Hiking Adventures in the Susquehanna River Valley
Hikers of all ages and skill levels will find a plethora of year-round opportunities to explore parks, forest and trails in the Susquehanna River Valley. Trails provide stunning views, peaceful scenery and meaningful connection to the great outdoors and with hiking buddies. Regardless of the season, there is a treasure to be found at every turn that will amaze and excite you. So, lace up your boots, hit the trails and rejoice in the beauty of every season in the River Valley.
Favorite Hikes in the Susquehanna River Valley
The Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area offers a fun walking trail - While the majority of AOAA trails are for off-road enthusiasts, there is also a 3.1-mile walking trail with exercise stations and scenic outlooks. The trail is open to the public for free, year-round enjoyment. The trailhead kiosk is located at the AOAA Welcome Center and the trail will lead you through the wooded campground and across bridges over the swales. Enjoy the bench and picnic table at Sunset Ridge for an evening picnic. Stay for the sunset; the view is breathtaking.
The Roaring Creek Tract in Weiser State Forest offers a chance to get outside in Northumberland County. An eight-mile shared-use trail runs through the valley for those who wish to take a leisurely hike alongside the gurgling creek and reservoirs. Forty miles of shared use trails also wind their way through Weiser.
Six paths used by miners in the late 1800s and early 1900s as they traveled daily from their homes near Bear Gap to Natalie to work in coal mines have been remarked into trails for hiking.
Snyder and Union Counties
Bald Eagle State Forest (BESF)
Bald Eagle State Forest: 320 miles of trails including a 45-mile section of the Mid State Trail plus 120 miles of shared use, non-motorized trails. Miles of hiking only trails can be found within the State Forest’s natural areas. Trail maps can be obtained at the district office.
Ryan’s Loop Trail is a 3-mile loop that can be accessed from Paddy Mountain Road -- just west of the intersection with Cherry Run Road, about 7 miles west of Hartleton, Union County
Joyce Kilmer Natural Area, located on Paddy Mountain, 6 miles west of Hartleton in Union County, this 77-acre tract contains old growth white pine and hemlock.
The Stony Run Demonstration Forest Trail (PDF) is a 0.6-mile loop that traverses through 25 acres that have been broken down into nine different blocks, ranging in size from 2 to 4 1⁄2 acres. Eight different harvesting methods are shown, along with a control block where no cutting was done. There are interpretive signs along with 23 tree and shrub identification points located along the trail.
The Central Mountains Shared Use Trail (PDF) is a group of interconnected trails (totaling 120 miles) developed for non-motorized use (hike, bike, and horseback) in the northern third of Bald Eagle State Forest and southern Tiadaghton State Forest. This map has labeled trail/road segment distances in miles to help users create loops and plan routes based on ability.
Top Mountain Trail is a 4.2 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near New Columbia, Union County that features a great forest setting and a vista with breathtaking views especially in autumn when fall foliage is ablaze in color. The trail is rated moderate.
BESF Mid State Trail
The Mid State Trail is a 327-mile State Forest Hiking Trail that travels for 45 miles through Bald Eagle State Forest. The trail follows the ridgetop northeast from Route 322, through Poe Paddy State Park, across Penns Creek, and into Hairy Johns State Forest Picnic Area.
It continues along the boundary of the Hook Natural Area, through R.B. Winter State Park, and north into Tiadaghton State Forest. The Mid State Trail is a rugged and demanding mountaintop trail. Marked with orange rectangles, the Mid State Trail was developed and is maintained by the Mid State Trail Association. A detailed trail guide, including maps, is available for a small fee from:
Mid State Trail Association, P.O. Box 167, Boalsburg PA 16827
BESF Snyder Middleswarth and Tall Timbers Natural Areas
The Snyder-Middleswarth Trail consists of both a long (3 1⁄3-mile) and short loop (1-mile). Both loops begin at the Snyder-Middleswarth Picnic Area along Swift Run Road. Both trails are rated moderate.
