Pennsylvania is such a gorgeous state, and if you happen to be heading to Philadelphia or some of the other Eastern Pennsylvania counties, you’ll find an abundance of places to enjoy a great hike outdoors. To help you make the most of your visit, here are a few of our suggestions for the best hikes in Eastern Pennsylvania.
1. Hickory Run State Park
Massive Hickory Run State Park covers almost 16,000 acres and spreads across the Pocono Mountains. There are more than 40 miles of hiking trails, picnic areas, trout-filled streams, the National Natural Landmark of Boulder Field, and many other attractions. Waterfalls, great birding, unique rock formations, and even a bit of geocaching provide ample reasons to enjoy a hike here.
While there are lots of options, a few trails stand out to us. Hickory Run Trail is easy hiking that passes by the village of Hickory Run, which dates back to the early 1800s. You can see wildflowers and butterflies, too. The Boulder Field Trail is about seven miles long and includes the National Natural Landmark of Boulder Field, a beautiful waterfall, and forests. Shades of Death Trail is just over two miles long and offers a unique rhododendron forest, rock formations, and a lovely stream. The many other trails in Hickory Run State Park offer something that every hiker can enjoy.
2. Trexler Nature Preserve
Trexler Nature Preserve offers lots of hiking opportunities for hikers of all abilities. There are more than 20 miles of trails in the 1,000-acre area, most of which are easy to moderate. Originally designed as a nature preserve for threatened American bison and elk, there are still some of them in the park. Trails range in length and difficulty to suit many levels and interests.
The Covered Bridge Trail is just over a mile long and is ADA accessible. The 1.5-mile Elk Viewing Trail is great for those who want to pass by the elk herd that remains in the preserve. For something a bit more advanced, the Trexler Border Trail goes around the preserve so you can see the beautiful landscape with its rolling hills along with wildlife like deer, wild turkeys, and a variety of songbirds. Bring your binoculars and visit the solar roof at the Environmental Center for great birdwatching or head next door to the Lehigh Valley Zoo for more time with animals.
3. Hawk Mountain
If you’re an avid bird lover like us, you’ll want to visit the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. The 2,600-acre sanctuary was created in the 1930s to protect birds of prey such as hawks, vultures, peregrine falcons, eagles, and osprey. There are more than seven miles of hiking to enjoy beautiful surroundings, varied terrain, and outlooks from which you can take in some amazing views. Fall is the season of peak raptor migration, so if you head to one of the outlooks then, you’re likely to see some as they fly past the mountain. The south lookout is wheelchair accessible. The Lookout Trail is popular and will give you moderately challenging varied terrain and a rocky outlook with a great chance of seeing some birds. Admission is $10 for adults with discounted prices for seniors and children.
4. Ricketts Glen State Park
This is our pick for the best hike in Eastern Pennsylvania. Check out TravelAwaits’ picks for the best hikes in all 50 states here. Ricketts Glen State Park spans 13,050 acres and offers hikes that waterfall lovers dream about. In addition to an incredible 22 named waterfalls, the park also has a lake, old-growth forests, and lots of wildlife. While there are a total of 26 miles of trails, the two Falls Trail options are at the top of most hikers’ lists. The long loop is just over seven miles and takes you through woods, water crossings, and rocky bits. Importantly, it gives you views of the 21 falls, including the Ganoga Falls, which is nearly 100 feet high.
The short loop covers a little over three miles and includes 18 waterfalls, including the Ganoga Falls. Both of these trails are considered challenging, so be sure that’s what you’re looking for in hiking. You can take your time and enjoy with camping offered in the area. Sturdy hiking boots are a must. There are a great many other easy and moderate trails that offer views of cherry tree groves, old-growth forests, picturesque streams, colorful birds, and more.
5. Valley Forge National Historical Park
King Of Prussia
Valley Forge National Historical Park will thrill hikers and history lovers alike. The 1777-78 winter encampment of the Continental Army under General George Washington, the park has more than 30 miles of trails for exploring the historic and natural sites in the park. Ranging from easy paved paths to challenging unpaved woodland trails, there are hiking options for all levels. In addition to gorgeous views of the countryside, hikers have the opportunity to see structures, monuments, memorials, statues, and other important reminders of the American Revolutionary War. There are more than 220 bird species found within the park, including waterfowl, as well as deer and other creatures of the wetlands. One popular trail is the River Trail, an easy trail that follows the Schuylkill River providing wonderful views, passing Sullivan’s Bridge, part of the encampment where George Washington’s army sheltered during the winter.
