Pennsylvania: The Backpacker’s Paradise



If you are going to Pennsylvania, you will not be too far from a great backpacking trail. In case you weren’t aware, this state boasts of some of the most interesting backpacking trails any place east to the Mississippi. So if you love nature and if you love to walk, then Pennsylvania has lots to offer!

Backpacking Sites In Pennsylvania

It seems that every corner of Pennsylvania has something special for every backpacking lover.

Backpacking Sites In North-West Pennsylvania

Some of the most visited backpacking sites in North-west Pennsylvania include Thunder Swamp Trail, Pinchot Trail and Loyalsock trail.

Photo Credit: thelearnedfoot_ via Compfight cc


  • The Thunder Swamp Trail offers a 45 mile network of several hiking trails that interconnect each other. The variety of hiking opportunities it offers makes it one of the most frequently visited spots for backpackers. Also,
  1. You can follow the trail loops to get a great view of the Pocono Mountains.
  2. On your way, you will experience a gradual change of altitudes and come across diverse native plants and animals.
  3. From the aridness of ridge tops to the coolness of the streams and wetlands, trailing at Thunder Swamp can give you a variety of experiences.
  4. However, the trail surface is often uneven, wet, and rocky. So if you go there, make sure that you take your hiking boots which offer ankle protection.

  • The relatively short Pinchot Trail is a 23 mile loop-style footpath in the Lackawanna State Forest.
  1. A seasoned backpacker with good health condition can complete the hike in a day.
  2. On the way, you may come across plants which are not common to Pennsylvania.
  3. A walk through a path that remains canopied by hemlocks next to a gurgling rivulet is sure to give you a rewarding experience.

  • If you are looking for an easier hiking trail, then the Loyalsock trails can be the right place for you to go.
  1. The trail, which involves a 59.2 mile (95.3 km) hike, has two terminuses. The Pennsylvania Route 87 is its finishing point in the west, while in the east, it terminates at Meade Road, which is 0.2 mile from U.S. Route 220, north of Laporte.
  2. With its lowest point at 665 feet and the highest point at 2,140 feet, the trail offers numerous climbs and vistas.

Backpacking Sites In South Eastern Pennsylvania

Some of the most visited backpacking sites in South eastern Pennsylvania include Horse shoe trail, Conestoga trail and Mason Dixon trail.

  • The Horse-shoe trail was named so as it was chiefly developed for equestrian as well as pedestrian use.
  1. The 140-mile long trail runs from the Western border of Valley Forge National Historical Park and goes westward through Harrisburg, Pennsylvania before it ends at the Appalachian Trail.
  2. You can hike here at any time of the year.
  3. The trail runs through spots like French Creek State Park and Welkinweir, which is a conservation area south of Pottstown.

  • The 63 mile long Conestoga trail has its northern ending point at the old Lebanon Pumping station (near route 322). At this point, it is joined by the horse shoe trail. The southern terminus of the trail is at Lock 12 in York County just off route 372. Here, the CTN joins another trail, namely Mason-Dixon Trail System.
  1. Here, you can witness fine specimens of the flora and fauna of Lancaster County.
  2. You can see ruins of old magnetite mines on either side of the Pequea Creek.
  3. There is also a tectonic cave in the south of Pequea where you can take a break.

In the guide book, you can find some places designated for camping. Other than them, you cannot find a shelter to camp at CTS.

  • The Mason Dixon Trail is a 193-mile trail which links the Appalachian Trail with the Brandywine Trail.
  1. The trail passes through Gifford Pinchot State Park as well as White Clay Creek Preserve in Pennsylvania and White Clay Creek State Park in Delaware.
  2. It has been designated as national recreational trail.

Backpacking Sites In Central Pennsylvania

If you choose to hike in central Pennsylvania, then backpacking at Link trail or Black forest trail can give you an experience of a lifetime.

  • The Link trail is blazed orange and it is one of the premier ridge top trails of the land.
  1. It is named so as it connects the Mid State with the Tuscarora Trail.
  2. The backpacking spot is noted for its outstanding views, wild flowers, hemlock forests and rock formations that are found along the way.

  • The Black Forest trail, which is orange blazed, is perhaps one of the most challenging backpacking locations in Pennsylvania.
  1. The long distance loop style trail passes through and above the western edge of Pine Creek Gorge in the northwest of Lycoming County.
  2. The extremely rugged trail has many steep ascents and slopes, but it levels on the top of plateau near PS44.
  3. The points of interest on the way include Morris Run, Baldwin Branch, Naval Run, Young Woman’s Creek, Pine Creek and many more.

Backpacking Sites In South West Pennsylvania

Even the south west of Pennsylvania abounds with many spectacular sites for backpacking, the most notable of which include Lost Turkey Trail and Warrior Trail.

  • The 26 mile long Lost Turkey Trail passes through State Game lands, Gallitzin state forest and the Blue knob state park. Since the trail is a relatively easier one, it is a perfect backpacking site for first time hikers. 

  • The uniqueness of the Warrior Trail lies in the fact that it is not a typical wilderness trail, but it is more of a reminder of the European countryside.
  1. The area predates the European settlement at Pennsylvania.
  2. The trail offers sights of lush pastoral meadows and rural vistas throughout its way.
  3. The 67 mile long trail goes from the Monongahela River at Greensboro to the Ohio River, which is at the south of Moundsville, West Virginia.

Backpacking Sites In North West Pennsylvania

Some of the notable backpacking sites of the area include North Country trail and Tanbark trail.

  • The North Country trail, which extends approximately 4,600 miles, passes through the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota.
  1. It is the longest of the eleven National Scenic Trails that Congress has certified.
  2. The trail provides a rare opportunity to explore some of America’s most spectacular landscapes.
  • On the other hand, the Tanbark trail is a relatively easy hiking spot, and therefore it is perfect for first time backpackers.
  1. The 9 mile trail is characterized by rocky outcrops, boulders and other formations, hemlock forests and streams.
  2. In the northern end, the trail climbs 800 feet over 2 miles. It is the most difficult part of the terrain.

Remember, Pennsylvania has many more hiking spots to offer you. What you have just read is just a brief of the different hiking spots that you can consider.

Help In Need

If you desire to have a more detailed study on backpacking in Pennsylvania, then you can find your helpmate in the form of a book called Backpacking Pennsylvania: 37 Great Hikes [Paperback]. The author, Jeff Mitchell is an attorney who stays at Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania. He is a member of many hiking associations, that include the Alpine Club of Williamsport and Keystone Trails Association. The book contains:

  • A detailed description of 37 trails
  • It provides all the information you need on the terrain, difficulty, precautions and contacts.
  • The book also offers directions for each trail and describes the features along the trail.

The book gains an overall rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars at Amazon.com. It is the same website where you can have a preview of the book.

Hopefully, your hiking at the trails of Pennsylvania will give you many memories to cherish for a lifetime.

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