There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of trails to explore in the Susquehanna watershed that are not in proximity to the main branches of the river. The following are a sampling of hikes within Pennsylvania State parks that may be off your radar screen, but are more than worth a visit! Enjoyed by young and old, hiking is gratifying in a way that is hard to describe. The list of the health benefits from hiking in the great outdoors – or cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or backpacking – is long, with benefits to heart, mind, and body. And it is a wonderful way to appreciate the beauty of our natural environment.
Trails in Black Moshannon State Park range from the easy one-mile loop Blueberry Trail to 40 miles of the rocky and rugged Allegheny Front Trail (aka Moss-Hanne Trail) in Moshannon State Forest. The Bog Trail is an easy .5-mile loop with a wooden boardwalk that stretches out into the bog. Take the boardwalk to explore a wetland dominated by sphagnum moss and leatherleaf, and accented by sedges, rushes, carnivorous plants, and lilies. Tradition is that Native Americans called this watershed “Moss-Hanne” meaning “moose stream” giving this area its name. Hiking map
The bog at Black Moshannon State Park. Virgil Chambers photo
Overlooking Pine Creek Gorge, this area is known as the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon for good reason. The appropriately-named Rim Trail at Colton Point State Park and Overlook Trail at Leonard Harrison State Park provide stunning year-round views of the canyon approximately 800 feet below. Don’t let short trail distances fool you, as sections can be difficult! Wear sturdy shoes and give yourself plenty of time. Remember your camera! Want a multi-day outing? Check out the multi-use Pine Creek Trail for a 62-mile adventure.
Leonard Harrison Hiking and Colton Point hiking map
View of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, Pennsylvania DCNR
The Little Buffalo Historic District is on the National Register of Historic Places. A historic tavern and covered bridge are just two of the sites you can visit here. Approximately 8 miles of hiking trails provide a range of options rated from the ADA-accessible Blue Ball trail (.25 miles paved) to the Exercise Trail (a good trail on which to see bluebirds) and trails rated most difficult. Fisherman’s Trail is a good choice for warm summer days as the trail wanders through a dense canopy of hemlock trees that allows very little sunlight to reach the forest floor. Check out the designated Volksmarch Year-Round Walk. Governed by the American Volksport Association, Volksmarchers earn awards for hiking. Official information is available at the park office. Hiking Map
Holman Lake at Little Buffalo State Park, Pennsylvania DCNR
Visit the Pennsylvania Wilds! Hike the Panther Run Trail (near picnic pavilion 3) and make it a loop by returning on the Love Run Road/Trail. The Lake Shore Trail takes you from Little Pine Lake dam along the marsh areas to flowing waters of Little Pine Creek, a favorite fishing area! Backpackers can pick up the 11.8 mile out-and-back Tiadaghton Trail near the park campground as well as the 327-mile Mid State Trail, “The Wildest Trail in Pennsylvania.” (That is not a typo! The trail is over 327 miles long!) Hiking Map
Want to visit the Poconos? Here’s a beautiful location with numerous "easy" trails that can provide unlimited diversity or routes! Create your own adventure! Link the Lake Trail to Nescopeck Trail to Creekside Trail Loop and return. Bordered on the south by steep Mount Yeager and on the north by Nescopeck Mountain, Nescopeck Creek is known for trout fishing. The trails are great for cross-country skiing, too! Hiking map
Nescopeck State Park, Pennsylvania DCNR
Explore the Rapid Run Natural Area via the 1.09-mile, easy Rapid Run Nature Trail. The old growth hemlock and white pine trees shade wetlands, springs, sphagnum bogs, and vernal pools. The Overlook Trail spur gets a bit steep with a series of switchbacks but provides a well-earned view of the lake. (Don’t be surprised! The overlook is also accessible by car!)
The red-blazed Boiling Spring Trail is an excellent cross country ski trail. Park at the Overlook, ski the Overlook Trail and return to the park via the Boiling Spring Trail! You can also access Central Mountain Trail, a 120-mile multiuse loop trail, from the park. Hiking map
Overlook Trail is a short, steep trail starts on Sand Mountain Road and climbs through an oak and maple forest to an overlook 300 feet above the park. Raymond B. Winter State Park, Pennsylvania DCNR photo
This national natural landmark is located about three hours from the New York metropolitan area, so expect company when visiting. The relatively strenuous Falls Trail System boasts a series of 22 wild, free-flowing waterfalls, each cascading through rock-strewn clefts in an ancient hillside and includes the 94-foot Ganoga Falls. For a robust 3.6 mile loop, start at Lake Rose Trailhead parking area and use the Highland Trail shortcut to return. Hiking map
Oneida Falls, Ricketts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania DCNR photo
The Lake Shore Trail is a wide, gentle trail that showcases Shawnee State Park. This multi-use gravel path is an ideal path for families. On this trail, hikers can see the historic buildings of Shawnee State Park, walk across the dam, and have good birding opportunities over the water. Hiking map
Shawnee Lake Shore Trail, Pennsylvania DCNR photo
Vistas galore at this beautiful state park! Canyon Vista Trail, a 4-mile loop with steep sections, explores the eastern half of the park and rewards the hiker with a spectacular view of the Loyalsock Creek gorge from its vista, which is an elevation of 1750 feet. The Double Run Nature Trail, a 1.2-mile loop, offers more difficult hiking with short, steep sections, traveling through rich, fertile woodlands along the west branch of Double Run. Solomon seal, wild ginger, jack-in-the-pulpit, and other spring, ephemeral wildflowers grow abundantly along this trail, which has waterfalls and pools. Hiking map
As I said, it’s just a sampling, but what a wonderful challenge to check out them all! I hope you make it your personal challenge, too! If so, see you along the trail!
The cool, clear water of Little Buffalo Creek has been attracting people for centuries. American Indians frequented Little Buffalo Creek on hunting trips. Today, Little Buffalo State Park is a place to picnic, swim, fish, hike and more.
Colton Point State Park is a 368 acre park located on the West side of the Pine Creek Gorge in north central Pennsylvania.
Ricketts Glen State Park is one of the most scenic areas in Pennsylvania that is comprised of 13,193 acres across three counties.