Pennsylvania's Hickory Creek Wilderness

Hickory Creek Wilderness in the Allegheny National Forest remains a great hiking destination all year -- even in winter.

The Hickory Creek Wilderness will simply not let you rush. Hustling toward camp in this pristine corner of Allegheny National Forest at dusk, I was forced to a halt by a young porcupine out for a stroll. It regarded me warily but took its time clambering up a tree. Slow is natural for the state's only designated wilderness area, with its gently rolling forested hills, grassy meadows, mossy bedrock cliffs, and meandering streams harboring feisty native brook trout.

The best way to experience this remote area is on a 21.3-mile ramble that encompasses two loops and requires two to three days-depending on your speed and the porcupine traffic. Start on the Hickory Creek Trail and take the south fork toward Coon Run, where you'll find good camping beneath stout hemlocks lining delicate meadows. In the morning, complete that loop, then head east toward Minister Creek Trail, which offers excellent views of the Allegheny plateau. Hit the hay-or duff, in this case-beside the brooks at forested Triple Forks Camp. The next day, explore Minister Creek before finishing at Route 666.

Where: 300 miles northwest of Philadelphia and 365 miles west of New York City. The Hickory Creek trailhead is 15 miles southwest of Warren on Township Road 2002, adjacent to Heart's Content Recreation Area.

Maps:Allegheny National Forest Hiking Guide ($8, Sierra Club, 814-723-5150) includes topographical maps.

Trail Info: Allegheny National Forest, (814) 723-5150;