6. Big Pocono State Park
Big Pocono State Park covers over 1,300 acres and is perched atop Camelback Mountain. It’s no surprise then that the panoramic views are always something spectacular. There are 8.5 miles of trails offering vistas that can include much of eastern Pennsylvania as well as parts of New York and New Jersey. It’s to be expected that most of the trails are rugged and steep. The North and South Trails offer stunning views as well as a challenging 600-foot change in elevation.
The Upper Loop of South Trail offers an easier hike along the mountain’s south face. Indian Trail is popular for its spectacular view at the end. Beautiful forests, well-marked trails, glimpses of wildlife, and spectacular panoramic views make Big Pocono State Park one of the best places to hike in eastern Pennsylvania.
7. French Creek State Park
The 7,916 acres of French Creek State Park provide many great options on over 35 miles of well-marked trails. There are lots of opportunities to hike through the woods, amble by lakes, take on some challenging rocky spots, and enjoy space to breathe and reflect in nature’s beauty. Kalmia Trail provides a short one-mile hike through mature laurel forests. Turtle Trail offers a mix of easy hiking with more challenging sections. Chief’s Grove Trail is quiet and lovely, with meadows, woods, and even some crop fields. Nature lovers will be able to see ducks, woodpeckers, warblers, and other birds, and maybe a red fox, raccoon, or even a beaver. When you want to be surrounded by nature and have some time to enjoy it in peace, French Creek State Park offers a great place to enjoy it all.
8. Ridley Creek State Park
The 2,600 acres of Ridley Creek State Park offers 13 miles of trails with a variety of terrain including forests and meadows. The park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark. Ridley Creek runs through the rolling hills in this urban oasis just 16 miles from Philadelphia's Center City. On the various trails, you can see a working farm that is 300 years old, a 19th-century cemetery, horse stables, gardens, and a historic 18th-century mill. You’ll also find woodlands filled with plants and wildlife to enjoy. Try hiking the Yellow Trail on the southeast side. You’ll encounter historic ruins, pass through some evergreen groves, climb hills with unique boulder formations on top, and feel like you’re a long, long way from the city.
9. Bear Creek Preserve
Bear Creek Village
Another great spot for bird and wildlife lovers is the 3,565-acre Bear Creek Preserve. Filled with lookout points perfect for birdwatching, the preserve also has three streams running through its vast forests. The terrain is diverse and includes woodlands, waterfalls and waterways, scenic overlooks, and panoramic valley views. Birds of prey such as hawks, eagles, owls, and falcons can also be seen here. Wildlife includes black bears, coyotes, bobcats, gray fox, and other small mammals. Nature lovers can choose from 31 miles of trails including one, two, and six-mile loops with picturesque paths through dense woodlands, alongside streams, and near a waterfall or two.
Trails are well-marked and easy to follow. The easy Yellow Trail is about a mile long and offers a lovely mountain overlook. The longer trails are a little more challenging but also offer more chances for spotting wildlife. Trails bump into each other and intersect, so you can build a custom hike that suits your interests and abilities. Take some time to enjoy the scenery in this large and lovely display of natural beauty.
There are a surprising number of opportunities to get out in nature and see not only beautiful landscapes but some amazing birds and wildlife as well. If you’re an animal lover or avid bird watcher, check out the seasonal schedules to see when Pennsylvania animals and birds are most likely to be active for your best chance for sightings. And, of course, be sure to keep your binoculars with you.
This article is presented by KEEN Footwear. For our hikes, we wore KEEN’s Women’s Terradora II Waterproof Boot and Women’s Targhee III Waterproof Mid. They were light and great for all kinds of terrain. They supported our feet well on rocky hikes and were totally waterproof. Shop KEEN’s Terradora, Targhee, and other hiking shoes here.