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Pennsylvania Backpacking Trails

Philadelphia: Appalachian Trail-South of 309

Most of this easy 7-mile hike passes under a tree-shaded ridgeline that insulates dayhikers from the outside world.

Philadelphia: Pinnacle and Pulpit Rocks

This sometimes-steep 6.8-mile loop climbs hillsides carpeted with mountain laurel and hardwoods to two sweeping vistas overlooking the Lehigh and Cumberland Valleys.

Philadelphia: Mt. Minsi via the AT

Wander through white pine, Eastern hemlock, and mountain lauren to the summit of Mt. Minsi on this 4.2-mile out-and-back sprinkled with lovely mountain overlooks.

Philadelphia: Wind Gap to Smith Shelter

This 8.8-mile, out-and-back wooded hike runs the spine of the Appalachian Mountains to one of the most remote AT shelters in Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia: Blue Mountain

Hike the backbone of eastern Pennsylvania on this moderate 10.8-mile round-trip along the AT, which visits craggy overlooks with stellar views of eagles and hawks.

Lost Coast Trail: Shelter Cove

The 9.2-mile trek heads along one of California’s last pristine beaches to the swimming grounds of harbor seals and the once-endangered California gray whale.

Redding: Grizzly Lakes

Trek 24.4 miles to a 200-foot, glacier-fed waterslide, then bag the highest peak in the Trinity Alps. Bring a fly rod for rare red-meat brook trout.

Philadelphia: Boone Trail

Spend a sunny afternoon on this 6.1-miler hike among the hardwoods of French Creek State Park, skirting two lakes with pleasant picnic spots.

Scranton, PA: Falls Trail Loop to Adams Falls

Pass 21 waterfalls on this 6.2-mile, five-star loop through a wrinkled ravine and tranquil forest in Ricketts Glen State Park.

Redding: Alphabet Lakes

Basecamp in a rarely visited basin and take daytrips to several alpine lakes with stunning views on this 17.2-mile, long-weekend backpacking trip.

Redding: Emerald Lake

Wander through a remote paradise of high-alpine lakes in the lightly visited Trinity Alps on this 33.2-mile, long-weekend trip in Klamath National Forest.

Philadelphia: Ridley Creek State Park

Re-energize yourself on the White-Yellow Loop, a mellow 4.4-mile lasso to a serene picnic spot in this small park just 16 miles from center city.

Redding: Lost Coast Trail to Cooskie Creek

Unspoiled black-sand beaches, rogue breakers, and craggy mountains form a remote backdrop to this 13.4-mile weekend adventure along the Lost Coast.

Eureka, CA: Lost Coast Trail

Play tag with the pounding surf by day and camp in misty coves by night on this 26-miler along the wildflower-swathed hillsides of the Lost Coast.

Philadelphia: Lock 12 Loop

Explore canal relics and tucked-away overlooks of the Mason-Dixon Trail on this 3.6-mile dayhike in Holtwood Environmental Preserve.

Redding: Albert Lakes via PCT

This 9.6-mile overnight in the Russian Wilderness is pine-studded, alpine lake-riddled, and in-your-dreams beautiful.

Harrisburg, PA: Toland to Pine Grove Furnace via Appalachian Trail

In less than 7.5 miles, you’ll visit quiet woods and a secret Underground Railroad spot, and cross the midpoint of the Appalachian Trail.

Appalachian Trail: Lehigh to Little Gaps

To enjoy the stretched-out ridgeline views on this 10-mile out-and-back, you’ll first have to navigate an interesting hand-over-foot scramble.

Redding: Tangle Blue Lake

A lakeside campsite awaits at the end of this 4.2-miler that passes old-growth cedars, a mining camp, and meadows splashed with wildflowers.

Pittsburgh, PA: North Park Bridle Trail

This 5.8-miler in Allegheny County’s sprawling North Park visits maple and oak forests, babbling creeks, and a scenic overlook.

Harrisburg, PA: Governor Dick Park

This 7.9-mile stretch of Pennsylvania’s historic 140-mile Horse-Shoe Trail boasts lookout-tower views, isolated terrain, and plenty of wildlife.

Redding: Papoose Lake

Earmark a long weekend for this 31-miler linking tree-shaded lowlands, old mining homesteads, waterfalls, and a beautiful alpine lake.

Cleveland, OH: Slippery Rock Gorge Trail

Cross rushing creek, natural rock bridges, and a rugged gorge on this challenging 11.4-mile daytrip in McConnell’s Mill State Park.

Appalachian Trail: Old Forge Road to PA 233

This 4.8-mile dayhike jams in 1,400 feet of climbing, and a mile-long spur trail to Chimney Rocks—a stunning overlook with easterly views of Green Ridge and Waynesboro Reservoir.

