Hitting the Trails: Great Hikes in Lancaster
This post was written by Brenda Lee Sieglitz, an area writer.
I do my best thinking outside. In nature, specifically. When my feet are pounding along the dirt of a trail, I process my thoughts and emotions in hopes that I can leave them there on the trail so I can breathe a little easier. I’ve hiked in spots all over the country but none have captured and restored my soul more than the trails here in Lancaster County.
Money Rocks County Park – Never heard of it? Neither did I, but it’s located in the middle of nowhere in Narvon. The middle of nowhere is an excellent place for a park, I’ve actually gotten lost in this park and had to walk the road back to the parking lot, so it may be best to stick with the rocky outcroppings which offer the best views and scenery even if they don’t offer much in terms of miles. Where did it get its name? According to the county website, farmers used to hide money in these rocks.
Silver Mine Park – If you lived in Lancaster County in the 80’s you may have remembered this park as host of some excellent country concerts brought in to raise money for local fire companies. And if you attended one of these concerts, it may have been 5-year old me that served you your icy cold root beer from the galvanized tubs. Now the park has been cleared to use the former service road as a walking path which takes you on a peninsula surrounded by a beautiful u-turn in the Conestoga Creek. There’s also a pond open to fishing at the north entrance and you can download a map on their website for a self-guided geology tour of the former silver mines-something still on my to-do list.
Lancaster County Park – Known not only as one of the closest parks to Lancaster’s downtown, it also has a variety of activities thanks to the county’s investment. I love to take my bike to this park and ride along the roads as well as the trails. There’s all types of trails from easy to moderate and you may want to plan your trip around the numerous activities going on at the Environmental Center.
Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area – I don’t consider myself a birder yet every year around February I find myself driving through Middle Creek once I see the migration numbers growing for snow geese, tundra swans, Canadian geese and ducks. Middle Creek doesn’t have a ton of hiking opportunities, but you can walk down a nice path to a pavilion or sit along several scenic areas of the reservoir. Bring your binoculars and a picnic basket and make an afternoon of it.
Tucquan Glen – This is the first, but not the last, of my mentions of a Lancaster County Conservancy property. Tucquan Glen is a nice round trip (2.4 miles) hike and offers some difficult climbs as the trail rises up from the Tucquan Creek. It has a variety of native plants and is pretty gorgeous year-round. Be prepared to search for parking, so please carpool if you’re hiking with friends (check for detours there this summer due to bridge work).
Turkey Hill Trail – This is my trail…kind of. I’m a steward of this trail for the Conservancy and have been for about 6 months. This trail is TOUGH. You make it up about ¾ of the way and then if you’re a bit out of shape, like myself, you find yourself stopping every little climb to catch your breath. But it’s all worth it for the stunning views of the Susquehanna River at the top. Along the way enjoy the change in plant life and you may even spot a critter or two. Recently opened, the Chestnut Grove Natural Area connects to the top of Turkey Hill trail by the wind turbines and is also accessible off Chestnut Grove Road in Washington Boro – I have yet to make a stop but I’ve heard and read many good things about their lush native plants.
Enola Low Grade Trail (Manor Twp section) – If you’re more into flatlanding than climbing, the Enola Low Grade Trail in Manor Twp, just north of the Turkey Hill Dairy entrance, is your alternative to the Turkey Hill Trail (the entrance is located at the same place). Round trip is 10.5 miles and I think it’s best done on a bike. The bird watching is spectacular on this trail and it curves along the Susquehanna River for great views all around – cliffs on one side, river on the other. There’s also an extension of this trail in the southern end that will one day connect to the Manor twp trail when restoration is completed on the former trestle bridge at Martic Forge.
Susquehannock State Park – This park is the county’s only state-park. I enjoyed picnicking here with my family over Mother’s Day weekend this year. We took a short walk to the overlook and spotted 2 eagles! The hiking and bird watching seem great here, but my only knock is the upkeep of the place – the road is pretty treacherous which I imagine has a lot to do with the state’s continued lack of funding towards tourism and parks (write your politicians!) but it’s still worth the visit.
Shenk’s Ferry Wildflower Preserve – I love the haunting-ness of Shenk’s Ferry – with the stone tunnel and its location right along a railroad. Not to mention the amazing variety of native plants and wildflowers. The conservancy recently acquired this land, so you can expect it’s only going to become more popular. Be prepared to park along the road and walk in as this place gets packed on nice weekends especially in prime blooming season.
Lake Grubb Nature Park – So many of Lancaster County’s natural gems are the result of previous industrialization. Lake Grubb is one of many – the former site of an iron ore mine according to West Hempfield township, it now serves the community with a hike around the lake’s perimeter, fishing, as well as picnicking. West Hempfield is not a dog-friendly zone when it comes to any of their public properties (write your township!), so leave your pups at home.
Chickies Rock County Park – If you live on the western part of the county, like myself, it may drive you a little nuts that it’s called “Chickies” rock County Park and not “Chiques/Chiquesalunga” which was the original Native American name given to the region. But, don’t let that deter you from visiting this expansive park. Hiking, rock climbing, wildflower gardens, and now a rail trail runs right through this beautiful place. My perfect hidden gem at this park is the Girl Scout trail which lies east of Route 441 along Long Lane. It’s a beautiful walk where you’re sure to spot a deer nibbling on the wildflowers and you can take a rest along the sandy beach of Chiques Creek.
Northwest Lancaster County River Trail – I’ve biked/walked nearly all of this trail, but it’s still not quite completed. You’ll find gaps between Columbia/Marietta but please visit all sections that are open. My two favorite spots along this trail are the landing that takes you underneath the rail bridge just north of Riverfront Park in Marietta and White Cliffs of Conoy – both are a must see and can easily be accessed by starting at the Riverfront Park entrance in Marietta or the Bainbridge Access. Parts of this trail cut through Chickies Rock County Park.
Kelly’s Run/Pinnacle – I remember spending many weekends at the Pinnacle Overlook or hiking down Kelly’s run and going for a dip in one of the deep water pools of this Susquehanna tributary. It’s an intense hike, so come prepared with hiking boots/sandals and plenty of water. It’s a gem of a place to spend an entire day exploring. Be sure to bring a friend.
Stop escaping to other parts of the country to find your adventure – it all lies right here within county lines and you’ll be impressed by the variety of plants, trees, wildlife and scenery that await you as you find your footing along the trail.
Brenda Lee Sieglitz was born and raised in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and was widowed in 2008 at the age of 24. She has been freelance writing since 2009 and enjoys travel writing and sharing her grief journey on her blog, brendaleefree.com. In 2009, she won the Content of the Year Award from the former Associated Content for her article “A Widow’s View on the US Healthcare Debate” and in 2011 she was selected as one of Wyndham Women’s Local Nation content travel writers. In 2014 she published her first book, a memoir titled Ebb from the Shoreline – Finding Cancer and Courage which won 1st Place Editor’s Choice in the North American Book Awards. She also freelance writes and speaks for several travel, grief, and cancer related media outlets such as Soaring Spirits International,Where & When, Pennsylvania’s Travel Guide, NationalParksTraveler.com, Savvyauntie.com, and Johns Hopkins’ Cancer Matters blog. In her spare time, she adores playing with her two nieces, going on family adventures, hiking, camping and is working to complete her bucket list dream of visiting all National Park units alongside her husband Dave and their two dogs Molly and Scotch.