Located near the town of Troxelville, Tall Timbers and Snyder-Middleswarth Natural Areas host lovely picnic spots and a 3.4-mile hiking loop to an extensive stand of old-growth hemlock, along Swift Run in Bald Eagle State forest. Tall Timbers is noted as having one of the tallest trees in the state, an eastern hemlock, at 145.5'. The 660-acre area is covered with second growth forest of oak, white pine, hemlock and hard pine. Snyder-Middleswarth is a 500-acre tract containing virgin white pine, hemlock and pitch pine. The hiking trail follows the grade up Swift Run through a steep hollow lined by truly virgin white pine and eastern hemlocks. Some of these trees are over 150 feet high and over 40 inches DBH. One downed tree along the trail counts 347 rings. After hiking through this section, you can continue through "Tall Timbers", a bordering old second-growth forest, and turn left or south on Middleswarth Tower Trail to climb to the top of Tick Mountain, a total distance of 1.6 miles.
BESF Hook Natural Area
The Hook Natural Area (PDF) covers 5,119 acres and preserves an entire watershed within its boundaries. Utilizing state forest roads, drivable trails, and trails that make up the boundary of the Hook Natural Area, a nearly 30-mile contiguous trail system is present. The Hook Natural Area of Bald Eagle State Forest is PA's largest Natural Area. Located about 20 miles west of Lewisburg, Union County, the Hook boasts 5,119 acres of wilderness playground. The area is completely within Bald Eagle State Forest and encompasses an entire watershed within the state forest. This watershed is dissected by Panther Run and North Branch Buffalo Creek. The sound of burbling streams is a delightful perk of this beautiful mountain valley hike with fern meadows, underground springs, other-worldly Rhododendron tunnels and Mountain Laurel, which provide a stunning picture during spring bloom. The Hook is known for huge old trees such as White Pine, Hemlock and Oak.
BESF Penns Creek Wild Area
The trails in this area include 4- and 9- mile loop trails with amazing vistas in one of the most remote areas in Bald Eagle State Forest. The popular Chimney Rocks lookout offers determined hikers a spectacular view of Penn's Creek. Bald Eagles, Osprey, and other birds of prey can often be spotted flying up and down the creek.
The White Mountain Ridge Trail is located within the Penns Creek Wild Area of Bald Eagle State Forest.
This 2.5-mile out & back hike begins with an easy stroll to Pulpit Rock on the southern bank of Penn’s Creek along an old forest road before heading straight up the side of White Mountain and continuing to Chimney Rocks, a rock formation and cliff on the edge of the mountain overlooking Penns Creek and the valley below.
- White Mountain Ridge Trail – Blue Rectangles
- Chimney Rocks Trail, Wesley Forest Trail – Yellow Circles
- Pulpit Rock Trail – Reddish Circles
Trailhead Location: Directly In Front Of The Parking Area
BESF, R. B. Winter State Park
R. B. Winter State Park: 6.3 miles of trails connect with trails in the surrounding Bald Eagle State Forest. The Middle Trailhead for the Mid State Trail is in the State Park. Many of the park’s trails connect with trails in the surrounding Bald Eagle State Forest, making Raymond B. Winter an ideal starting point for backpacking trips. Map and trail information for the Park and Bald Eagle State Forest are available at the park office.
Trails within R. B. Winter State Park include:
Bake Oven Trail
0.96 mile, more difficult hiking
This trail runs in conjunction with the Mid State Trail and takes hikers along the ridge top and through areas of mountain laurel and chestnut oak.
Boiling Spring Trail
1.41 miles, easiest hiking
This trail follows the waterline originally installed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Hikers can enjoy dense mountain laurel and ferns en route to the original CCC springhouse.
Brush Hollow Trail
0.73 mile, more difficult hiking
This trail runs in conjunction with the Mid State Trail on the park’s southern border.
0.33 mile, more difficult hiking
This short, steep trail starts on Sand Mountain Road and climbs through an oak and maple forest to an overlook 300 feet above the park, then continues onto state forest property.