Appalachian Trail: Pen Mar Road to Old Forge Road

This 7.2-mile leg traces Indian trading routes to Mount Dunlap then continues through second-growth forests rich in song birds and whitetail deer.

Appalachian Trail: Shippensburg Road to Pine Grove Furnace State Park

Leave the highlands and enjoy young forests and farmland panoramas (cue the hay fields and barns) on this easy-going 8.1-mile stretch.

Appalachian Trail: PA 233 to Shippensburg Road

Go for one, two, or three nights on this 15.5-mile leg featuring a trio of shelters and long shady stretches under classic Pennsylvanian woodlands.

Appalachian Trail: PA 94 to Bucher Hill Road

Climb. Descend. Repeat. This 8.3-mile leg connects 4 unnamed highpoints along Rocky Ridge. No surprise: Lots of giant rocks on the trail too.

Appalachian Trail: PA 850 to Clarks Ferry Bridge

This 10.4-miler climbs weathered mountain ridges to several rocky overlooks then ends on the banks of the Susquehanna River, the longest river on the East Coast.

Appalachian Trail: Bucher Hill Road to PA 850

The first 12 miles of this ambitious dayhike are almost pancake-flat then the homestretch climbs 800 feet to Blue Mountain.

Appalacian Trail: Pine Grove Furnace State Park to PA 94

Quickly climb to the mostly wooded spine of Piney Mountain, go 5 miles, then descend the gap into Toland and climb again on this 10.4-mile section. Tip: Don’t miss the Half-Gallon Challenge at Pine Grove Furnace General Store.

Appalachian Trail: PA 443 to PA 645

Need a quick getaway? This 11-mile hike drops into Swatara Gap, then continues to wooded campsites and overlooks above two lakes.

Appalachian Trail: PA 325 to PA 443

Weak-ankled hikers need not apply. This 15.8-miler descends a slow-going rock garden off Stony Mountain then runs a fairly wide trail through rhododendron forests.

Appalachian Trail: PA 225 to PA 325

Cut out a monster climb by hiking this 9.7-mile section south-to-north along Peters Mountain to two scenic outposts: Table Rock and Shikellimy Overlook.

Appalachian Trail: Clarks Ferry Bridge to PA 225

Go from a lazy riverside to scenic outcrops to a wooded ridgeline on this 6.3-mile segment located in the state game lands of central Pennsylvania.

Appalachian Trail: PA 183 to Port Clinton

Locals say Bigfoot lives in the wooded foothills on this 14.7-mile segment. Take photos, if you see the hairy beast (evidence is weak), and camp out at Eagles Nest Shelter.

Appalachian Trail: PA 645 to PA 183

Save this 11-miler for leaf-peeper season when the hills are brushed in reds and browns. Don’t miss the incredible overlook at milepoint 1.9.

Appalachian Trail: Port Clinton to PA 309

Watch hawks and eagles soar thermals above The Pinnacle, Pulpit Rocks, and Hawk Mountain on this 26.5-mile backpacking trip, arguably the most scenic section of the AT in Pennsylvania.

Appalachian Trail: Wind Gap to Delaware River Bridge

The windy skyways above this 15.4-mile section attract gliders (migrating birds, paragliders, and some hang gliders). The rocky trail attracts birdwatchers and photographers to several outcrops overlooking tawny farmlands and the Delaware River.

Appalachian Trail: Lehigh Gap to Wind Gap

This 19.4-miler is a test in balance and nerve as you pick routes through mind-numbing boulder fields. The payoffs are scenic ridges with 180-degree views and toned calf muscles.

Appalachian Trail: PA 309 to Lehigh Gap

See why thru-hikers nickname this area Rocksylvania. This 13.5-mile leg runs along a knife-edge ridge, then scrambles around sedan-sized boulders, and ends at a refreshing swimming hole in the Lehigh River.

Renovo, PA: Bucktail Path

Discover one of Pennsylvania’s wild secrets in the Elk State Forest.

Lassen Volcanic National Park: Rainbow-Snag Lakes Loop

Tour lava beds, painted dunes, and a dormant volcano on this 12-mile hike in Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Erie, PA: Minister Creek Loop

This 6.4-miler loops through the lush forest surrounding Minister Creek, passing glacial boulders, wooded caves, and a plethora of streams.

Redding, CA: Stuart Fork to Smith Lake

This 23-mile out-and-back in the Trinity Alps features pristine mountain lakes, stunning views and an easy, off-trail scramble.

Pittsburgh, PA: Greene River Trail

A 10.3-mile out-and-back (or a 5.4-mile shuttle), this peaceful walk along the Monongahela River wanders through remnants of Pittsburgh’s industrial past and present.

