If you're a hiker in Pennsylvania and you're not hitting the trail during the winter months, you are truly missing out. The state has more than its fair share of excellent routes to explore even after the snow starts to fly. These five hikes are our absolute favorites for trekking in winter months, providing plenty of scenic views, wonderful challenges, and a healthy dose of solitude along the way.
The Pinnacle Trail and Pulpit Rock Loop: Kempton
The Appalachian Trail stretches across Pennsylvania, offering thru-hikers an enticing glimpse of what the Keystone State has to offer in terms of natural beauty. One of the best stretches of that particular leg of the AT is the Pinnacle Trail with the Pulpit Rock extension. The entire route covers more than 9 miles and features 1300 feet of vertical gain along the way. This makes it a moderately difficult hike during the summer months and a bit more challenging when it's covered with a fresh blanket of snow.
For their efforts, hikers are rewarded with stunning views from two distinct vantage points high up on the trail. During the winter, those views become even more breathtaking when when fresh powder falls across the landscape. Be warned, however; later in the in the winter you may need snowshoes to safely pass through parts of the trail after the snow has had a chance to accumulate.
Moraine State Park: Portersville
Located not far from Pittsburg, Moraine State Park features more than 28 miles of hiking trails, most of which are open all winter long. The Scenic Garden Route is a popular hike, even during the colder months of the year, and it is well worth a look if you are short on time.
But for something a bit more remote, wild, and challenging, consider hiking the Glacier Ridge Trail instead. It is a moderately difficult trek with some rolling elevation changes along the way, although it remains fairly accessible for hikers and snowshoers even during the winter. At 17.2 miles in length, you aren't likely to cover its entire trail in a single day, but the wonderful views from the numerous scenic overlooks found along the route will entice you to come back no matter the season.
Ridley Creek State Park: Media
Located just 16 miles from the city-center of Philadelphia, Ridley Creek State Park is a wonderful outdoor destination that doesn't requires spending hours in the car in order to reach it. The park covers more than 2600 acres and has an interconnecting network of hiking trails that span more than 12 miles in length. Because those trails link up with one another at various points along the way, hikers have the ability to extend or shorten their outing as needed. This provides a nice level of versatility that can come in handy during the winter months when sudden changes in weather can call for an unexpected shift in plans from time to time.
Keystone State Park: Derry
Spread out across 1200 beautiful acres, Keystone State Park offers visitors 8 miles of hiking trails to wander. During the summer, the park is a popular destination for campers and kayakers looking to enjoy its prominent lake, which is perfect for paddling excursions and swimming. But in the winter, the park is far less crowded, making it a wonderful spot for a cold weather outing. Take the 2.2-mile Lakeside Loop Trail for an easy stroll that still offers plenty of great scenery. The route is an especially great place for beginner snowshoers and cross-country skiers to gain valuable experience too, with little in the way of elevation gain or major obstacles along the way.
Ohiopyle State Park: Ohiopyle
If you are truly adventurous and looking for a challenging winter hike, the Baughman Trail in Ohiopyle State Park needs to be on your bucket list. At 3.4-miles in length, the trail isn't particularly long, but it does feature a steep, relentless climb upwards for most of that distance. Those who do venture to the top will discover Baughman's Rock, which offers a jaw-dropping look at the Youghiogheny River Gorge, the deepest of its kind in Pennsylvania. On your return trip, head over to the park's winter sledding hill for an adrenaline rush of a completely different kind.