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Outdoors in Central PA

by Megan Waardenburg

Now that spring is well on its way, students are getting impatient for time outside. Even though it’s not summer yet, there are plenty of opportunities to spend time outside and explore nature here in Central PA.

Pine Grove Furnace State Park
Pine Grove Furnace is the midpoint of the Appalachian Trail, and features a historic iron furnace, bringing in outdoors enthusiasts from around the area. There are opportunities for hiking, biking, fishing, camping, and kayaking throughout the park.
Hiking/Biking Pine Grove features six major trails, each varying in length and difficulty. The Creek Trail, a half mile long trail covering flat terrain, would be the best choice for beginners. Anyone looking for something a little more challenging can try the Mountain Creek Trail, which runs for 1.4 miles. Experienced hikers would most likely prefer the Buck Ridge Trail, covering six miles, leading hikers to an environmental education center at the end. Also, pets are allowed on the trails!
Swimming/Boating The two lakes in Pine Grove, Fuller Lake and Laurel Lake, offer opportunities for canoeing, kayaking, and swimming. On both lakes, designated beaches allow swimmers to visit from May to September. Boating is only allowed on Laurel Lake, where visitors can bring their own electric motor boats, or non-powered boats. There are kayaks and canoes available for rental for anyone who doesn’t have their own. Fishing is allowed year round at Laurel Lake and Mountain Creek, and seasonally at Fuller Lake.
Rock Climbing The Pole Steeple Trail, covering 3/4 mile, offers a steep climb providing excellent views of Pine Grove and Laurel Lake. Another trail can lead you to the top of South Mountain, but it won’t require any climbing.

Yellow Breeches Creek
The Yellow Breeches, which crosses the Appalachian Trail and runs through Messiah College’s campus, offers easy trails and waterways for beginners to try out.
Swimming/Boating The Yellow Breeches is a slow-moving river, making it easy for beginners to learn how to kayak. In most areas, swimming is easy, and tubing is popular near Messiah College. There are no kayaks or canoes for rental so make sure you have your own or find someone to borrow from!
Hiking Around Messiah College, there are multiple fitness trails that students generally like to use, but are open to the public. They aren’t difficult trails at all, and are great for jogging or walking a pet.

Gifford Pinchot State Park
Pinchot Park, one of the many state parks in the area, is named after one of Pennsylvania’s governors in the 1920’s.It features 18 miles of hiking trails, and Lake Pinchot, offering kayaking and canoeing.
Boating Like Laurel Lake, Lake Pinchot allows only electric motors on their lake, as well as non-powered boats. People can either bring their own boats, or can rent kayaks, canoes, paddle boats, row boats, and electric motor boats at the lake.
Hiking Pinchot Park offers eleven different hiking trails, ranging from easy to difficult.Easy trails, such as the Alpine Trail, Gravel Trail, and Oak Trail are all short and flat. Medium trails such as the Midland and Fern Trail, Quaker Race Trail, and Ridge Trail are either longer or more difficult, and hard trails such as the Beaver Creek Trail and Lakeside Trail are long and more strenuous. The Mason Dixon Trail, which runs through Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, meets Pinchot Park as well, which experienced hikers might like to try. Designated trails allow biking, and are marked on each sign.

Whether you’re a beginner at outdoor sports or you’ve been working for a long time to try out new places, you can find places to try here in Central PA. Even if you don’t want to get involved in any sports, you can still appreciate the scenic nature in our area.

Also check out these places for alternative sites:
Joseph E. Ibberson Conservation Area
Boyd Big Tree Preserve Conservation Area
Little Buffalo State Park
Michaux State Forest

Image by Megan Waardenburg