Erie, PA: Girard Loop

Discover the roots of the oil industry: western Pennsylvania.

Pittsburgh, PA: Laurel Highlands Trail

Witness southwest Pennsylvania at is wildest on a three-day, 31-mile shuttle along and over river valleys.

Pittsburgh, PA: Raccoon Creek State Park

This 10-miler treks through babbling creeks, along an unending series of up-and-down slopes, and under the cover of white pine and hemlock forest.

Allentown, PA: Hawk Mountain

After hiking past boulder fields, this 4.7-mile loop climbs up the spine of Hawk Mountain and stops at overlooks perfect for scoping hawk migrations.

Scranton, PA: Promised Land State Park

Perfect for trail runners, mountain bikers, equestrians, and dayhikers, the trails at Promised Land State Park offer diverse outdoor opportunities at the base of the Poconos.

Harrisburg, PA: Sunset Rocks via Appalachian Trail

Hop on the Appalachian Trail at its halfway point and navigate creek crossings and a steep boulder scramble to above-the-trees vistas of Michaux State Forest.

Appalachian Trail: Wind Gap to Delaware Water Gap

Trek to the border of New Jersey along PA’s finest section of the Appalachian Trail.

Harrisburg, PA: Kings Gap

Hike from pine plantation to mountain-top mansion on this moderate, 4.6-mile trek that climbs to a trail network atop South Mountain in Pennsylvania’s Blue Ridge range.

Pittsburgh, PA: South Side Steps

Climb a few of Pittsburgh’s 700-plus stairways on this 3.2-mile urban loop that begins in the trendy South Side neighborhood and tops out with a skyscraper city view from a cemetery atop Mount Oliver.

Lassen Volcanic National Park: Lassen Peak Trail

Ascend 2,000 feet in 2.5 miles to tag this 10,457-foot volcano with sweeping views of Mt. Shasta and Lake Almanor.

Redding, CA: Stuart Fork to Alpine Lake

This 17-mile out-and-back in the Trinity Alps features pristine mountain lakes, stunning views and an easy, off-trail scramble.

Whiskeytown National Recreation Area: Whiskeytown Falls via James K. Carr Trail

Get up close and personal with 220-foot Whiskeytown Falls on this 3.1-miler in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area.

Pittsburgh: Rachel Carson Trail

Climb above the Allegheny River and see its serpentine course from a bluff-top vantage on this seven-mile point-to-point in Harrison Hills County Park.

Pittsburgh: Baker Trail

Follow yellow blazes for a 10-mile section across creek-laced woodlands. The route crosses a covered footbridge and is inter- spersed with pastoral vistas along a flat farm road.

Rochester: West-East Gorge Loop

Follow yellow blazes for a 10-mile section across creek-laced woodlands. The route crosses a covered footbridge and is inter- spersed with pastoral vistas along a flat farm road.

Philadelphia: Lavender Loop

Hike along a gorge on this hidden, seven-mile gem in the City of Brotherly Love.

Philadelphia: Parvin Lake-Long Trail-Thundergust Loop

Hike quiet trails along the seam where oak forests, hardwood swamps, and pitch pine lowlands meet. Cross streams tinted brown by cedar and bog iron, and take a dip in the park’s large, centerpiece lake on this easy 4.6-miler in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens.

Yellow Creek, PA: Damsite Trail

Just an hour and a half from Pittsburgh, this easy 3.2-mile loop rolls through forests bustling with migratory warblers, passes the spillway of the Yellow Creek dam, and tours the shore of Yellow Creek Lake.

Scranton, PA: Falls Trail Loop to Murray Reynolds Falls

Enjoy “the best waterfall hike in the East” on this 3.4-mile loop in Ricketts Glen State Park, which travels past 21 named cascades.

State College, PA: West Rim Trail

Chase canyon vistas through stands of old-growth hemlock.

Havasu Canyon Waterfall
Arizona Michigan Pennsylvania

Top 3 Swimming Holes

By: Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan

Hot weather + cool water = late-summer heaven. Add a dose of backcountry solitude and scenic camping, and you might never leave.

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California Redding

Lost Coast Trail: Shelter Cove

The 9.2-mile trek heads along one of California’s last pristine beaches to the swimming grounds of harbor seals and the once-endangered California gray whale.

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Brook trout in Grizzly Lake have red meat.
California Redding

Redding: Grizzly Lakes

Trek 24.4 miles to a 200-foot, glacier-fed waterslide, then bag the highest peak in the Trinity Alps. Bring a fly rod for rare red-meat brook trout.

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California Redding

Redding: Alphabet Lakes

Basecamp in a rarely visited basin and take daytrips to several alpine lakes with stunning views on this 17.2-mile, long-weekend backpacking trip.

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