QUICK TAKE: Quehanna Trail, PA
DRIVE TIME: The Quehanna Trail is about 270 miles (5 hours) northwest of Philadelphia and 150 miles (3 hours) east of Pittsburgh.
THE WAY: To access the western-most trailhead at Parker Dam State Park, take exit 18 off I-80. Turn onto PA 153 north and follow the signs to Parker Dam. You can pick up a map at the park headquarters and follow country roads to other trailheads. The Quehanna Highway crosses the trail three times and gets you near the northeast section of trail, where you’re most likely to see elk.
TRAILS: The 72-mile Quehanna Trail loops through Parker Dam State Park and Elk and Moshannon state forests, and several natural areas. Hiking the full loop takes 5 to 6 days. Trips of 7 miles and up can be arranged using the Quehanna cross connectors and numerous cross-country ski trails that bisect the loop.
ELEVATION: Little Fork Vista rises to 2,100 feet; several valleys dip to 900 feet.
CAN’T MISS: Plan your trip around the nine vistas marked on the Quehanna Trail Map.
CROWD CONTROL: Although the number of visitors is increasing, central-Pennsylvania trails still see a limited number of backcountry users.
PIT STOP: The ice-cream shop in Karthaus satisfies post-trip munchies.
WALK SOFTLY: Overnight camping is not allowed in natural areas or within 100 feet of roads. Camp-fires are not permitted during fire season (early spring) or during droughts. Call Moshannon State Forest to check fire dangers.
MAPS AND GUIDES: The Quehanna Trail Map is available free from Moshannon and Elk state forests. 50 Hikes in Central Pennsylvania, by Tom Thwaites ($14; Countryman Press, 800-245-4151), also profiles the trail.
MORE INFORMATION: Mo-shannon State Forest, Box 952, Clearfield, PA 16830; (814) 765-0821. Elk State Forest, P.O. Box 327, Emporium, PA 15834; (814) 486-3353. A camping permit, available over the phone, is required in Elk State Forest.