Don’t be fooled by Kings Gap Environmental Education Center’s scholarly name, this state park is a dayhiker’s dream. Sixteen miles of trails traverse the 1,454-acre park, and one trail (the 6-mile Buck Ridge Trail) connects Kings Gap with many more miles of trails in the bordering Michaux State Forest and Pine Grove Furnace State Park. On this 4.6-mile lollipop, hikers are rewarded with sweeping views of the Cumberland Valley, a picturesque stone mansion atop the ridge, vernal pools churning with life in the spring, forests aflame with color in fall, or the serenity of a mountain snow in winter.
This hike begins in the Pine Plantation, an experimental tree farm from the 1950’s. In winter, keep an eye out for wildlife, as these white pines, Douglas fir, and larch are home to the chatterings of many feathered friends, as well as deer and red squirrels. Upon exiting the coniferous forests, the trail begins a gradual ascent up the mountain towards the mansion. Along the way, stop for views of Kings Gap Hollow and the surrounding peaks of South Mountain.
After a steeper climb over more moderate terrain, take a break to check out the amazing views from the back porch of the Cameron/Masland Mansion. The 32-room mansion (built in the early 1900’s from native stone) has been renovated to showcase the period decor and serves as a training center and site for the occasional eco-tour. After touring the education center and gift shop, head back down the mountain on Kings Gap Hollow Trail (which follows a forest stream for a mile or so) to close the loop and backtrack to the starting point.
More Info: Kings Gap Environmental Education Center
-Mapped by Miranda Crotsley