Pennsylvania is known for tons of things, ranging from its legendary sports teams to Rocky to the Liberty Bell. However, one of the most underrated parts of Pennsylvania is the number of great hiking trails there are to explore. From the Allegheny National Forest in the northwestern part of the state to a chain of state forests and parks in the east, there’s much to love about outdoor life in PA.
In this article, I’ll look at some of the best hiking in Pennsylvania. I’ll be sure to include the classic favorites, but I’ll also look at a few trails that you maybe have never heard of. Let’s get started!
Best Hiking in Pennsylvania: Western Pennsylvania
The Montour Trail, Allegheny, and Washington Counties
In the easternmost part of the state, where Pennsylvania meets Ohio, you’ll find The Montour Trail. This trail runs through Allegheny and Washington Counties and slides along the Ohio River. It offers breathtaking views and safe hiking opportunities and is the perfect way to stretch your legs if you live in the Pittsburgh area. The Montour Trail is so popular, in fact, that it won the state’s 2017 Trail of the Year.
The full trail is 330 miles and runs from Pittsburgh to Washington DC, but there are plenty of branches and chunks of the trail that you can hike in several hours.
Great Shamokin Path, Rural Valley
The Great Shamokin Path in Rural Valley, PA, is as famous for its history as it is for its beauty. It was used historically by Native Americans to get from the Allegheny River to the Susquehanna River. Today, it’s home to some of the best hiking in Pennsylvania, especially for those who enjoy a history lesson on their travels.
It also runs along the Cowanshannock Creek for 3.5 miles if you feel like giving your legs a break and going for a swim.
Minister Creek Trail, Allegheny National Forest
The Minister Creek Trail is one of the most popular trails for hiking in Pennsylvania located in the Allegheny National Forest and consists of a 6.5-mile loop near Sheffield, PA. You’ll see everything from bustling forests to rivers and streams and incredible rock formations. Make sure to check out the Minister Valley Overlook for a breathtaking view of the valley below.
Hickory Creek Wilderness Trail, Allegheny National Forest
If you’re looking for a slightly longer hike in the Allegheny National Forest, give the Hickory Creek Wilderness Trail a try. This trail is 12.4 miles long and forms a loop bringing you back to the trailhead. Most of the trail is through a forest of pines and other trees, so the best time to go is during the fall when the leaves change.
However, there are plenty of uphill and downhill stretches, so this hike is not for the faint of heart.
Presque Isle Multi-Purpose Trail, Presque Isle State Park
The Presque Isle Multi-Purpose Trail in Presque Isle State Park offers the only trail that runs along a seashore. This 13.2-mile loop trail runs along the banks of Lake Erie and has some of the only water views in the state. There are lots of fishing and swimming opportunities along the trail, and it’s a fairly popular spot, so plan accordingly.
Emerald View Trail, Pittsburgh
If you get tired of city life and need some fresh air just outside the hustle and bustle of Pittsburgh, you should consider the Emerald View Trail. While the trail is only 2.3 miles long, it has a fairly steep elevation gain and offers some dazzling views of the city of Pittsburgh and the Ohio River. Aside from awesome views, this trail is also a popular spot for birders.
This trail is part of a larger conglomeration of trails in Emerald View Park, but Emerald View Trail is the most popular.
Kinzua Bridge Skywalk, Kinzua Bridge State Park
The Kinzua Bridge Skywalk in Kinzua Bridge State Park isn’t so much a trail as it is an overlook. However, it’s worthy of mention as one of the best hiking trails in Pennsylvania for how unique it is. The trail itself is only a .4 mile out and back hike, but it’s the view from the skywalk that you make the trek for.
The bridge was originally used as a railroad before a tornado destroyed it in 2003. At its full length, the bridge was over 2,000 feet long. As it’s cut in half, however, it’s now right around 1,000 feet long and has a top height of just over 300 feet. The edge of the skywalk is the view that people make the journey for, as it offers a clear view of the Kinzua Gorge.
Best Hiking in Pennsylvania: Central Pennsylvania
Ricketts Glen Falls Loop, Ricketts Glen State Park
The Ricketts Glen Falls Loop is considered by many to be home to the best hiking in Pennsylvania. This 8-mile loop trail has everything from old stone steps to rivers and mountain streams. However, it’s the Ricketts Glen Falls that most people make the journey for, as the trail is ranked as one of the best waterfall trails in the eastern United States. The pinnacle of the falls is Ganoga Falls, at 94′ tall.
Canyon Vista Trail, Worlds End State Park
Make sure you bring your camera when you hike the Canyon Vista Trail in Worlds End State Park because you’ll want to take some pictures. The trail forms a 3.9-mile loop and has subtle elevation changes that make the hike more difficult than you might think. You’ll wind along cliffs, rivers, and valleys, but the highlight of the journey is the unbeatable view of the Canyon Vista valley.
While hiking takes the cake, this trail is also popular for birders, snowshoers, and family hikes.
Standing Stone Trail, Greenwood Furnace State Park
The Stone Valley Vista Loop in Greenwood Furnace State Park is part of the larger and extremely challenging Standing Stone Trail. If you want to tackle the entire trail, it’s just over 80 miles of rugged, rocky trail with an elevation gain of over 6,000 feet. It was also voted as the 2016 Pennsylvania Trail of the Year. If you’re more in the mood for a tough day hike, the Stone Valley Vista Loop is just the ticket.
Heritage Rail Trail, Heritage Rail Trail County Park
If you’re a runner, biker, or day hiker, the Heritage Rail Trail is ideal. The entire trail is 10.6 miles long and runs in a fairly straight line along the Heritage Rail Trail County Park. Much of the trail is paved, but there are a few sections of gravel or dirt. You’ll enjoy plenty of views, but mainly of the forest, historical statues, and old-time buildings from various towns you’ll pass through.
