Although known predominantly for its Pennsylvania Dutch culture, the Gettysburg battlefield, and the cities of Harrisburg, Lancaster, and York, south-central Pennsylvania is home to many tracts of public lands that offer a diverse array of hiking experiences. From the gentle farm country of Lancaster and York Counties, to the steep-sided ravines along the Susquehanna River, to the rugged ridges north of Harrisburg, and the rolling hills of South Mountain, you'll find hikes to suit about any taste and interest. 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Harrisburg, by local outdoorsman Matt Willen, provides the first and most comprehensive hiking guide to the region.
Each hike description features key information on length, hiking time, difficulty, configuration, scenery, traffic, trail surface, and accessibility.
This guide features information on the history and natural history of the areas the hikes pass through, detailed trail maps and elevation profiles, clear directions to the trailheads and trailhead GPS data, and tips on nearby activities.
Related collections and offers
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
TABLE ROCK AND PETERS MOUNTAIN
- LENGTH: 2 miles to Table Rock; 3.1 miles to Peters Mountain Shelter; 4.15 miles to Victoria Furnace Trail. Double the distance for return.
- CONFIGURATION: Out-and-back
- DIFFICULTY: Easy–moderate
- SCENERY: View of Clark Creek Valley, Peters Mountain Shelter; very nice ridge walking
- EXPOSURE: Mostly shaded
- TRAIL TRAFFIC: Moderate–heavy on weekends
- TRAIL SURFACE: Dirt
- HIKING TIME: 2 hours for Table Rock, 3 hours for Peters Mountain Shelter,4 hours for Victoria Furnace Trail
- DRIVING DISTANCE: About 10 miles from the intersection of I-81 and US 22/322 outside of Harrisburg
- ACCESS: Open
- MAPS: USGS Halifax and Enders; Keystone Trail Association Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania, Sections 7 and 8: Susquehanna River to Swatara Gap
- FACILITIES: Spring and privy at Peters Mountain Shelter
- WHEELCHAIR TRAVERSABLE: No
- CONTACT: Appalachian Trail Conservancy, 717-258-5771, appalachiantrail.org
- SPECIAL COMMENTS: A pleasant hike year-round
This hike heads east out of the parking area along the Appalachian Trail (AT), along the Peters Mountain ridge to Table Rock, a wonderful sunny overlook. From there, you can follow the AT to the Peters Mountain Shelter, and from there to the Victoria Trail near the boundary of the Joseph E. Ibberson Conservation Area (see page 47).
The first section of this hike, to Table Rock and back, is deservedly popular. The walking is easy, the distance is not too long, and the view from the rock is spectacular. Beyond Table Rock, the trail can still be busy, as a trip to the Peters Mountain Shelter and back makes for an easy overnight excursion. Beyond the shelter, you’ll see fewer people, mostly folks exploring the AT.
This hike offers pretty views along Peters Mountain, one of the significant long, level ridges that form the Valley and Ridge physiographic province of central Pennsylvania. Peters Mountain extends for nearly 30 miles from the Susquehanna River north of Harrisburg northeast to Tower City. Across the Susquehanna, which forms a large water gap in the ridge, it continues as Cove Mountain to the west.
The top of Peters Mountain, like many of the other mountains in the Valley and Ridge Province, is composed of extremely hard, erosion-resistant sandstone. All along its crest you’ll find large, blocky outcrops of rock. The ridgeline is surprisingly narrow in places, though not so much on this hike. The top of the mountain varies very little in elevation, and because this hike begins at the top of the ridge, you’ll have very little climbing. It is mostly flat walking on a good trail.
From the parking area above PA 225, head east along the AT. You may get slightly confused as you leave the parking area because an inviting dirt road leads directly up the ridge. The AT actually heads over to the south side of the mountain right away to bypass the radio towers to which the road leads. Look for the white blazes and a trail sign for Table Rock (2 miles) and Peters Mountain Shelter (3 miles) pointing the way over some rocks.
After passing below the radio towers, the trail climbs back to the ridge, crosses over the top, and joins an old roadbed. The walking here is extremely pleasant. You’ll begin to see some of the outcrops along the ridgetop here and if you are feeling ambitious you might scramble to the top of one or two for a view. Soon, however, the trail passes beneath a power line dropping off to the north from a large outcrop. You’ll get a great view of the Susquehanna River and the valley to the north up toward Halifax from here.
Continue along the trail, which quickly becomes more of a footpath through the woods. At 2 miles, you’ll reach Table Rock. Although there is no sign, it is hard to miss. It is a large sandstone outcrop that forms a cliff on the south side of the ridge, offering an incredible view of Clark Creek and the ridge of Stony Mountain. Surrounded by Table Mountain pine trees that add to the beauty of the setting, I would have to say that this is one of the prettiest views along the ridges east of the Susquehanna River. If you scan the ridge to the east across the valley, you should be able to spot the Stony Mountain Lookout Tower 4 or 5 miles distant.
