Spring is approaching. Yay! Thank goodness! I love Spring. I am a chronic victim of the winter blues. When March arrives I begin to rejuvenate, both physically and mentally. So, let’s dust off our hiking boots and backpacks and start planning some day hikes.
By my perception I am an avid, robust hiking connoisseu. Sadly, the fact is, I’m a middle-aged, out-of-shape hiking hobbyist. With that in mind I keep my hikes relatively short and manageable. That doesn’t mean I don’t like experiencing a good payoff. Destination, destination, destination!
Here, in rural Pennsylvania, I primarily stick to three different types of trail environments: the Appalachian Trail, state parks and rail trails. That’s not to say I don’t go anywhere else, but I lean toward places that are free and in close proximity to my home. Here are just a few of my favorite spots:
Appalachian Trail This national scenic trail, which stretches between Maine and Georgia, has been around since 1937. Thousands of people hike it every year, whether they are a day, section or thru hiker. There are so many accessible trail heads that you can easily customize your hike to suit your needs. Of course, here in PA, you must contend with the rocks… and boulders… and then more rocks. (“Rocksylvania” can be a completely separate blog post.)
There are many points of interest along the trail, but the ideal destination, on a beautiful, clear day, is The Pinnacle. This protruding outcrop of quartzite offers the best perspective along the A.T. in the keystone state. At an elevation of 1635 feet, The Pinnacle looks out over checkerboard farmland and blue tinged ridges. Just gorgeous!
2.1 miles south east is Pulpit Rock, another outcropping with a great view. You can see both in one shot hiking from the Hamburg Reservoir parking lot and making a 9 mile loop utilizing the A.T. and an old service road.
Runner Up – Kimmel and Fisher Lookouts, in between routes 501 and 645, north western Berks County.
State Parks There are 112 state parks in the commonwealth, so finding one is no problem. However, each one provides something different. Hickory Run, in Carbon County, has 40 miles of hiking trails and some truly gorgeous waterfalls. For the local history geeks out there, like me, it offers old ruins from centuries past and the iconic Boulder Field (yep, more rocks). The Shades of Death Trail, which by its name should terrify, offers a walk around a man-made waterfall flowing off the Stametz Dam. Near the foot lays remnants of an old mill. This trail is sometimes rated as difficult due to the water spray coating the trail, so cautious footing is required.
Runner Up – Swatara State Park, Pine Grove, Lebanon County.
Rail Trails These trails can be quite versatile – accommodating walkers, runners and cyclists. They are constructed from abandoned railway lines and have gentle grades, often paved or made up of crushed gravel. Late last summer I got a bike and these trails are perfect for my aging body. Levels paths mean no uphill peddling for me! The Ironton Rail Trail follows the Coplay Creek in a south eastward direction from North Whitehall. I really like this trail – it’s chock full of history. They are historic markers all along this path, most acquainting the public on the once thriving Lehigh Valley Railroad. However, my favorite spot of this trail are the cement kilns at Saylor Park. These brick behemoths reach toward the sky with a grandeur only the past can affirm. The cement manufactured in these kilns aided in the construction of bridges, subways, and buildings that transformed the country during the second industrial revolution. “USA! USA!”
Runner Up – Delaware & Lehigh Rail Trail, Weissport north toward Jim Thorpe, Carbon County.
Looking for the right trail to hike? The website and app I use, which is totally worth checking out, is http://www.alltrails.com. They claim that the, “trails are verified by experts and reviewed by our global community of adventurers like you.” The important thing is to get outside and explore! Happy Trails!