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
- Distance: 7.6
Location: 40.1060265, -77.2809688
From the parking area, walk east past the restrooms to the intersection of the Rock Scree and Plantation trails.
Location: 40.1059631, -77.27991
At the intersection of Rock Scree and Pine Plantation trails (to the left), continue straight to begin hiking south on the Rock Scree Trail. Just ahead, the trail passes by a replica settlement-era log cabin.
Location: 40.1017166, -77.2796886
Continue straight on the Rock Scree Trail at its second intersection with the Pine Plantation Trail (to the left and right).
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The ascent picks up a steeper climbing grade. From here, the trail gains approximately 550 feet over the next 1.5 miles.
Location: 40.0946376, -77.278006
At the intersection with the Ridge Overlook Trail (to the left and right), continue straight on the Rock Scree Trail. To the left on the Ridge Overlook Trail is a sweeping view of the Cumberland Valley. The return trip continues back through this waypoint, descending the Rock Scree Trail back to the parking area. For a variation on this route, go to the left on Ridge Overlook Trail, catch the view, and meet back up with the Rock Scree Trail in a half-mile.
Location: 40.0960249, -77.2699131
Continue straight on the Rock Scree Trail at its second intersection with the Ridge Overlook Trail. If you detoured to Ridge Overlook from Waypoint 5, this is where you would rejoin Rock Scree.
Location: 40.0957508, -77.2696119
Continue straight on Rock Scree Trail at its intersection with the Forest Heritage Trail (to the left and right).
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Continue straight across Kings Gap Road on the Rock Scree Trail.
Location: 40.093104, -77.2684633
At the intersection with Kings Gap Hollow Road and the information kiosk, head left to visit the mansion.
Location: 40.0938307, -77.2682457
Check out the mansion (which offers a great view of the Cumberland Valley from the porch) before heading to Waypoint 11 to check out the education center.
Location: 40.0926907, -77.2672749
The education building offers year-round, accessible restrooms. Environmental education programs are hosted here throughout the year as well. Go through the parking area and across the road to the pavilion to continue hiking on the Kings Gap Hollow Trail.
Location: 40.0917961, -77.2678542
Near the pavilion, pick up the Kings Gap Hollow Trail to the left.
Location: 40.0899904, -77.266556
Continue straight across Kings Gap Road. Continue southwest for a short distance. Ahead, the trail passes a small pond before paralleling Kings Gap Hollow Run, a small forested stream.
Location: 40.0937659, -77.2790122
Go right onto the Ridge Overlook Trail here and continue back to Waypoint 5 to rejoin the Rock Scree Trail for the descent back to the parking area.
Location: 40.1051241, -77.2797632
Though this log cabin is not original to the site, it is indicative of the era of settlement.
Heading up the Ridge
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Ridge Overlook Intersection
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Kings Gap Hollow View
Location: 40.0946339, -77.2780412
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This Italian villa-style stone mansion, restored and used as a training center and eco-tour overnights, is occasionally open for tours.
View from the Mansion Porch
Location: 40.09361, -77.2683638
A clear view of the Cumberland Valley, which stretches all the way to Georgia, can be seen from the porch.
Location: 40.0869, -77.2718292
A small pond reflects the winter sun.
Kings Gap Hollow Run
Location: 40.0878973, -77.2726983