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14 Top Hiking Trails in Central PA

Central Pennsylvania is truly a hiking- and nature-lover’s paradise. If you’ve not been here before, you’re in for a real treat. Nature abounds thanks to the Susquehanna River and Blue Mountain Ridge, part of the great Appalachian Mountains. The rolling terrain and valleys, abundance of trees, and mild climate creates the ideal environment for outdoor recreation all year long. Each distinct season offers its own gifts in nature. As we approach the spring season, such precious gifts include budding trees, blossoming flowers, the scent of rich soil as it awakens from its winter slumber, and a gradual explosion of color. From casual nature strolls to strenuous hikes, you’ll find it all here and more. Here is a list of 14 top hiking trails in Central PA to get you started. To learn more about area hikes, visit the Susquehanna Area Trail Club website.

 

Horse-Shoe Trail

Less than 2 miles from the Inn – Advanced

This long hiking and equestrian trail runs about 135 miles from Valley Forge National Historical Park to the Appalachian Trail north of Hershey. If you’d like to hike a portion of the trail, you can obtain a map of a 10-mile loop hike in State Game Land 211. Although the Horse Shoe Trail was officially named in 1934, it’s been in use since the 1700’s.


Shank Park Nature Trail

8 miles from the Inn – Easy

Located in Hershey, Pennsylvania’s largest park, this nature trail consists of a 1.63-mile loop that connects to the Jonathan Eshenour Trail. Throughout the trail you will see a wide variety of trees, from Black Birch and Tulip Poplar to Witch Hazel and Mountain Laurel. Download this map to take along the way.

 

Boyd Big Tree Preserve Conservation Area

12 miles from the Inn – All Levels

Encompassing 1,025 acres and straddling the Blue Mountains, this nature preserve boasts a 12-mile network of 8 hiking trails that offer a variety of hikes for all levels as well as scenic views. You’ll discover several species of trees, including a chestnut plantation, and a plethora of birds that make the trees their home.

couple on a hike

Conewago Recreation Trail

14 miles from the Inn – Moderate

This well-graded and level 5-mile rail trail follows the Conewago Creek through scenic woodlands and farmlands in Lancaster County. The trail follows the former Cornwall-Lebanon rail line. Pennsylvania has a rich history in railroading, and as such, has become one of the leading states in establishing rail trails, boasting more than 100 rail trails totaling more than 900 miles.

 

Wildwood Park

17 miles from the Inn – All Levels

Get up close and personal with nature at Wildwood Park. Located on the edge of Harrisburg and nestled in the rolling hills, you’ll find plenty of places and ways to enjoy the great outdoors. Take a hike around the lake, explore the Nature Center, pack a picnic, go for a bike ride, or enjoy birdwatching and wildlife.

 

Union Canal Trail

19 miles from the Inn – Easy

The well-kept Union Canal Trail is 6.5 miles long from start to finish and makes up a portion of the 71.7-mile Schuylkill River Trail. Running along Tulpehocken Creek, you’ll trek over crushed stone and gravel while enjoying beautiful views of the creek, pastures, wooded areas and farmland. Along the way, you’ll also discover a great deal of historic interest. The historic Union Canal, once called the “Golden Link,” operated in the 1800s as a waterway for transporting coal and lumber eastward to Philadelphia.

 

Appalachian Trail: PA-225 to PA-325

22 miles from the Inn

This 9.7-mile portion of the AT runs along the ridge of Peters Mountain and features two scenic overlooks: Table Rock with the Ralph Kinter View and Shikellimy Overlook.

 

Appalachian Trail: PA-325 to PA-443

23 miles from the Inn – Challenging

This 15.8-mile section of the AT initially ascends Stony Mountain from Clarks Creek. You’ll then hike onto Sharp Mountain through the interesting Yellow Springs Village ghost town where you can stop and look around. Finally, you’ll head toward Rausch Gap Shelter into Schuylkill County.

 

Appalachian Trail: Susquehanna River/Clarks Ferry Bridge to PA-225

26 miles from the Inn – Moderate

This 6.3-mile long moderate hike begins easily by the riverside and then ventures through scenic rock formations to a wooded ridge in the State Game Lands of Central PA.

Find more hikes on the Appalachian Trail

 

White Rocks Ridge Trail

45-minute drive – Easy

This scenic, 1.3-mile long trail at the north end of South Mountain features 3 vista points, and several glances of the surrounding valleys. The trail eventually connects with the Appalachian Trail at Center Point Knob.

 

Conestoga Trail

45 miles from the Inn – Strenuous

The Conestoga Trail totals 14.3 miles (out and back) and includes sections of steep hills and occasional rock scrambles, so be prepared. Your strenuous efforts will be rewarded with a gorgeous overlook of the Susquehanna River. On your return, as you hike through creek valleys, you will cross the bubbling Tucquan Creek and several small waterfalls.

 

Shenk’s Ferry Wildflower Preserve

1-hour drive – Easy

If you’re touring Lancaster County, then take some time to visit Shenk’s Ferry Wildlife Preserve. The nature preserve offers 85 acres of natural beauty along the eastern bank of the Susquehanna River. You’ll enjoy an easy, fairly flat 1.8-mile nature trail that’s perfect for strolling, hiking, taking photographs, and birdwatching. Grub Hollow stream also runs through the preserve providing a refreshing splash.

 

Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve

65 miles from the Inn – All Levels

Strawberry Hill offers 7 hiking trails – something for everyone, from beginner to advanced. You can choose to meander the 1-mile Nature Trail or hike the 4-mile foothills trail. For the advanced hikers, make it a day hike by trekking the extensive trail system within the Michaux State Forest. As with most of Pennsylvania’s trails, you will be amply rewarded for your efforts. Nature’s beauty is all around and in many forms: wetlands, dry woodlands, mountain streams and ponds. There’s even a restored mineral quarry. Download the trail maps before you go.

Thousand Steps – Standing Stone Trail

86 miles from the Inn – Strenuous

Totalling almost 1,100 steps and 1.5 miles, Thousand Steps is located on the middle section of the Standing Stone Trail in Jack’s Narrows. In the 1930s, quarry workers built these steps while quarrying ganister out of the mountain (ganister is a close-grained stone used to make silica bricks). The trek will leave you breathless in more ways than one. It’s the equivalent of spending 1 hour on a stairclimber, but you can catch your breath along the way only to lose it again by the stunning vistas that surround the trail.

Our charming Inn at Westwynd Farm in Hershey, PA, is conveniently located near these hiking trails in Central PA, and many more. Situated on an equestrian farm, we provide a clean, comfortable and luxurious place to relax and unwind, especially after a day on the trails! Our hearty and delicious breakfast will get you going for the day, and our luxurious guest rooms (some with fireplaces and jetted tubs) will comfort and relax you in the evenings.

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