Old Boundary Trail
0.77 mile, most difficult hiking
This trail connects Bake Oven Trail and Sand Mountain Road. Hikers cross scenic Halfway Run and its nearby wetland area.
Rapid Run Nature Trail
1.09 miles, easiest hiking
This scenic trail loops through the Rapid Run Natural Area. The old growth hemlock and white pine trees shade wetlands, springs, sphagnum bogs, and vernal pools.
West Boundary Trail
0.64 mile, most difficult hiking
Stretches of steep, rocky terrain make a rugged, yet scenic hike.
Mid State Trail
327 miles, most difficult hiking
The park is a middle trailhead for central Pennsylvania’s Mid State Trail. Stretching from Bedford County in the south to Tioga County in the north, this wilderness footpath mostly covers public lands as it passes through state forests, state parks, and game lands. The remote and isolated trail is excellent for backpacking trips.
Milton State Park
Milton State Park is a convenient location for walks along the Susquehanna River. The Park is an 82-acre island in the West Branch of the Susquehanna River with 3.5 miles of walking trails to explore river and island habitat. Recreation Guide and Map of Milton State Park
Shikellamy State Park
Shikellamy State Park: 1.5-mile paved trail at the Marina plus 1.7 miles of wooded trail at the Overlook.
Shikellamy State Park is split in to two sections. The marina encompasses 54-acres located at the confluence of the West Branch and North Branch Susquehanna River. It offers a 1.5-mile walking and biking trail past a butterfly garden with beautiful views of the Susquehanna River as well as the Shikellamy Bluffs and Blue Hill across the river.
The 78-acre Shikellamy Overlook is on the western shore of the Susquehanna River. A 360-foot cliff overlooks the confluence providing a stunning view of the river as well as the nearby towns of Northumberland and Sunbury. 1.7 miles of wooded trails at the overlook offer opportunities to view birds, deer and other wildlife for attentive hikers.
Merrill Linn Land and Waterways Conservancy
The Merrill Linn Land and Waterways Conservancy maintains trails perfect for experiencing nature’s glory. Visit their website to learn more about the Dale’s Ridge Trail* located just outside of Lewisburg as well as the Koons Trail in Mifflinburg at the historic Hassenplug Covered Bridge and the Merrill Linn Trail in Bald Eagle State Forest.
The Dale’s Ridge Trail’s 2-mile loop offers scenic ridge-top views of the Buffalo Valley, wildflowers, and birding within a variety of habitats including streamside (riparian) buffer, mature woodlots, and open fields.
The Koons Trail is a mile-long loop path along Buffalo Creek both west and east of the bridge. It is a lovely location for spring wildflowers and birding with a wildflower meadow and a wetland outlook.
The Merrill Linn Trail is a one-mile loop extension off the Mid-State Trail in northwestern Union County on state forest lands. This trail is generally flat as it passes through deep woodland which shelters many vernal pools where forest amphibians breed. This area is especially beautiful in late spring while water remains in the pools and beautiful, tall cinnamon and interrupted ferns are at their finest.
Trail guides for these hikes are available at the trailhead kiosks.
*Please note: The Dale's Ridge Trail will be closed for rifle deer season, Nov. 27-Dec. 11. It is not open for public hunting but is hunted by private individuals who have received prior permission from the property owner.
Montour Area Recreation Commission
The Montour Area Recreation Commission manages parks, trails and outdoor recreational programming including the Montour Preserve which offers trails in varying lengths from the .2-mile Hummingbird Trail to the 3.9-mile Chilisaugi Trail. Also find information on the North Branch Canal Trail and the Robbins Trail/Old Reading Line Loop Trail at the Hess Recreation Area in Danville.
The Montour Preserve Visitors’ Center is open 8:00am – 4:00pm every day. The building houses environmental, animal and historical displays and is open at additional times for programs and special events.