Hawk Mountain Loop, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary
There are few hiking trails in central PA as difficult or worth doing as the Hawk Mountain Loop in Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. This is especially true if you’re a birder and want to spot hard-to-find species while hiking in Pennsylvania. Aside from birding, however, this 5.4-mile loop near Hamburg offers some of the most breathtaking overlooks and views that you’ll find.
Make sure to check out the Sunset Overlook when the leaves are changing if you want to have your socks knocked off.
Turkey Path Trail, Leonard Harrison State Park
Turkey Path Trail is another smaller day hike trail, and it’s located in Leonard Harrison State Park near Wellsboro, PA. Though the trail is only 2.3 miles long, it has one of the best waterfall features of any trail in central Pennsylvania. If you finish the hike and have enough energy, you can jump onto the Rim Trail and use up the rest of your juices.
The highlight of the trail is dramatic views of Pine Creek Gorge, aka Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon. The trail also allows you to explore the state park’s natural area, which is a National Natural Landmark.
Marilla Bridges Trail, Bradford Township
Next on the list of the best hiking in Pennsylvania, the Marilla Bridges Trail in Bradford Township is only .9 miles long, but it’s one of the most peaceful and serene loops that you can do on a hike. It’s ideal for joggers, birders, or hikers, and the trail loops around the Bradford City Number Three Reservoir Lake. Make sure to bring your fishing pole as the reservoir offers some decent shore fishing opportunities.
The trail is part of the larger Marilla Trail System, which offers around 8 miles of total trail length.
Best Hiking in Pennsylvania: Eastern Pennsylvania
Mount Minsi, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
If you go hiking in Pennsylvania in the eastern part of the state, you’ll have an almost limitless supply of great trails. What better place to start than Mount Minsi, which is part of the legendary Appalachian Trail. Mount Minsi is in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area and is a 5-mile loop that offers incredible views of the Delaware River, Mount Tammany, and the Appalachian Mountains.
Make sure to check out Council Rock and Lookout Rock along the trail, as well as lots of small waterfalls and mountain streams.
Pulpit Rock and Pinnacle Loop, Hamburg
The Pulpit Rock and Pinnacle Loop Trail near Hamburg, PA, is a strenuous, 9-mile trail that will challenge hikers of all experience levels. The highlight of the trail is a series of overlooks with views of Lehigh Valley and various ridges and rock formations surrounding the area. This hike on the list of best hiking in Pennsylvania is rocky, rugged, and tough, but you won’t regret making it.
Glen Onoko Falls and Lehigh Gorge Overlook Trail, Lehigh Gorge State Park
Keeping to the trend of difficult hikes, we come to Glen Onoko Falls and Lehigh Gorge Overlook Trail. While it overlooks the same valley listed above, this trail is further east and even more difficult. While it’s only a shade over three miles in length, it’s considered the most difficult trail in Lehigh Gorge State Park and one of the toughest in eastern PA.
However, you’ll be rewarded with a waterfall, awe-inspiring views, and incredible cliffs and rock formations.
Wissahickon Gorge North Loop, Wissahickon Valley Park
The Wissahickon Gorge North Loop looks like an area better suited for Ireland or Scotland than for Pennsylvania. The greenery, forests, rocks, and statues make you feel like you’ve entered the Secret Garden. The trail is 5.4 miles in length, features a historical red, covered bridge, and runs along the Wissahickon Creek, which feels more like a rapid river.
Shades of Death Trail, Hickory Run State Park
Though the name makes the next trail on this list of the best hiking in Pennsylvania sound challenging, deadly, and ominous, it’s none of the above. Shades of Death Trail is ironically located near Lake Harmony, PA, and is ideal for birding, hiking, or trail running. It’s only 2.2 miles long, but it’s out and back, which means the total distance is 4.4 miles.
Shades of Death Trail takes you through enchanting forests, beautiful waterfalls, and views of the Sand Spring Run waterway. It’s fun for the whole family and home to some of the most peaceful hiking in Pennsylvania.
Mount Joy Trail to Mount Misery Loop, Valley Forge National Park
Often considered one of the most historically significant trails in PA, making it a no-brainer for the list of the best hiking in Pennsylvania, the Mount Joy Trail to Mount Misery Trail Loop is located in Valley Forge National Park. The park commemorates the bitter winter that American troops endured during the Revolutionary War. The trail is 3.8 miles long and takes you through the hills and valleys of Philadelphia.
If you’re a history buff, you’ll love the location itself and the various buildings, houses, sheds, and structures that dot the valley.
Thunder Swamp Trail System, Delaware State Forest
The Thunder Swamp Trail System consists of over 31 miles of hiking trails running throughout Delaware State Forest. It’s hard to put your finger on which individual trail is the best, so you would do well to take time out of your schedule and hit each one up on its own.
All in all, the trail has over 2,500 feet of elevation gain and is great for birders, overnight campers, and day hikers if you only do a portion of the trail. The trail system runs through the Pocono Mountains in the northwestern part of the state and offers some of the best hiking in Pennsylvania.
Wrapping Up Best Hiking in Pennsylvania
If you’re in the mood to go hiking in Pennsylvania, there’s no shortage of great options to try. Regardless of what your skill level is as a hiker, there’s a trail that can challenge you. From Lake Erie and the Allegheny National Forest in the west to the Appalachian Mountains in the east, Pennsylvania is full of rivers, mountains, and wilderness waiting to be explored.
Ready to set off on your next Pennsylvania expedition? Hoping to cool off after so much hiking? Check out 9 Amazing Natural Springs in Pennsylvania you can visit!