Moving back home to Pennsylvania after four years of living in North Carolina has brought me back to hiking some of my favorite childhood places, as well as inspired me to continue to explore new places around me! While most of my hiking is been in PA this year, I've also started to venture into my neighboring state of New Jersey more, and would eventually like to start checking out more hiking spots closer to New York as well, so if anybody has any suggestions please comment them below!! (shoutout to Nikki @travels.and.trails on Instagram for not only suggesting this post but for also always being sharing the cool hiking spots in PA/NJ/NY that she's checking out - I've definitely gotten some ideas from her!) Most of my hiking consists of local parks on flat dirt trails usually near some sort of body of water, however, my favorite type of hiking is any spot that has a significant elevation gain and leads to some sort of overlook, so most of the hikes. Without further ado, in no particular order, here are some of my favorite spots to hike around PA and NJ (There will be more posts as I continue to explore new places)...
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary - Kempton, PA
I also mentioned this hike in my Fall in Eastern PA post but it is one of my all-time favorites! I came here for the first time on a 7th grade field trip, but definitely appreciated it a lot more when I came back in my twenties, and cannot wait to go back this Spring. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is perfect if you're a hiker, bird watcher, photographer, or all of the above! It's located in Kempton, PA, and offers a few different trails, including a portion of the Appalachian Trail. The hikes vary from about 2 miles - 6 miles depending on which trails you tend to take ( I like to use the AllTrails app to find trails!) The Trails are very well marked, and I would rate them as moderate (however if you go when there is snow, make sure to have proper spikes). My favorite time to visit, as well as the most popular time to visit, is the Fall because of the changing leaves as well as peak hawk migration, but Spring is also another great time to visit! The parking lot at Hawk Mountain fills up very quickly though, so my advice is to try and get there before 9:00am. The sanctuary officially opens at 9:00am, however, you can go in earlier. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary does charge a $10 entry fee per person which goes towards their park and bird conservation efforts. The pretty much 360-degree view from the top is absolutely worth it though!
Pulpit Rock - Kempton, PA
Neighboring Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is another hike I'm so glad I came across- Pulpit Rock. Pulpit Rock is pretty much right next to Hawk Mountain in the same town of Kempton, PA, and also has a larger sister hike - The Pinnacle, which I have yet to do, but plan to this Spring! Pulpit Rock is about a 5.5 mile "moderate" (I'm a pretty avid hiker, and parts of this hike are very steep uphill so for that I would go as far as to say this is a moderate-hard hike) primarily through the woods that leads to an opening on a big rock with a spectacular view. Once again, Fall offered prettier views than did Winter, but it was still cool to check it out both times. There are two different ways to go, as this is a loop trail, but personally, I recommend continuing straight as opposed to veering to the left once you make it to the branch off. If you choose to go straight, you will end the hike with a beautiful pond! Once again, parking here fills up fast as it's only one gravel parking lot, so my suggestion would be to also get here early if you want to avoid walking an extra mile to the trailhead, however, it is free to hike Pulpit Rock. Like I mentioned above, I have yet to hike the sister hike of the Pinnacle yet, but I have heard nothing but good things about the 9-mile hike, so if you are looking for even more of a challenge, check that one out too, parking and the trailhead are the same for both hikes!
Mount Tammany- Delaware Water Gap (NJ)
Probably one of my all-time favorite hikes I've done around here, and another hike I cannot wait to go back and check out in the Spring! Mt. Tammany is located on the New Jersey side of the Delaware Water Gap and offers a few different hiking options. My personal recommendation is the Red Dot and Blue Dot Loop Trail which is a little under 4-miles. However, there are a few other options such as the 2.5-mile Red Dot Trail, the 3.7-mile Blue Dot Trail, of the 10.9-mile Sunfish Pond Loop (I have done this one, and in my opinion, unless you are looking for a longer hike, or unless you are going to solely hike along the Appalachian Trail, there wasn't too much to this trail, and it was not that well marked once we were on the AT). All of these trails are rated as difficult, and rightfully so! The Red Dot Trail starts off on a steep incline, and pretty much stays that way all the way to the top. There is also a rock scramble closer to the top, which was pretty difficult, but definitely manageable, and provided a unique challenge. The trail is very well marked, and offered a spectacular viewpoint of Mt. Minsi and the Delaware River along the way! I will probably end up writing a separate blog post solely about hiking Mt. Tammany, so stay tuned for that. Once again, as there is only one little dirt lot, parking fills up pretty much by 8:00am, so this hike definitely needs to be started early, however, it is free!
