21 Amazing Hiking Trails near Harrisburg, PA

When you think about the Harrisburg region, places like the State Capitol and Hershey park are probably the first things that spring to mind. However, there are several excellent possibilities for outdoor leisure and hiking in the surrounding area of Harrisburg, PA. There’s plenty for everyone here, from breathtaking panoramas to fantastic botanist-inspiring locations and calm hiking routes to explore.

Central Pennsylvania is a heaven for hikers with stunning mountains, gushing waterfalls, and many paths flowing across a range of terrains. Whether you love a tough climb, an even-leveled loop, seeing animals, or having a bath in freshwater, there’s a trail for you. To save you time and get you on the trails much faster, we decided to write an article detailing the top 20 hiking trails near Harrisburg.

Mason-Dixon Trail

Length – 193 miles
Difficulty – Moderate
Highlights – Holtwood Dam, waterfalls, and views.

As you travel along the Mason-Dixon Trail, you will pass through some of the most stunning countrysides in southeastern Pennsylvania. The fascinating stretch of this path is undoubtedly the area near Holtwood Dam, which features spectacular waterfalls, the remnants of an ancient dam, and breathtaking panoramas of the surrounding countryside.

Negley Park

Length – 2 miles
Difficulty – Easy
Highlights – Urban park with lovely views. Scenic overlook.

Negley Park offers one of the best views of the Harrisburg skyline anywhere in the city. This park is situated on a hill on the western banks of the Susquehanna River, provides a commanding view of the city’s skyline and the river underneath it.

The Negley Park Amphitheater is also an excellent alternative if you’re looking for a great place to watch the fireworks on independence day. In addition, a playground, tennis courts, and a basketball court are all available for use by visitors seeking some recreation in the park.

Appalachian Trail

Length – 46 miles
Difficulty – Moderate to hard
Highlights – Hawk Rock, the Susquehanna River, and the vistas from atop Peters Mountain.

While much of the climbing on this trail is steep, parking at the Peters Mountain access spot puts hikers at the top of the ridge, giving miles of fantastic trekking in either direction.

Capital Area Greenbelt

Length – 18.3 miles
Difficulty – Moderate
Highlights – Views, Riverfront.

The Greenbelt runs through Riverfront Park, Wildwood Park, and near Italian Lake, and traverses through some of the city’s most stunning picturesque locations. It also runs through Riverfront Park, woodland regions, urban areas, residential areas, and picturesque parks such as Reservoir Park and Wildwood Park along the Susquehanna River.

Fort Hunter Park

Length – 2.6 miles
Difficulty – Moderate
Highlights – Masonry arch railroad bridge

Fort Hunter Park, located north of the city along the banks of the Susquehanna River, is a terrific spot for individuals who wish to learn about history while also enjoying the outdoors. The Rockville Bridge, the world’s longest stone masonry arch railroad bridge, may be seen from this route, which offers spectacular views of the river. It also has some beautiful wild flowers along the hiking trail.

Hoverter and Sholl Box Huckleberry Natural Area

Length – 0.4 miles
Difficulty – Easy

This 10-acre park isn’t particularly huge, with only a single 0.4-mile route. What makes it unique, though, is that it is home to one of the country’s oldest plants. A single box huckleberry plant, believed to be 1,300 years old, covers the ground over most of this region. While it appears to be a typical plant, it is very amazing to see in person if you know what you’re looking at.

Italian Lake

Length – 0.6 miles
Difficulty – Easy
Highlights – Fountains, Japanese bridge and ancient street lights.

Italian Lake is a public park in Harrisburg’s Uptown neighborhood. This large park is home to a stunning man-made lake, fountains, a gorgeous Japanese-style bridge, formal gardens, and antique street lights. Visitors come to wander around the lake, observe the ducks, geese, and swans that swim in the waters, and listen to live music throughout the summer. Italian Lake is also a fantastic area to go for a walk in Harrisburg if you’re searching for a quiet spot.

