Whether you’re new to the area or you’re a native resolute on spending more time outdoors this year, read on to learn about eight of the best hiking routes in Lebanon County.
9.5 miles of the Appalachian Trail run through Lebanon County. Locals and thru-hikers can explore the wilderness of northern Lebanon County while they trek along the world’s longest hiking-only footpath.
Mostly running through Swatara State Park and the Stony Valley area, this section of the trail passes by a shelter at Rausch Gap and the Waterville iron bridge, originally built in 1890 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Boxcar Rocks are one of many hiking destinations in Lebanon County. Hikers can reach the rocks after about 10 minutes of hiking on the State Game Lands #211 public trail, accessible from a gravel lot just off of Gold Mine Road.
The Boxcar Rocks are conglomerate rocks believed to date back to the last ice age. The rocks resemble a whale and/or boxcars and form cavities and collapsed sections, extending for thousands of feet along the ridge of the Blue Mountains. If you hike along the ridge, you’ll see scenic views of the surrounding valleys and even get a glimpse of the nearby Lebanon Reservoir.
Governor Dick, located in southern Lebanon near Mount Gretna, has 16 miles of trails, an observation tower with a five-county view, and an education center within its 1,105 acres of wooded park. Accessible from trailheads along Route 117 and Pinch Road, the property
Visiting the park is an opportunity to hike, walk, mountain bike ride, horseback ride, learn more about special interests, take in the views, or a combination of these opportunities. Several trails are designated for fans of bouldering. Other trails include signposts with information about the history of the park and its inhabitants, which include oil magnate Clarence Schock and namesake Governor Dick, the collier who produced charcoal on the mountainside.
If you plan to see the view from the tower, be aware that the climb takes place on nine ladders going both up and down.
Lebanon Valley Rail Trail
The Lebanon Valley Rail Trail is a growing outdoor space for those in Lebanon County. Its more than 18 miles of trail winds through southern Lebanon, the City of Lebanon, and beyond. Its accessibility and easygoing feel make it a great trail for those seeking a casual hike.
Hikers, walkers, runners, bike riders, mountain bike riders, and horseback riders alike can enjoy the longest section of trail from Lebanon through Mount Gretna and Lawn. Shorter sections also exist next to Jonestown and the Union Canal. The overarching plan of Lebanon Valley Rails-to-Trails, the organization responsible for designing and developing the trail, is to connect all segments together, eventually forming a complete link between Lancaster County’s Conewago Recreation Trail and Swatara State Park.
Middle Creek is a 6,254-acre wildlife management area that borders Lebanon and Lancaster counties. Middle Creek’s visitors can stop by its interactive visitor center, participate in special hunts, hike on its more than 20 miles of trails, and observe the area’s wildlife.
While the paved road around the central lake is the most popular route for visitors to take, it would be a mistake to overlook the other trails in the surrounding woods. The Elder’s Run and Middle Creek routes, for instance, can be linked up to the Volnteer’s and Fireline trails to make for a nice loop of around 3.5 miles. Many other routes can be plotted out with the use of the official map (PDF).
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Stoever’s Dam, located between the City of Lebanon and North Lebanon Township, has a 153-acre park that encompasses a 23.5-acre lake. Visitors of the park can hike on a lakeside trail, boat and fish at the lake, camp on the grounds with a permit, picnic with benches, fire rings, and pavilions with a reservation, and sightsee.
Stony Valley Trail
The Stony Valley Trail snakes through Lebanon, Schuylkill, and Dauphin counties and is part of the State Game Lands #211 public trail. Explore the trail by hiking, mountain bike riding, horseback riding, bringing a walking stroller or wagon, or by attending an annual driving tour.
Especially appealing for hikers who want a more remote area to explore, Stony Valley contains plenty of interesting hiking destinations and sights to see, including the remains of a 19th century resort and a ghost town built along the former railway. In addition to the Boxcar Rocks, nearby features include The Spot, the American Holly Grove, the Inscription Tree, and the Second Mountain Hawk Watch.
Just be careful if you’re hiking in the valley in the warmer seasons — venomous timber rattlesnakes are known to inhabit the area.
Swatara State Park
The Swatara State Park offers those in Lebanon and Schuylkill counties a 3,520-acre escape from the hustle and bustle with views of the Swatara Creek along with the nature and wildlife from wetlands, fields, and woodlands. Hike, bike, mountain bike, ski, horseback ride, kayak, fish, hunt, or simply watch the wildlife. Simply put, the park is one of the best locations in the area for doing a little bit of everything.
In addition to the views, the trails also provide some glimpses into the park’s past. The ruins of old lock systems can be seen along the banks of the Swatara, and the hand-built, publicly accessible Bordner’s Cabin makes for a nice detour from the Bear Hole Trail on the south side of the creek.
See your favorite hiking route on this list, or do you know of one we missed? We would love to hear where you like to spend time outdoors in Lebanon County!
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