Hiking in Lancaster
Let’s be clear: thanks to the Herculean efforts of the Lancaster Conservancy, there are an abundance of great hiking trails in Lancaster County. Their heroic efforts in land preservation amidst a rising tide of development are of the utmost importance, and thanks to those efforts, everyone has the opportunity to enjoy nature in its purest form in Lancaster County. Most of our favorite places to hike in Lancaster are on Conservancy property, although a few are not.
Read on for a few of the best hiking spots in Lancaster, most of which are especially unique here in the winter.
Where to Go
Steinman Run Nature Preserve
Nestled way back in the scenic southern end in the county, Steinman Run is unique in that it couples gorgeous (and varied) scenery with a very approachable hike -- it’s relatively easy for people of all ability levels. With gentle inclines along tranquil waters, it is a great place to go disconnect and let your inner Thoreau come out. If you have a long leash, it is also a great place to bring your dog along and let him or her run “free” in nature, a wholesome experience for all involved.
[Caption: Yes, that photo above is Atticus at Steinman Run ... he loves it]
Susquehannock State Park
Also in the southern end is Susquehannock State Park, which has several miles of trail that varies in skill level. Be careful with the Rhododendron Trail, especially if it has recently rained, as it can become slippery and treacherous for the less experienced hiker. That said, other trails like the Fire Trail and the Christmas Tree Trail are just as scenic without the potential hazards. The highlight of the park is an overlook of the Susquehanna River that truly makes the short, steep hill before it well worth the cardiovascular exertion. Pack a picnic lunch (and a sweater!) for a joyous day outside.
[Image courtesy of PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources]
Lancaster County Park
Start at the environmental library for a trail map, and then have fun exploring at the county park. Geocaching is one of the options here, and that is certainly a great activity for the whole family. However, for those who prefer a more traditional hiking experience, there is ample opportunity to hike along streams and creeks and have that interpersonal release only nature can catalyze. The County Park certainly makes for a great day of exploration.
Enola Low Grade Trail
With its gentle slopes, the Enola Low Grade Trail is excellent for an easy hike, or even a bike ride! Bird watching is available, as is wildlife observation, jogging, or -- once again -- just enjoying the calm serenity of nature. This is a particularly long trail that can be a multi-day event, or just one extended day.
What To Wear/Bring
In the winter, staying warm while hiking can be tricky. On one hand, you don’t want to wear too little, as you’ll be cold, but on the other hand, if you wear too much, you will sweat because of the physical activity of hiking, and sweating in the cold will only make you colder. Layers, therefore, are the key. A base layer of something like Under Armour, and then a few fleeces with a windbreaker shell on the outside will usually do the trick, and you can always add or remove a layer of you get too hot or cold.
The best way to hike is with a daypack to store extra layers of clothing, carry a water bottle (especially important to make sure you stay hydrated while hiking in the winter, as drinking is not as intuitive), and a map of where you will be. You will probably be OK without hiking poles, but if they would make you more comfortable, there are some trails where they might be useful. Don’t forget to bring a camera and some thin gloves that will allow you to operate that camera. Hiking can bring out some of the best photography.
Hiking in Lancaster
Overall, opportunities to hike in Lancaster are plentiful, and although hiking in the winter adds an extra layer (pun intended) of challenge and required preparation, it can be one of the best times of the year to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of the world around you, and descend into the serenity of nature.