Mount Minsi- Delaware Water Gap (PA)
The Sister Mountain to Mt. Tammany, Mt. Minsi is also located along the Delaware Water Gap, but on the Pennsylvania side. I personally liked the actual hike a little bit better than Mt. Tammany, and it offered similar views that were somehow still so different. Mt. Minsi is very easy to navigate and is a 5-mile loop trail along the Appalachian Trail. I would rate this hike as moderate, as it was challenging, but definitely not as steep as Mt. Tammany. Mt. Minsi offered two different main viewpoints along the way, and I personally thought the one halfway through the hike was cooler than the view from the top, so I recommend snapping some pics at the first viewpoint when you have the chance! When I did this hike, it was late November, so much of the scenery was brown and dying, so this is another hike I'm excited to check out in the Spring when the views will be green and bloomed! Mt. Minsi is also free and has a slightly bigger parking lot than Mt. Tammany, however, I still recommend getting there before 8:00am.
Ralph Stover State Park (High Rocks Vista) - Bucks County, PA
I've been coming here since high school, and it is one of my favorite local hikes that offers a spectacular view, especially in the Fall! Ralph Stover State Park located in Pipersville, PA, in general, offers its own various hiking tails, but 99% of the time when I go, I do the High Rocks Vista Trail, which depending on which trails you take is a 4-5 mile hike. High Rocks Vista is a pretty easy hike along a dirt trail, with the main viewpoint at the beginning of the hike. To your right while you're on the trail, you will notice large boulders that lead down below as this is a popular rock climbing spot, once you make it to the second black fenced rocks, there is a tiny trail that leads down onto one of the huge boulders, which is my favorite spot to sit and take in the scenery. After passing this viewpoint and continuing onto the trail, it takes you further down into the woods, and eventually to a creek. The rest of the hike is pretty much just through the woods, but I always circle back around and come back to my favorite boulder! I'm not sure if there is an entrance fee to the actual State Park, but I know the High Rocks Vista parking lot personally does not have an entrance fee, and there is usually a decent amount of parking in the gravel lot.
Merrill's Creek Reservoir- Stewartsville, NJ
This was somewhere that my dad showed me that I thought offered some cool views, but was different than a typical overlook hike. Merrill's Creek is located in Stewartsville, NJ, and is an easy 5-mile loop trail. This hike had so many different scenery points from woods to bird-watching houses/fields, to the giant lake right in the middle of the trail, to the giant staircase that led down to hundreds of trees. This is definitely a good hike if you're are looking for something simple, and flat that still offers some great views! There is a large parking lot here, and it is free to enter!
Neversink Mountain- Reading, PA
Last, but most definitely not least, another awesome hike! Neversink Mountain is located in Reading, PA, and is a 5.5-6-mile moderate-hard loop trail. When you first start the hike, you will very shortly be faced with almost like a "Y" shaped branch off...TAKE THE TRAIL TO THE LEFT! We made there mistake of taking the trail to the right, and while it was an awesome challenge, definitely took a lot of our energy from the jump. Because I did veer to the right, the things I'm about to mention that we saw will be obviously at different points of the hike if you go to the left first. The first thing we came across was a giant stone gazebo that offered a spectacular overview of the city of Reading below, and the Pagoda (a landmark in Reading) across the way. After that, we continued on the trail where we continued to gain elevation in and out of wooded areas. We eventually came across the main viewpoint, and after a quick climb down on some rocks were able to take in the view of the clear sky and the Schuylkill River down below. The hike back down was very easy, but overall this was a great hike! There really isn't much of a parking lot, more like 3 parking spaces and then a line of cars parked down the road, so I definitely recommend getting here as early as possible!
As always I hope you enjoyed reading about some of my favorite hikes, and I hope if you're from the PA/NJ area, or plan on visiting this area this post helped introduce you to some new hikes! Comment your favorite hike in this area below, or let me know if you've ever been to any of these places I mentioned. Thanks for reading, and remember, there's always more to be explored!