After you’ve had your fill of the view, continue east along the AT. Just past Table Rock, you’ll pass a junction with an orange-blazed trail dropping off the north side of the ridge. That is a private path, according to my AT map. Continue along the ridge for another mile to the Peters Mountain Shelter, constructed in 1994 by the Susquehanna Appalachian Trail Club. You’ll find a privy here and a spring on the north side of the mountain (follow the sign from the shelter). Be sure to treat the water before drinking it.
From the shelter, continue east through more oak trees along the ridge, and descend into a saddle via some rock steps at 4.15 miles. At the saddle, the AT continues along the ridge, crossing a dirt road rising from the south and descending to the northeast. This is the Victoria Trail, an old road used for hauling lumber to the Victoria Furnace in the Clark Creek Valley from the Powell Creek Valley to the north. Below the ridge to the north is the Joseph E. Ibberson Conservation Area. This is a nice place to rest before completing the trip by retracing your steps.
A suggestion for an alternate hike: If you have two cars, you can run a shuttle, leaving one car at the parking area at the conservation area lot and the other at the AT lot at PA 225 on Peters Mountain. If you do that, you can follow this hike across Peters Mountain and then take the Victoria Trail down to the parking area at the conservation area (see page 47). Doing so will give you a one-way hike of about 6 miles.
GPS TRAILHEAD COORDINATES AND DIRECTIONS
N40° 24.715' W76° 55.795'
Follow US 22/322 north from Harrisburg to PA 225 North toward Halifax. Follow PA 225 about 4 miles to the crest of Peters Mountain. Just before the footbridge over the road, the entrance road to the AT parking area departs to the right. Park there.
Table of Contents
Overview Map inside front cover
Over view Map Key i
About the Author x
60 Hikes by Category xv
1 Appalachian Trail: Sand Spring Loop 18
2 Boyd Big Tree Preserve Conservation Area 23
3 Bullfrog Valley Pond to Shank Park 28
4 Clarks Ferry Loop 33
5 Cold Spring and Rausch Gap Loop 37
6 Jonathan Eshenour Memorial Trail: Bullfrog Valley Pond to Western Terminus 42
7 Joseph E. Ibberson Conservation Area Loop 47
8 Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area: Conservation Trail Loop 51
9 Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area: Middle Creek and Elders Run Loop 55
10 Ned Smith Center 60
11 Rattling Run Town Site 64
12 Rausch Gapvia Gold Mine Trail 68
13 State Game Land 73
14 Stony Mountain from the North 78
15 Stony Mountain from the South 83
16 Swatara State Park: Rail-Trail/Bear Hole Loop 88
17 Table Rock and Peters Mountain 92
18 Weiser State Forest: Greenland Road 96
19 Weiser State Forest: Haldeman Tract 100
20 Wildwood Lake Loop 104
21 Yellow Springs Loop Hike 109
22 Cove Mountain and Hawk Rock Loop 116
23 Darlington Trail Loop: East 120
24 Darlington Trail Loop: West 124
25 Flat Rock Overlook 128
26 Flat Rock Overlook and Warner Trail Loop 132
27 Frank E. Masland Jr. Natural Area Trek 137
28 Hemlocks Natural Area Loop 141
29 Little Buffalo State Park 145
30 Tunnel Trail and Iron Horse Trail Loop 150
31 Conewago Trail: Elizabethtown to Old Hershey Road 158
32 Clarence Schock Memorial Park 163
33 Enola Low Grade Trail 168
34 Governor Dick 172
35 Kellys Run and Pinnacle Overlook Loop 176
36 Lancaster Central Park 181
37 Lancaster Junction Recreation Trail 186
38 Lebanon Valley Rail-Trail: Lawn to Colebrook 190
39 Lebanon Valley Rail-Trail: Mount Gretna to Cornwall 194
40 Money Rocks County Park 199
41 Shenks Ferry Wildflower Preserve 203
42 Silver Mine Park 208
43 Steinman Run Nature Preserve 213
44 Susquehannock State Park 217
45 Tucquan Glen Nature Preserve 221
46 Buck Ridge Trail 228
47 Gettysburg National Military Park 232
48 Hosack Run 237
49 Kings Gap 241
50 Mary Ann Furnace Trail 246
51 Mount Holly Marsh Preserve 250
52 Pinchot Lake 255
53 Pole Steeple and Mountain Creek 260
54 Rocky Knob 264
55 Rocky Ridge County Park 268
56 Samuel S. Lewis State Park 272
57 Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve 276
58 Sunset Rocks 281
59 White Rocks and Center Point Knob 286
60 William H. Kain County Park 290
Appendix A Some Useful Maps and Guides 294
Appendix B Local Hiking and Outdoor-Equipment Stores 295
Appendix C Hiking Clubs and Nature Preservation/Conservation Organizations 296
May Legend inside back cover