Wildwood Park

Length – 6 miles
Difficulty – Easy
Highlights – Birdwatching, views of the lake.

Wildwood Park is a 210-acre park in Harrisburg’s northern suburbs. The park is surrounded by wooded pathways that lead to a tiny 90-acre lake. Wildwood is ideal for people searching for a relaxing trek through the woods that isn’t too demanding. The park’s 6 miles of paths encircle the lake, including a 1.5-mile boardwalk popular with birdwatchers. 

Don’t miss the remnants of the Pennsylvania Main Line Canal, which formerly connected Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, while you’re at the park.

Detweiler Park

Length – 7 miles

Difficulty – Moderate

This 400-acre park was a private estate until it was made available to the general public for leisure. If you’re searching for tranquil hiking trails near Harrisburg, go no farther than the park’s lush woodland and seven miles of trails, which travel through a variety of ecosystems and are perfect for families. You can see a variety of wildlife on this trail.

Boyd Big Tree Preserve

Length – 5.3 to 12 miles
Difficulty – Easy to difficult
Highlights – wildlife and heavy woods.

The Boyd Big Tree Preserve features a comprehensive 12-mile route system that ranges from simple to challenging hiking conditions. Each of the routes is connected to at least one other trail, so choose a trip that is appropriate for your level of experience.

There is a great deal of wildlife to be observed on the route, and you can choose from a number of other trails as well. Another activity available in some areas of this preserve is hunting, but make sure to double-check which areas are available before you go in case you get into an issue with the authorities.

Peter’s Mountain Ridge

Length – 4.2 miles
Difficulty – Moderate
Highlights – Panoramic views

Both Peter’s Mountain Dauphin Overlook and Sherman’s Peak Vista, which are located along the Susquehanna River, provide hikers with stunning views of the river as well as the gorgeous mountains in the distance. It is a wonderful hiking trip that combines the challenge of rough areas along the ridge with a series of switchbacks and a landmark rock formation for a fantastic workout and a gratifying hiking experience that is unlike anything else out there.

Riverfront Park

Length – 4 miles
Difficulty – Easy
Highlights – Sunset views

Riverfront Park, which stretches for four miles along the Susquehanna River between Front Street and the river. There are several activities available here, including running, riding a bike, and simply taking a nice stroll along the gorgeous riverside path. Additionally, Riverfront Park is a terrific location to see the sunset over the Susquehanna, as well as a great location for pictures in Harrisburg.

Ned Smith Center

Length – 10 miles in total
Difficulty – Easy to difficult
Highlights -Views of wide open meadows

There are 500 acres of mature hardwood woodland and wide meadowlands to explore along the pathways. Some paths are also suitable for mountain biking, equestrian riding, and cross-country skiing, among other activities. The many diverse routes each have their own set of delights, ranging from breathtaking photo opportunities along rivers and bridges to bird viewing and animals.

Another advantage of hiking at the Ned Smith Center is that there are several routes to select from, with difficulty levels ranging from easy to challenging.

Standing Stone Trail

Length – 38.7 miles
Difficulty – Difficult

This trail is regarded as tough and contains magnificent wildflowers. The route is open year-round and provides a variety of activities. It is also open to dogs, although they must be kept on a leash. The first historical landmark on the path in Fulton County is a piece of railroad gradient known as Vanderbilt’s Folly, which runs south to north. The ancient Native American road known as the Standing Stone Path, which connected Fort Littleton and Fort Standing Stone, currently known as Huntingdon, is also in the valley to the west.

Shank Park Nature Trail

Length – 1 mile
Difficulty – Easy

On hot summer days, the Shank Park Nature Trail is a terrific spot for stream splashing on hot summer days, although it may be a messy trek. It has a children’s playground and is easy to navigate for young travelers. The river that runs through the path, as well as a few small bridges that are ideal for capturing nature shots, are the trail’s main attractions. 

The route is well-shaded throughout, which works out well on hot summer days.

