Pennsylvania: Must-See Day Hikes on the Appalachian Trail
If you are a frequent reader of my posts, then you know that I am a huge fan of Pennsylvania hiking. With that being said, after hiking all 250 miles of the Appalachian Trail in PA, I totally understand where this state gets its bad rep from. Nope, the rumors aren’t lying. The state is filled with sharp rocks, rattlesnakes, entire fields of rocks, dry water sources, slippery rocks, humidity, oh and did I mention rocks?
Thru-hiking in Pennsylvania may be filled with less than ideal terrain, but that makes this state amazing for day hikes! The rocks and humidity don’t really bother you so much when you get to go home, rest your feet, and sleep in a comfortable bed at the end of the day. So, get out and explore this summer with these must-see Pennsylvania Appalachian Trail day hikes:
1. Pole Steeple
Total Distance: 4.2 miles
About the Hike:
After filling up on ice cream at Pine Grove Furnace State Park, which is home to the half gallon challenge, the AT brings you up to one of my personal favorite views in Pennsylvania. Climb to the top of this rock formation to see panoramic views of Michaux State Forest, and a few lakes from above. The beginning of the hike passes Fuller lake, and walks along a beautiful creek before ascending to the vista which makes this hike perfect for warmer summer days as you can cool off before or after tackling the hike to the overlook.
Park by Fuller Lake at Pine Grove Furnace State Park, and follow the AT northbound for 2.1 miles (+2.1 miles back down). The first part of the hike follows a smooth and flat path that goes along the creek, be sure to look out for when the AT turns off the path and continues up an old service road. Once you reach the top, watch for a wooden sign on your left which leads you down the quarter mile side trail to the overlook.
2. The Pinnacle + Pulpit Rock
Total Distance: 8+ miles (with a shorter option available)
About the Hike:
Although the first part of this hike is on the challenging side, The Pinnacle and Pulpit Rock pride themselves in being one of the most visited spots on the AT in Pennsylvania. This hike offers multiple different types of terrain, stunning views, and a good chance of getting up close and personal with hawks. If you choose to take the service road back down the mountain, you will get to stroll along a shady and scenic creek which is the perfect way to end the hike as the first part is challenging.
Park in the large parking lot at Windsor Furnace on Reservoir Road, but be sure to get there early because it can get crowded. Follow the AT northbound. The first 1.8 miles are a challenging climb, however after the climb you are rewarded with Pulpit rock. Follow the AT another 2.2 miles along a very rocky ridge line to reach the Pinnacle (watch for the blue blazed trail on your right). After taking in the views, continue on the AT another 1.7 until you reach the Furnace Trail (on your left) and follow along the creek straight back to your car! For a shorter option, you can stop your hike at Pulpit rock (3.6 mile round trip).
3. Mt. Minsi
Total Distance: 3.8 miles
About the Hike:
Another challenging Pennsylvania climb, Mt. Minsi is located at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and is a beautiful hike which takes you way above the Delaware River for fantastic views of New Jersey (which also has many fantastic day hikes…) and the surrounding Pennsylvania mountains. On the way up, you will come to several vistas which all offer unique views of the water gap. If you’re in the mood for a quick photo op, the PA/NJ trail border sign will be located in the I-80 bridge and is a quick 10 minute walk from your car!
Park at the large parking area on Lake road and follow the AT southbound for 1.9 miles (+1.9 miles back down). This hike is challenging, but you are rewarded with multiple views on your way up which are perfect places to take a water break!
4. Lehigh Gap
Total Distance: 1 mile
About the Hike:
The Lehigh Gap Superfund Site is well known along the AT, and has even been included in the rating of hardest day hikes on the trail. Multiple days before reaching the climb, rumors start floating down the trail for thru hikers about just how big and scary this climb really is. It is steep, there are no trees for cover, and it requires literally climbing up and over near vertical rocks. Don’t let this description scare you though – this hike is a ton of fun and you will feel like a bad ass staring down at the Lehigh River from the top.
There is a parking lot located up a very narrow, but short, gravel driveway on PA Route 248 which has room for many cars. Hike northbound on the AT and continue up the trail until you hit the rock scramble. You will reach the top after a very slow .5 miles. Double back down to your car to complete the hike!
5. Knife’s Edge + Bake Oven Knob
Total Distance: 4.8 miles (with shorter options available)
About the Hike:
The climb up to Bake Oven Knob is short and fun. The trails starts smooth and slowly leads into a small rock scramble, until you reach the summit. Unfortunately, this area has been splattered with plenty of graffiti, but it is somewhat helpful as the rock that says “Bake Oven Knob” will let you know where to turn off the AT to see the view. After soaking in the views at Bake Oven Knob, hike back down the mountain, past your car, and towards Knife’s Edge. This section of the trail is flat and smooth until you start getting closer to Knife’s Edge, where it becomes more of a rock scramble.
Park at Bake Oven Knob Road, which sits on top of a steep gravel road. Hike .4 miles northbound towards the Bake Oven Knob overlook, then double back down to your car. Follow the AT past your car for 2 miles until you hit Knife’s Edge, then double back the same 2 miles to your car. For shorter alternatives you can either hike straight to Knife’s edge (4 miles round trip), or just to the Bake Oven Knob Overlook (.8 miles round trip).
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