By Hilary Gunn
Hiking is perhaps the perfect activity—physically challenging for the body, an opportunity to overcome fear and hesitation, and access to some of the most beautiful views known to man. For those who want to get moving and see something spectacular, the hiking trails of Pennsylvania are among the world’s most stunning. From Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, and all points in between, get ready to get active and inspired!
It’s pretty tough to top a waterfall hike, so for Ricketts Glen Falls Trail to feature over 20 glorious cascades over a 7.2-mile trek is fairly impressive. The trail is generally advertised as being particularly difficult, but given patience and proper attention, even more beginner hikers can conquer this chain of cataracts. One particular point of park pride is Ganoga Falls, which at 94 feet stands among the tallest in Pennsylvania. The trail is open year round, but there is a strict requirement that winter adventurers retain proper equipment for ice climbing!
This incredible natural resource is stunning year round, but a trip to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is particularly breathtaking during the autumn migratory season. Roughly 18,000 falcons, hawks, and eagles pass through the area per annum, starting around the middle of August and extending until mid-December. During this exciting season, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary has experts stationed at the North Lookout daily to answer questions and help amateur ornithologists identify species. Spend an hour, an afternoon, or even a full day taking in the almost overwhelming beauty of some of America’s most fascinating animals, in one of the most scenic areas of the state.
Designed and built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Lambs Creek is ideal for those who appreciate an impeccably conceived and maintained trail. Measuring in at about 3.5 miles, this trail is contained within Pine Creek Gorge, often called “the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania,” one of the most breathtaking areas of the Keystone State, and the country at large. The Lambs Creek hiking and biking trail is stunning year round, but becomes particularly beautiful during fall foliage season!
Perfectly set in the serene Michaux State Forest, Pole Steeple Trail flawlessly balances distance and difficulty for a hiking opportunity ideal for all skill levels. Measuring three quarters of a mile, Pole Steeple traverses a variety of elevations, making for some steep portions. Be sure to leave time to admire the entire park from the Pole Steeple Overlook, a perfect quartzite outcrop that serves as a fitting reward for getting out there and moving your body!
This trail was originally built to connect the Mid State Trail and Tuscarora Trail but Standing Stone is a destination in itself. Situated among beautiful animal and plant life and breathtaking scenery, Standing Stone is over 80 miles-long. Along the trail, moving through the town of Mapleton, hikers will come across the Thousand Steps. These steps, which were built by quarry workers in the 1950s, are located in Jacks Narrow near Mount Union. Parts of this trail can be rather challenging, but it is well worth the effort.