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary

Length – 5.4 miles
Difficulty – Hard
Highlights – Wildflowers, views from the North Lookout.

The Hawk Mountain Sanctuary trail not only offers gorgeous wildflowers, but it also has a lot of vistas to offer. However, the greatest view is likely from the North Lookout, which is slightly east of the peak. You can obtain a 300-degree view of Pennsylvania’s ridge and valley region from here. This is one of the greatest spots to hike and enjoy some wonderful wildlife if you enjoy watching predatory birds.

Ricketts Glen State Park Trail

Length – 7.2 miles
Difficulty – Easy to difficult

If you hike both the top and lower parts of this path, it will take you 7.2 miles to complete the loop. The Highland Path and the Glen Leigh and Ganoga Glen sides of the trail may be used to make a 3.2-mile loop to view the majority of the waterfalls. The pathways lead to 21 stunning waterfalls that range in height from 11 to 94 feet. The beauty is definitely worth the effort, although the ground on both the Ganoga and Glen Leigh sides is rocky, slippery, and slopes rapidly.

Quehanna Trail

Length – 72 miles
Difficulty – Moderate

This moderately used circular route near Driftwood, Pennsylvania, has a river and is sparsely traveled. The path is best used between March and October and offers a range of activities. This route is also open to dogs, although they must be kept on a leash. The Quehanna Trail runs through the Moshannon and Elk State Forests, which have some of Pennsylvania’s most wild and picturesque terrain.

Trout Run

Length – 2.2 miles
Difficulty – Easy

This out-and-back walk near Pequea, Pennsylvania, has a river and is suitable for hikers of all abilities. Nature enthusiasts and scientists are familiar with this lovely and densely forested ravine. Clear water cascades down a steep incline, generating riffles and pools, with a glade and swampy region near an old railroad tunnel on the north end. Outcroppings of schist bedrock protrude from the terrain, making trekking through the Preserve a bit more challenging.

Landscape of the Swimming and Fishing Area in Colonel Denning State Park in Tuscarora State Forest in Pennsylvania
Credit: christianhinkle, depositphotos

Colonel Denning State Park

Length – 3.5 miles
Difficulty – Moderate

The park serves as a gateway to the larger Tuscarora State Forest, which incorporates it. There are several routes in the park, including a popular way to the summit of Blue Mountain and a slightly more difficult one. Regardless of expertise level, the park’s trail is fairly complex. Nevertheless, the park has several features, such as breathtaking scenery and breathtaking vistas of nature.

Janie Trail via Pond Loop and Lower Spring Trail

Length – 5.3 miles
Difficulty – Moderate

One of the more popular trails in the Harrisburg area, and the parking lot can get pretty busy on weekends, but this area has so many smaller wooded trails that it still feels secluded enough. Bugs can be an issue during warmer weather.

Frequently asked questions for Hiking around Harrisburg PA

What’s the best time and months for Hiking here?

The months of March to May, as well as September to early November, are the most comfortable times to go hike in this area, with temperatures ranging between the upper 50s and the mid-70s, making it the ideal time to see the spring blooms and the autumn foliage.

What do you need for Hikes? What to pack?

Whether you’re taking a leisurely hike to a favorite waterfall or attempting a challenging peak, having the right kit is vitally essential for success. So for an enjoyable hike you need the following items: compass or other navigation equipment, sun protection, proper clothing and insulation, light and illumination, first aid supplies just in case, fire, repair kit tools, nutrition, hydration, emergency shelter, daypack, footwear, towels and toilet paper, trekking poles, hand sanitizer, and personal locator beacon.

Conclusion

Picking any of the best hiking trails near Harrisburg on our list will surely be a very enjoyable adventure. And you have a variety of options to pick from. You can hike and see waterfalls, enjoy beautiful views from the top of the surrounding mountains or hike a trail that has a rich history and old buildings on it. Whatever you decide, we are sure that you will have a lot of fun and spend some valuable quality time with nature. Here are some more adventures in Pennsylvania or in surrounding states

Emily Winters

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