Access to two wildlife observation blinds in the Goose Cove portion of the Preserve’s wildlife refuge are allowed by special permit only. To request access to these facilities, please contact Jon Beam, MARC Assistant Director, at [email protected] or by phone at (570) 772-4021.
A short walk from the parking lot leads to the Montour Preserve Fossil Pit. Open to the public this one-acre area of exposed Mahantango Formation shale was formed some 395 million years ago during the Devonian Period when much of Pennsylvania was covered by a warm, shallow sea. These shales are particularly rich in fossils.
Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art
The Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art in Millersburg has beautiful trails open for those looking to experience the splendor of a spring woods walk. Find more information about the land and trails at the Ned Smith Center here. Print a copy of the Berry Mountain Trail Guide before you head out to walk.
Located on the outskirts of historic Millersburg, the Ned Smith Center Lands and Trails encompass more than 500 acres of forest and meadow that stretch from the scenic Wiconisco Creek to the top of Berry’s Mountain. The land includes a mature hardwood forest alive with deer, bear, wild turkey, grouse, fox, along with hundreds of species of songbirds, insects and reptiles.
The Nature’s Discovery Play Area is a space for children to explore a water feature, fort, sensory pathway, and much more.
The Ned Smith Center also houses the permanent Ned Smith Gallery featuring a rotating selection from the $2.3 million collection of hundreds of original paintings, drawings, field sketches, journal notes, and manuscripts of Ned Smith. A beautiful open-air amphitheater hosts regional and national acts under the stars, with the backdrop of the gorgeous woods and stream. The Ned Smith Center plays an active role in education about nature, art, and conservation through a year-long series of workshops, guided walks, lectures, and other special events.
Watsontown Towpath Trail
The Watsontown Canal Towpath is a 1-mile hiking trail that runs parallel to the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. The trail runs from the southern end of Elm Street at the Canal Boat Riverfront Park to the West Milton State Bank parking area. Users who plan on biking the trail should be prepared with a mountain bike, due to the uneven surface and tree roots. The trail was originally used by horses which pulled canal boats along the canal.
Parking and Trail Access: Public parking is available at the riverfront park next to Canal Street in Watsontown, on the east side of the river bridge. The park has a canal boat-shaped pavilion, as well as a primitive boat launch. Informational panels by the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership about the trail are located next to the pavilion. The trailhead can be accessed by walking the path from the park down and under the West Brimmer Ave Bridge. The trail can also be accessed from West 5th Street and West 10th Street. Information Courtesy of Susquehanna Greenway.
Hiking with Children
Hiking is a wonderful way to interact with your children, create memories that will stay with them forever and provide a life-long means of connection with each other and with nature. If you haven't hiked with young ones before you may be a bit intimidated, but the American Hiking Society provides some helpful tips to get you started on the journey. Read more.
Find eight great locations within the Susquehanna River Valley for introducing children to the wonder and excitement of hiking. Read more.
Purple Lizard writes about hiking with children in their Adventure Blog. Read it here.
You can find Purple Lizard maps and a wealth of other resources for hiking including nature field guides, trail maps, park maps, books and more in the retail store at the Susquehanna River Valley Visitors Center. We also offer free PA state park guides, maps and trail guides. If you would like more information about the resources available here, call 800-525-7320, send us an email at [email protected], stop by our visitors center or visit our online store at: SRVshop.org.
Purple Lizard produces beautifully designed, durable and waterproof, easy to read topographic maps featuring contour lines, elevation data, shaded relief, and all the key details you need to plan your adventures: backroads and trails, trail use designations, road surfaces (paved/gravel/4wd), parking access, campsites, public lands, historic sites and more.
Purple Lizard highlights many of these trails on their maps and in their Purple Lizard Adventure Blog, providing detailed descriptions of the trails and how to find the trailheads. Make sure to purchase Purple Lizard’s Bald Eagle State Forest map before you head out to hike this isolated yet beautiful area of Central PA.
Susquehanna River Valley Visitors Bureau
81 Hafer Rd.
Lewisburg PA 17837