from gentle pathways threading through miles of preserved greenways, to remote, rugged trails scaling the state’s highest mountains.

Additional information and maps of Pennsylvania trails can be found at the Explore PA Trails website.

Happy trails!

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